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.

Please see below for available projects.

Applications for the 2020 Winter Research round open 16 March 2020 and close 26 April 2020.


Examining father involvement in children’s sleep-related activities

Description: Father involvement in traditional female-dominated activities, such as caregiving, is important for child outcomes, parental outcomes, and gender equity more broadly. Although women typically provide the bulk of childcare-related care activities, some studies suggest fathers are becoming more involved, including becoming more involved in the overnight care of children and in children’s sleep-related care. However, researchers currently know very little, about fathers’ involvement in sleep-related activities with young children, nor the impacts of this engagement on fathers’ and mothers’ overall health and well-being. Examining more about this is thus a key focus of this research project.

Primary Supervisor: Laetitia Coles

Suitable for:  A sociology, psychology, or social science student (or student in another related field).

Further Information: For further information, please email l.coles@uq.edu.au

Download project overview

Characteristics of driver impairments under chronic influence of illicit drugs and prescription medications. A simulated driving experiment

Description: This research project will compare the type and magnitude of impairments in simulated driving performance and neurocognitive performance, as well as self-reported drowsiness in three groups of people who either drive under influence of drugs (DUID), or drive under influence of prescription medications (DUPrescription) or drive under normal condition (DUNC).

Primary Supervisor: Dr Shamsi Shekari Soleimanloo

Suitable for: This project is open to applications from students with a background in social science or psychology, 2-4 year students.

Further Information: Please contact Dr Shamsi SoIeimanloo prior to submitting an application on 07 3346 8209 or s.shekarisoleimanloo@uq.edu.au

Download project overview

Variability in classroom quality and cognitive development in children

Description: High quality early education and care is important for the cognitive development of children. To quantify what aspects of quality matter for the cognitive development of children, observational measures of quality have been developed. These observational measures of quality have strong theoretical groundings; however, prior empirical validation of these measures have exposed psychometric weaknesses and recent meta-analyses demonstrate limited ability to predict child outcomes. Typically multiple observations of a classroom are taken. However, the general approach is to take an average of these observations for analytical purposes. There may be important information within these multiple assessments. For example, levels of instructional support may vary across the day. In some lessons teachers will be very involved, but in others (e.g., painting) detailed instruction will follow periods of independent learning interspersed with guidance. The aim of this project is to explore how changes in the variability of classroom quality are linked to the cognitive development of children.

Primary Supervisor: Dr Peter Rankin​

Suitable for: This project is open to applications from 3rd to 4th year students with a background in psychology, education, or social sciences.
Willingness and motivation to learn and apply statistical methodology is essential.

Further Information: For further information please email p.rankin1@uq.edu.au

Download project overview

Understanding the challenges faced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students’ transitioning to secondary school

Description: The transition from primary to high school can be a challenging time for students. For those already struggling academically, this transition and accompanying changes to school routine, structure, friendship groups and social dynamics can compound matters, significantly increasing the risk of disengagement from education sooner rather than later. Transitioning to high school also comes at a time in children’s lives when they are entering adolescence and experiencing significant personal change, sometimes triggering worries about being the youngest in high school, not fitting in and/or being bullied. Such fears can see young adolescents’ self-worth plummet, grades drop, and their school attendance affected. 

For Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students, concerns about starting high school and continuing their education can be far more pronounced. Risk of disengagement is high as those from regional and remote communities are moved away from their families to unfamiliar surrounds for the purposes of secondary studies. Even for those still living at home, the loss of primary school connection and changing structures of school can be challenging.

This study seeks to understand the challenges faced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students during the transition phase from primary to secondary school. Additionally, the study aims to identify social support mechanisms that can avert student loss and disengagement, and support ongoing educational engagement and achievement. The study will test the feasibility of a co-designed peer mentoring program in which highly engaged First Nations students in years 10 and 11 develop supports with younger First Nations students before, during and after their transition from primary to high school.

Primary Supervisor: Dr Azhar Hussain Potia​

Suitable for: This project is open to applications from students ideally with a background in Social Sciences or a similar discipline (for example sociology, public policy or economics).

Further Information: Students can contact Dr Azhar Potia a.potia@uq.edu.au

Download project overview

Between home, school and clinic: How families of school-aged children with cancer negotiate uncertainty in everyday life

Description: The Winter Scholar will contribute to a project focusing on the experiences of children with cancer and their families. In particular:

  • how uncertainty affects educational choices and pathways
  • what functions school attendance fulfils for children with cancer and their families
  • how the transitions between 'bedside schooling', home schooling and mainstream schooling are negotiated

The project aims to review the existing empirical evidence on educational participation and outcomes of children with cancer considering factors such as acute care spells, illness management and risk of recurrence. Also considered are how treatment side effects (e.g. neutropenia and the risk of infection) impact on inclusion in educational settings; and the mediating role of institutional, clinical and peer-to-peer support (including siblings; friends, etc.).

