University of Sydney Handbooks - 2017 Archive

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Talented Student Program


The Talented Student Program (TSP) is a special program of science study intended for students 'of exceptional merit' who are enrolled in the following degrees administered by the Faculty of Science: Bachelor of Science, Bachelor of Medical Science, Bachelor of Psychology, Bachelor of Liberal Arts and Science and their specialist streams and the science components of related combined and double degrees.

The aim of the program is to offer students of exceptional merit additional challenging opportunities, to enable them to maximise their intellectual growth and potential.

A major benefit of participation in the Talented Student Program is that students receive special supervision by academic staff and often engage in studies with small numbers of fellow students, all of whom have particular interest in the subject.

There are two main aspects of a student's involvement in the TSP. Students have greater flexibility in their choice of study (beyond that usually experienced by other students), and they have a mentor (a member of the academic staff who assists them in choosing from the great range of possibilities).

Participation in the Talented Student Program is recorded separately on the student's academic transcript, as are TSP units of study, so that all potential employers are aware that the student has completed challenging courses of study.

You can obtain further information about the operation of the Talented Student Program from the departmental coordinators listed below.


Entry to the Talented Student Program is by invitation from the Dean. Invitations to participate in the TSP are made each year, for that year. The following guidelines apply generally, although schools and departments may have additional (and more stringent) requirements for entry to the activities they offer in the program:

  • To be considered for the program in their first year, students should have an ATAR (or equivalent) of 99.00 or higher.
  • To be considered for entry into the program in their second or third years, students not in the Program in the previous year, should have AAMs of 85 or over in their previous year of study. Subsequent entry to TSP is available only to students who have been enrolled full time in units of study totalling at least 48 credit points in the previous 12 months.
  • Readmission to the Program in a subsequent year requires an AAM of 80 or above and completion of 42 credit points in the previous 12 months.

Students who feel that they satisfy these criteria, but who have not received an invitation to participate in the TSP that year, should contact the Dean's office.

Range of TSP structures

The relevant course resolutions authorise the Dean to give approval for students of exceptional merit to enrol in units of study or in combinations of units of study not normally available within the degree.

Students will arrange a suitable pattern of study for the year, in consultation with their mentor (who will also consider the entire degree program). TSP studies may be in a single discipline, several disciplines or may include inter-disciplinary activities. Some TSP activities are in addition to normal coursework, while others replace the prescribed work. In very exceptional cases, particularly for students who have excelled in Olympiad programs, accelerated progress toward the completion of the Bachelor of Science degree may be permitted by the Dean.

In the first semester of first year, all TSP students are invited to participate in the TSP Showcase, a faculty-wide investigation of a topic of national importance and interest. Small groups of first-year students work with a senior TSP student and an academic supervisor to research a particular field in relation to the theme. Student findings are presented to a broad audience at a TSP Showcase Event.

Many disciplines have an organised activity for a whole group of TSP students studying that field, such as a weekly seminar or group project. In other disciplines, TSP activity involves participation by each TSP student in a research group of staff and postgraduates. Every student is treated individually; however, there are some common patterns that we describe below. For many TSP students who are interested in several fields (especially if they are not really sure about their eventual direction), a suitable arrangement might be for them to join in separate TSP activities of each discipline. Students might elect to study a broader range of fields than usual, by studying more than the normal load of 24 credit points per semester.

Constraints on TSP structure

When a TSP activity replaces normal activity within a unit of study, the student will enrol in that unit, but the transcript will be annotated to reflect the TSP activity. When a TSP activity differs from the normal workload, the student will be enrolled in specially designated TSP units. Each TSP activity is assigned a number of credit points, a level (Junior, Intermediate or Senior) and a Discipline area, so it can contribute to meeting the degree requirements.

The maximum number of credit points from TSP activities that can be credited towards the degree is normally 42 credit points designated as TSP units of study that are not listed in the faculty handbook. This 42-credit point total covers all three years of study, and perhaps several different disciplines, so it is important to plan carefully to leave enough TSP possibilities in later years. It is also important that the student meets all the usual degree requirements, involving numbers of credit points at various levels and in a range of disciplines.

The TSP process

At the start of each year, the Dean chooses students to be invited to participate in the TSP. A welcome is held in Orientation week, and at that time each student who is new to the TSP will be assigned a mentor.

The mentor is usually a departmental TSP coordinator, from a department closest to the student's interest(s). The mentor and the student then plan special activities for the year, covering all fields (this may involve discussions with coordinators from other departments). A proposal for TSP activities is put to the Dean, who can approve enrolment in special TSP units of study. During the year the student may meet several times with the mentor, to make sure that everything is going well. Assessment will be through the staff involved in the activities and may also involve the relevant departmental TSP coordinator. At the end of the semester the TSP coordinator will report results.

TSP coordinators

Faculty of Science

Associate Dean (TSP):
Associate Professor Dale Dominey-Howes
T +61 2 9351 6641

Associate Dean (TSP Showcase):
Dr Toby Hudson
T +61 2 9036 7648
Anatomy and Histology

The Department of Anatomy and Histology offers individual projects related to research in the department (for example Neuroscience, Developmental Biology, Forensic Anatomy, Structure and Function of Muscle Tissue). TSP students in Anatomy and Histology form part of the large School of Medical Sciences TSP cohort.

Dr Michelle Gerke-Duncan
T +61 2 9351 4703
T +61 2 9351 6916 - Lab

School of Life and Environmental Sciences

Students may undertake an individual research project within a research group. Research in the School of Life and Environmental Sciences spans Animal Sciences, Biochemistry, Cellular and Molecular Biology, Ecology, Evolution and Environmental Sciences, Microbiology and Plant Sciences. TSP students undertaking research projects in the School of Life and Environmental Sciences enrol in one of the following areas: Biological Sciences, Biochemistry, Microbiology, Molecular Biology and Genetics, Plant Sciences or Soil Science.


