About the Winter and Summer Research Scholarship Program

Each year the Institute for Social Science Research (ISSR) participates in the UQ Summer and Winter Research Scholarship Program.

Scholars are expected to actively participate in an ongoing research project or to undertake a substantial piece of supervised research work by way of an internship during either the Summer or Winter holiday periods. The Program offers scholars practical research experience and a chance to discover the type of research undertaken at ISSR by working on actual projects. 

By participating in undergraduate research programs, students gain valuable academic and professional skills, have an opportunity to develop links with industry and academic contacts, and are able to test drive research before embarking on further research studies or higher degree research projects.

ISSR aims to provide its students with a distinctive study experience which is characterised by applied research, teaching and commercial opportunities. To support this, the Institute requires our students to sign a Student Intellectual Property and Confidentiality Agreement (SIPCA) as a condition of enrolment, pursuant to UQ’s policy on Intellectual Property for Staff, Students and Visitors. Independent legal advice is available to prospective students free-of-charge through the UQ Student Union (see http://www.uqu.com.au/legal). ISSR will provide further information on the IP assignment process at the point of application and induction.

For more information about UQ Undergraduate research opportunities click here  or email ISSR Contact Dr Lisa Pope, l.pope@uq.edu.au  or by telephone on +617 3365 1298.

Please see below for available projects.

Applications for the 2019/2020 Summer Research Program are now closed. 


Sleep routines in daily life

Project duration: 10 weeks 

Description: Lots of aspects of our daily life can limit our sleep quality and opportunity. We are interested in understanding more about how people manage sleep at home as part of their daily life. We are collecting interview and focus group data regarding evening routines at home and will be conducting qualitative analysis of this data.

Expected outcomes and deliverables: Students will gain skills in reviewing and summarising literature, and can expect to learn to use qualitative data analysis software to code transcripts. Students may be asked to write a summary of the work they complete as part of the project.

Suitable for: Students should have an interest in how sleep interacts with home life. Students from backgrounds in social science, sociology, psychology, public health or related disciplines are welcome to apply. Students should be entering the third year of their degree or higher in 2020.

Primary Supervisor: Dr Alicia Allan

Further Information: If you would like to discuss this project, please email  Dr Alicia Allan at alicia.allan@uq.edu.au .

Exploring relationships between sleep, socio-emotional functions and risk taking in young people

Project duration:  10 weeks 

Description:  Quality sleep is integral to the healthy development of emotional and behavioural control functions in adolescence and young adulthood.Unfortunately, due to a range of biological, developmental, social and environmental factors, many adolescents and young adults fail to obtain sufficient, regular, good quality sleep.

Evidence suggests that poor sleep is both a predictor and a consequence of emotional and behavioural dysregulation in young people, however little research has been conducted assessing socio-emotional and/or behavioural control prospectively, ‘in real-life’.

The aim of this project will be to conduct a literature review of socio-emotional and behavioural control measurement techniques in applied settings, and to pilot some novel measurement techniques for use in future research studies assessing socio-emotional and behavioural control in young people.

Expected outcomes and deliverables: 

Students will gain:

  • Skills in literature review and data synthesis
  • Data management and collection experience
  • Physiological and applied measurement collection and piloting experience

Suitable for:  This project is open to applications from 3rd/4th year  Psychology and/or Social Science students with some experience in applied research methods and measurement.

Primary Supervisor: Dr Kalina Rossa

Further Information: Prospective summer scholars can contact Dr Kalina Rossa at k.rossa@uq.edu.au  to discuss their application, but this is not essential.

Is there an optimal timing of pregnancy?

Project duration:  10 weeks

Description:  Along-term decline in fertility of younger women as well as the continued increase in fertility of older women reflects a shift towards delayed childbearing in Australia that has not been observed before. In the past 30 years, the fertility rate of women aged 35-39 years has more than doubled and for women aged 40-44, it has tripled. In contrast, teenage fertility nearly halved during this period.

The evidence about the impact of this shifting of timing of pregnancy on mothers and children;s health is conflicted.  Advanced age parenting may have benefits for child rearing, early education, and injury prevention because older parents are experienced and more economically secure. The health implications of delaying parenting for mothers and children are, however, substantial. Many women who delay childbirth are at high risk of pre-diabetes, obesity and pre-hypertension even before giving birth and their offspring are at greater risk of chronic diseases throughout the life course.  These pregnancy-related health and risk markers accumulate within and across generations. 

The aim of this project is to explore whether there is an optimal timing of pregnancy so that the long-term health risk of mothers and their offspring are minimum. A systematic review of literatures will be conducted for this investigation.  Findings of this study will provide a scientific basis to understand the long-term health impact of timing of pregnancy.

Expected outcomes and deliverables: Working in this project, the scholar will gain skills in conducting systematic review of literatures, understand preganacy a critical period of development for mother and offspring and drafting a manuscript.  We anticipate this work will generate a publication in peer-review journal.