Primary Supervisor: Dr Stefanie Plage (Professor Janeen Baxter will be an adjunct supervisor)

Suitable for: This project is open to undergraduate (nearing the completion of their degree) and postgraduate applicants with an interest in the lived experience of health and illness. The candidate should have a background in one of the following areas: sociology, public health, health and rehabilitation sciences.

Further Information: Students can contact Dr Stefanie Plage at s.plage@uq.edu.au to discuss their application, but this is not essential.

Download project overview

Examining the effect of light across puberty: growth hormone and other factors

Description: Today, adolescents are exposed to greater daily duration and increased variation in intensity, temporal distribution, and spectra of environmental light, than adolescents in any previous generation. This is due to the increased use of artificial lighting. Did you know that this increase in use of artificial lighting has also paralleled global increases in the incidences of obesity? Light is one of the main time setters for our internal circadian clock. Some research indicates that our sensitivity to light changes across the lifespan. This research project will begin to uncover what the effects of light are over the adolescent period.

The research project involves a systematic review of literature examining the effects of light and hormone changes across puberty. There will be opportunities to be exposed to a number of research facets and to work with people across different faculties to get a real glimpse of life as a researcher.

Primary Supervisor: Dr Cassandra Pattinson​

Suitable for: This project is open to applications from students with a background in psychology, medicine, biology, chemistry, bio-med, or social sciences.

Further Information: For further information please email c.pattinson@uq.edu.au

Download project overview

Evaluation of Recognise, Respond, Refer (RRR) Program: A capacity building initiative to improve integrated health responses to domestic and family violence

Description: The Institute for Social Science Research worked with Brisbane South Primary Health Network to evaluate the RRR program. The program was intended to build the primary health care sector’s capacity in the Brisbane South region through education and awareness raising.  The education was intended to equip all staff in general practice (GP) clinics with the skills to identify signs of abuse, sensitively make enquiries and effectively respond.

Our multi-level evaluation measured outcomes attributable to the RRR capacity building program using surveys, practice assessment and qualitative interviews. This project will involve preparing evaluation findings for peer-reviewed publication.

​​Primary Supervisor: Dr Joemer Maravilla​

Suitable for:  

  • With Public Health or Social Science backgrounds, preferably those who have undertaken research courses
  • Knowledgeable in operating Microsoft Excel and Stata for data management and analysis
  • Has interests in quantitative research methods

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

Download project overview

Examining differences in opioid-related harms in urban and non-urban settings

Description: There is mounting recognition that opioid use and related harms in rural, non-urban areas is a significant public health concern. In particular, research has identified that deaths related to opioids have increased in rural, regional and remote areas when compared with urban areas. To date, however, there has been no systematic review and synthesis of the evidence comparing opioid-related harms in non-urban versus urban settings. To address this, this study systematically reviews the evidence comparing opioid-related harms across urban and non-urban settings.

Primary Supervisor: Dr Natalie Thomas​

Suitable for: This project is open to students entering their third or fourth year of study in public health, psychology or the social sciences. Students with quantitative data analysis skills and/or an interest in substance use research are encouraged to apply.

Further Information: If you would like to discuss this opportunity further, please contact Dr Natalie Thomas at natalie.thomas@uq.edu.au or 07 3346 2008.

Download project overview

Nature connection, wellbeing and pro-environmental behaviour – identifying the mechanisms


Nature connection is an individual’s subjective sense of their affective, cognitive and experiential relationship with nature. There is a growing evidence base demonstrating the positive relationship between a greater sense of nature connection and heightened wellbeing as well as displaying greater pro-environmental attitudes and behaviours. However, there is still little understanding of the processes and mechanisms through which these positive associations arise. There is a need for an exploration of the potential processes that mediate the relationship between nature connection and pro-environmental action as well as the relationship between nature connection and wellbeing.

The successful scholar will review relevant literature on nature connection and work on a dataset from a cross-sectional survey that measured nature connection, environmental behaviours and wellbeing among Brisbane residents.

The aim of this project is to:

  • review the literature to assess the evidence base on the relationship between nature connection and both environmental behaviour and wellbeing
  • identify from the evidence base plausible mediators of these relationships
  • establish research questions for testing relationships among nature connection, environmental behaviour and wellbeing variables collected in a cross-sectional survey
  • carry out data management and cleaning as well as descriptive statistics of the survey data.

Primary Supervisor: Dr Anne Cleary

Suitable for: This project is open to undergraduate and postgraduate applicants with interests in the research topic.  Students with literature review and quantitative data analyses skills, including familiarity with using SPSS for data management and basic analyses, are encouraged to apply.

Further Information: Students can contact Dr Anne Cleary at anne.cleary@uq.edu.au to discuss their application, but this is not mandatory.

Download project overview