Dr Hannah Nicholas (SoLES TSP administrator and advisor for Biochemistry, Microbiology, and Molecular Biology and Genetics)
T +61 2 9351 2549

Associate Professor Dieter Hochuli (advisor for Biological Sciences and Plant Sciences)
T +61 2 9351 3992

Professor Balwant Singh (advisor for Soil Science)
T +61 2 8627 1140

TSP students in second and third year, and in Semester 2 of first year, have the opportunity to undertake special projects within an active research group. First-year students are also strongly encouraged to apply for the CHEM1903 (Special Studies Program) and CHEM1904 (Special Studies Program), which comprises the Junior Chemistry (Advanced) lecture series, special tutorials, and special project-based laboratory exercises. Admission to the Chemistry Special Studies Program is by invitation only, and is limited to 40 students each year.

Dr Elizabeth New
T +61 2 9351 1993


In lieu of some of the normal coursework, students may undertake special project work on an environmental problem. Particular emphasis will be given to the enhancement of student capabilities in the areas of problem identification, problem formulation, data gathering, and analysis and reporting.

Dr Kurt Iveson
T +61 2 9351 3627

Geology and Geophysics
Students may undertake independent research on special projects that, in recent years have included topics ranging from computer simulations of hotspot and tectonic plate movements over millions of years, biostratigraphy of mountain belts and environmental geochemistry. Enquiries can be directed to individual staff members or to the TSP coordinator.

Dr Derek Wyman
T +61 2 9351 2924
History and Philosophy of Science

The unit will make special arrangements for individual students. Interested students should contact the TSP coordinator as soon as possible. Topics offered include History, Philosophy, and Sociology of Science; Science and Ethics; and public communication/understanding of Science.

From first year onwards TSP students may enrol in advanced History and Philosophy of Science (HPS) for entry into the HPS Honours program. A 'distinction' grade in one advanced Intermediate unit of study, one Senior unit of study and HPSC4104 is required. Students who successfully complete the requirements will be awarded a special certificate from the school of HPS.

Associate Professor Ofer Gal
T +61 2 9351 3856


Students may undertake a special research project. TSP students in Immunology form part of the large School of Medical Sciences TSP cohort.

Associate Professor Allison Abendroth
T +61 2 9351 6867

Information Technologies

The department will make special arrangements for individual students. Interested students should contact the TSP coordinator as soon as possible.

Dr Julian Mestre
T +61 2 9351 4276

Mathematics and Statistics

Students admitted to the program have the following options:

  • First-year students in the Talented Student Program are invited to apply for entry to the Mathematics Special Studies Program, in which they will complete MATH1906 and MATH1907. In addition to covering standard material, students in the Special Studies Program will participate in their own seminars on specially chosen advanced topics.
  • Students in the Talented Student Program have access to Mathematics units of study in higher years. For example, a first-year student may take selected second or even third-year units. Second and third-year students have access to special projects, which can be inter-disciplinary, according to the interests of the individual student. Second and third-year students are encouraged to tailor their own programs, in consultation with the coordinators.

Associate Professor Daniel Daners
T +61 2 9351 2966

Medical Science

The School of Medical Sciences coordinates projects offered by Anatomy and Histology, Pathology, Physiology, Pharmacology, Immunology, and associated medical research institutes. A special program of study will be available at intermediate and senior levels.

Dr David Mor
T +61 2 9351 9322

Medical Science Discipline- Microscopy and Microanalysis

Associate Professor Julie Cairney
T +61 2 9351 4523

Medical Science Discipline- Pathology

Students may undertake, in addition to normal coursework, a special research project. TSP students in Pathology form part of the large School of Medical Sciences TSP cohort.

Professor Jillian Kril
T +61 2 9036 7118

Medical Science Discipline- Pharmacology

Pharmacology encourages TSP students to undertake research projects in individual laboratories within the discipline. TSP students in Pharmacology form part of the large School of Medical Sciences TSP cohort and take part in the SoMS TSP seminar series.

Associate Professor Margaret Sunde
T +61 2 9351 6955


Students may undertake, in addition to normal coursework, a special research project. TSP students in Physiology form part of the large School of Medical Sciences TSP cohort.

Dr Andrew Hoy
T +61 2 9351 2514


The Physics TSP program extends the physics course by special seminars and project work, together with an excursion to locations of interest in the July semester break.

The special project work in the July semester replaces part of the laboratory program and is available to first and second-year TSP students. It introduces students to the diversity of research activities in the school. The aim is to broaden students' knowledge of physics, and give an insight into how physicists think and how a real research project is tackled.

Dr Helen Johnston
T +61 2 9036 9259

Dr Steve Flammia
T +61 2 9351 5115

The program is available in Intermediate and Senior Psychology. Students admitted to the program have the following options, or various combinations of these options, available to them:

  • additional options in Psychology either in lieu of, or in addition to, other units of study in Science
  • a combination of additional Psychology options combined with special studies in another science discipline (for example, Biochemistry, Computer Science, Mathematics and Statistics)
  • a special research project in lieu of, or in addition to, normal practical or classwork components.

Dr Irina Harris
T +61 2 9351 3497

Location Specific Coordinators

Charles Perkins Centre
Professor Marie Carroll
T +61 2 8627 0534

Dr Wendy Gold
T +61 2 9845 1449