Suitable for: This project is open for students with a background in public health, epidemiology or social science; 3-4 year students and UQ enrolled students only.

Primary Supervisor: Associate Professor Abdullah Al Mamun

Further Information: Prospective scholars can contact Associate Professor Abdullah Al Mamun at mamun@sph.uq.edu.au to discuss their application, but this is not essential.

Transition to young parenthood and impact on educational and employment aspirations

Project duration:  10 weeks 

Description: Teenage parents are likely to experience material disadvantage and may lack the necessary life and parenting skills to adequately support their children. Restricted education and employment, poorer parenting skills, and limited family and public support are some of the conditions driving multiple and persistent sources of disadvantage often observed among teenage parents and their children. In particular, teenage parents in Australia have been observed to have lower educational attainment, earnings, health, and relationship stability compared to their counterparts. Nevertheless, the transition to parenthood may also be a turning point and may prompt parents to pursue further opportunities, in order to better life chances for themselves and their children.  This project will consider existing evidence on whether the transition to parenthood changes the education and employment goals and aspirations of young parents.

Expected outcomes and deliverables: Scholars will gain a better understanding of how to carry out academic research.  They will have the opportunity to gain skills in preparing a paper for publication in an academic journal. They will also gain skills in literature review, and/or data analysis.

Suitable for: This project is open to undergraduate and postgraduate applicants with interests in applied social research.  Students with interests in the research topics, and/or interests or experience with qualitative research are encouraged to apply.

Primary Supervisor: Professor Janeen Baxter and Dr. Jack Lam

Further Information: Students can contact Dr Jack Lam at j.lam@uq.edu.au to discuss their application, but this is not mandatory.

Multi-country analysis of domestic and family violence among adolescents in low and middle income countries

Project duration:  10 weeks 

Description: The research project involves assessing trends in prevalence and association of domestic and family violence (DFV) with adolescent fertility. Using these estimates would provide one of the first pieces of international evidence about DFV among this vulnerable population. This project will use Demographic and Health Surveys (DHS) from approximately 89 countries to analyse trends and understand factors associated with DFV among adolescents.

Expected outcomes and deliverables:

  • Review of tools used to assess DFV in different DHS
  • Generate a methods paper for publication
  • Gain experience in analysing multi-country datasets

Suitable for: 

  • Scholars with Public Health, Epidemiology or Social Science backgrounds
  • Scholars with experience handling survey datasets, and using Stata for analysis
  • Scholars interested in quantitative research methods and data analysis

Primary Supervisor:  Dr Joemer Maravilla

Further Information: Please email Dr Joemer Maravilla at  j.maravilla@uq.edu.au  for further information.

How Discrimination Affects the Lives of LGB People in Australia

Project duration:  10 weeks 

Description: Findings from international research indicate that people who identify as lesbian, gay and bisexual (LGB) are more likely to experience pay discrimination, material deprivation or homelessness, become the victims of bullying and violence, suffer from poor health, and have more strained relationships with their families. These findings and the ‘minority stress’ framework strongly suggest that discrimination and stigmatization remain a ‘lived reality’ for many LGB people. Today, about 500,000 individuals in Australia identify as LGB and this number is on the rise. Yet, we have comparatively little Australian evidence on the life chances and life outcomes of individuals within these collectives.

The Summer Scholar will contribute to a project which aims to:

  • Develop the Australian evidence of differences in life outcomes between LGB and heterosexual people across life domains.
  • Understand the mechanisms that produce the associations between LGB status and life outcomes.
  • Investigate how the use of new data sources, including administrative data, can enhance the quality of research findings about LGB populations in Australia.
  • Inform the development of Australian policy on timely topics such as gay marriage and child adoption by homosexual couples, homophobic school bullying and workplace harassment, and hate crime.

Expected outcomes and deliverables: Scholars will gain a thorough understanding of the research process, enhance their analytical skills, learn how to prepare materials for publication, and gain experience in working as part of a team. The skills and knowledge gained by participation will be useful for subsequent research degrees, including Honours and PhD.

Suitable for: This project is open to undergraduate and postgraduate applicants with an interest in applied social research. Experience with research methods and an interest in understanding how social processes affect equality opportunity by sexual orientation are desirable.

Primary Supervisor: Dr Francisco Perales and (Professor Janeen Baxter will be an adjunct supervisor)

Further Information: Students can contact Dr Francisco Perales at f.perales@uq.edu.au to discuss their application, but this is not essential.

Investigating the effectiveness of a parent engagement course for school staff to improve the parent engagement school culture and student outcomes in disadvantaged communities

Project duration:  10 weeks 

Description: A parent’s educational aspirations for their child and the extent to which they engage with their child’s learning have a significant impact on child outcomes - both academic and socio-emotional. Increasing levels of parent engagement may be of particular benefit to children from disadvantaged backgrounds, who tend to have poorer outcomes in these regards than their more advantaged peers. Schools, and in particular school leadership, have an important role to play in building partnerships with parents in order to support their engagement.

Based on previous findings, the PES research team have developed a parent engagement course which contains a number of strategies that schools will tailor for their school setting. The PES team will evaluate the effectiveness of this course to improve the parent engagement school culture and student outcomes.

Working on this project, you will have the opportunity to learn more about Small Private Online Courses (SPOCs), quasi-experimental design and using administrative data to reduce costs and respondent burden, data analysis and producing outputs. You will be exposed to both quantitative and qualitative methods and work with a multidisciplinary team. Some of the topics that may interest you are: How are schools using virtual classrooms to engage parents? Which parent engagement strategies are effective for disadvantaged communities? How can parent engagement be enhanced in secondary school settings?

If you have an interest in education, parent engagement, social policy or improving outcomes for children, apply for this great opportunity.

In addition to this project, Dr Jenny Povey’s research group is engaged in various commissioned research activities and this is an invaluable opportunity to get exposure to the environment of commissioned research. Professor Janeen Baxter is the Director of the Life Course Centre and exposure to this centre of excellence and its research fellows would be a valuable opportunity to build research networks.

Expected outcomes and deliverables: Scholars would develop the following practical skills by participating in this research project: literature review skills, analytical skills (quantitative and qualitative), and writing skills. The development of these skills will be useful if you are considering undertaking Honours, a PhD or further research. The experience and the skills learnt will also provide an employment track record for any future research assistant roles you may apply for.

The potential deliverables would be contributions to: peer reviewed publications and 1-2 page project findings aimed at policy makers and participants. Substantial contributions to these outputs could result in co-authorship which would make you more competitive for future scholarships and job opportunities.

Suitable for:  This Scholar position offers flexible working arrangements and is open to all students who are:

  • currently completing or who have completed third year;
  • currently completing or about to commence their honours year; or
  • currently completing or about to commence their masters.

This project is suited for someone who wishes to gain invaluable experience in the real world of social research within the context of a dynamic, multidisciplinary research institute.

Primary Supervisor: Dr Jenny Povey and Professor Janeen Baxter

Further Information: If you wish to contact Dr Jenny Povey prior to applying for this Scholar position, please feel free to email j.povey@uq.edu.au or call 07 3346 7474

Analysis of illicit substance use in a regional setting

Project duration: 10 weeks

Description:  This research involves analysing data from a regional pilot of illicit drug use surveys; comparing drug use and associated harms with that from capital city, national and international datasets

Expected outcomes and deliverables:

  • Learn about national and international drug use surveys
  • Work with a team to analyse data and understand findings
  • Contribute to a report on findings from regional surveys
  • Contribute to journal article contextualising regional substance use issues

Suitable for: 

  • People with Public Health, Epidemiology or Social Science backgrounds
  • People with experience handling survey data, and using Stata or SPSS for analysis
  • People interested in quantitative research and data analysis

Primary Supervisor:  Dr Caroline Salom

Further Information: Students can contact Dr Caroline Salom at c.salom@uq.edu.au to discuss their application, but this is not essential.

Investigation of strategies for delayed school time and their impact on household wellbeing in Australia

Project duration: 10 weeks

Description: Young adults’ mental and physical health and daytime performance are known to be significantly related to their sleep duration. However teenagers are chronically sleep deprived (in average one hour) per school night. As such understanding the current legislations and strategies to improve sleep in teenagers in school time is vital to determine necessary areas for further improvement of their sleep.

The aim of the project is to explore current legislations/ strategies in Australia to improve sleep in young adults. 

Expected outcomes and deliverables: Scholars will gain skills in literature review and summarising their findings, strategic searching databases and government websites. They will also gain presentation skills by presenting their data at the end of their program and might have an opportunity to publish their findings.

Suitable for: This project is open to applications from students with a background in psychology and social sciences, 2-4 year students, UQ enrolled students only.

Primary Supervisor: Dr Shamsi Shekari

Further Information: I am happy to be contacted by students prior to submitting an application via email or phone. Email: s.shekarisoleimanloo@uq.edu.au   T: 07 3346 8209

Mealtimes Matter: Childcare as window into food insecurity and food socialisation in low-income communities

Project duration:  10 weeks

Description: Childhood nutrition is intricately tied to trajectories of health and wellbeing across the life-course and is a window into broader levels of disadvantage. In the Logan community, 15.7 % of 5-year-olds attend school tired or hungry (AEDC, 2015) with ongoing effects on their learning and life chances. Many more children experience poor nutrition quality. Childcare services are potential sites for intervention prior to school entry. The aim of this study is to undertake intensive observation of feeding practices in childcare services in Logan to document nutritional and behavioural factors associated with poor nutrition as a basis for the development of interventions.

Expected outcomes and deliverables: The scholar will:

  • receive training in fieldwork and data collection with young children (aged 3-5 years)
  • support the research team in conducting observations in childcare services
  • work with the researchers to manage project data and conduct analyses using qualitative and quantitative methods

Suitable for: A psychology, education, social science, dietetics, or public health scholar with an interest in research into children’s health and behaviours, disadvantaged communities, and/or early childhood education.  It is a requirement that the scholar holds a current Positive Notice Blue Card.

Primary Supervisor:  Dr Sally Staton

Further Information: Students can contact Dr Sally Staton at s.staton@uq.edu.au to discuss their application.

To what extent is the association between mental health disorder and obesity in adolescents mediated by school bullying? A causal mediation analysis from low and middle income countries.

Project duration: 10 weeks

Description: Mental health disorder, obesity, and school bullying among adolescents are recognised as major public health concerns worldwide. Mental health disorder is associated with both obesity and higher levels of bullying experiences. It is conceivable that bullying mediates the association between mental health disorder and obesity. A great deal of studies examining such association in developed countries, however there is scarce study quantifying the operation of this association in middle and low income countries. In this study, we employ a longitudinal data among older cohort collected among four developing countries including Ethiopia, India, Chile, and Vietnam to estimate the effects of association between mental disorder and obesity and explore the role of bullying in explaining of the total effect.

We expect the results will support interventions targeting school bullying; and subsequently reduce the prevalence in obesity between adolescents with and without mental health disorder.

Expected outcomes and deliverables:  Guidance, hand on training and feedback from the supervisors will help the  scholar to understand the research cycle of developing and testing research idea,  analysing data, and writing manuscript for publication. The scholar will work closely with the team to do following research activities but are not limited to:

  • Conduct literature review on the association between mental halth disorder, obesity, and school bulling.
  • Use EndNote to update and manage related papers.
  • Conduct univariate and multivariate analyses based on existing longitudinal data.
  • Write part of manuscript based on literature review and analysis results.
  • Prepare manuscript for publication.

Suitable for: A potential candidate who is interested in studying public health issue and in middle and low income countries. The candidate should have quantitative skills and experience, and has a background in one of following areas: education, psychology, sociology, and public health, year 2-4 UQ enrolled student.

Primary Supervisor: Dr. Nam Tran and Associate Professor Abdullah Mamun

Further Information: Students can contact Dr. Nam Tran, at n.tranthanh@uq.edu.au or Tel: +61 7 344 31041 to discuss their application.

Population ageing and family dynamics in Australia

Project duration: 10 weeks

Description: Population ageing is changing family structures and processes, producing the possibility of longer marriages and intergenerational ties.  As people are living longer, it also means that our family relationships could increase in duration, and take on greater significance.  Spouses may be together for a longer period of time, parents and children age together, and multi-generational families become increasingly common.  This project will examine these factors, and consider responses to meet the needs of elderly family members, considering topics including intergenerational transfers, differences in the type and level of transfers, and potential gender differences.

Expected outcomes and deliverables: Scholars will gain a better understanding of how to carry out academic research.  They will have the opportunity to gain skills in preparing a paper for publication in an academic journal. They will also gain skills in literature review, and/or data analysis.

Suitable for: This project is open to undergraduate and postgraduate applicants with interests in applied social research.  Students with interests in the research topics, and/or with data analysis skills including experience with STATA are encouraged to apply. 

Primary Supervisor: Dr Jack Lam and Professor Janeen Baxter

Further Information: Students can contact Dr Jack Lam at j.lam@uq.edu.au to discuss their application, but this is not mandatory.

Exploring community of diversity as empowering and protective for navigating uncertainties around climate change and wellbeing

Project duration: 10 weeks

Description: Increasingly young people are demonstrating resistance or reluctance to identify with normative gender/sexual identities. Little research has examined the complex interplay between gender, age, ethnicity, and social context for gender and sexually diverse young people. The Sexual Health with Young Queer Queenslanders (SHYQQ) Study explores gender and sexually diverse young people’s perspectives and social practices in relation to their identities, social connections and health and wellbeing.  This project will use qualitative analysis to explore how communities of diversity could be a source of empowerment in a time of uncertainty and anxiety in relation to climate change and health and wellbeing.

Expected outcomes and deliverables: Scholars will gain skills in coding and analysing qualitative data and have an opportunity to generate a publication from their research.  Students will also prepare an oral presentation at the end of their project.

Suitable for: This project is open to applications from students with a background in social sciences or health related disciplines.

Primary Supervisor: Professor Lisa McDaid

Further Information: Students can contact Professor Lisa McDaid at l.mcdaid@uq.edu.au to discuss their application, but this is not mandatory.