The flagship service offered by SPARQ-ed is open to all senior year 10, 11 and 12 students and teachers throughout Queensland. NOTE: Students must be at least 15 years old to participate in the Immersion Program. These programs are week-long enrichment activities offered to senior students and teachers in which participants undertake a scientific project devised in collaboration with one of the world renowned research groups within TRI's partner institutes.

Students participating in the research immersion programs can opt to complete an additional assessment piece which can earn them a point under the University of Queensland's Bonus Ranks Scheme. More information about this option can be found here.

Student participants are selected through an application process via their school. Applications consist of a section where the applicant writes to stated criteria (interest in science and previous experience working on science related projects) and consideration of the applicant's academic performance. All applications are verified by a school staff contact.

For each research immersion program, a project is designed which can be carried out by the participants over the course of five consecutive days. The project aim is normally to perform research to answer a question which is connected to the work of the contributing group. If all goes according to plan, the work done by the participants should be able to contribute to the work of the research group. These programs are conducted in a dedicated teaching laboratory on the ground floor of TRI, under the supervision of a Coordinator (an experienced registered science teacher) and tutors drawn from TRI's post-graduate students.

In past projects, participants have used advanced cell and molecular biology techniques to create gene constructs used in research into metabolic disorders and prostate cancer, create libraries of mutated versions of genes important in molecular virology and cancer research, cloned segments of genes involved in the regulation of the cell cycle and observed the localisation and function of important proteins within cancer cells. The techniques used included the polymerase chain reaction, site-directed mutagenesis, genetic recombination and transformation of bacteria, DNA sequencing and fluorescence and confocal microscopy. In carrying out these techniques, participants learn how the theory they learn in the classroom is put into practical use.

In addition to the experimental program, participants have the opportunity to interact with a dynamic group of students and scientists as they try solve some of the pressing biomedical issues facing society. Participants attend research seminars at the cutting edge of biomedical science, learn valuable academic research skills in a tutorial at the Pharmacy Australian Centre of Excellence (PACE) medical library and develop their skills in science communication with the aid of UQDI's resident science writer. The culmination of the week is a closing symposium where participants present their findings to the staff and students of TRI.

How to apply

  1. Complete this Online Application form to register your expression of interest indicating which Immersion dates you are interested in.
  2. If your application is successful you will be required to fill out an additional form and submit your two most recent academic reports and a brief recommendation from a current science/mathematics teacher.
  3. You will then complete a payment form indicating whether you or the school are paying the fee  (payment will be deducted 2-3 weeks prior to the start of the Immersion).
  4. If you are a regional or remote student you are encouraged to apply for a Lion's Medical Research Foundation bursary to assist with travel and accommodation costs (see below for more information).

Please note: 

  • If you are having trouble accessing the above link, please conact the SPARQ-ed team at
  • Teacher participants are welcome and are encouraged to contact the coordinator at to apply.
  • Fees: Government school students $300, Non-Government school students $550 (this fee covers catering, materials and staffing tutor costs). Fees are the responsibility of the student, unless a prior arrangement has been made with the school. Fees for government studente are able to be offered at a reduced rate due to funding provided bt the Department of Education and Training.

Lions Medical Research Foundation Scholarships

Thanks to the generous support of the Lions Medical Research Foundation, we can now offer scholarships to students from regional and remote Queensland to assist in costs associated with travel and accommodation. 

The Lions Medical Research Foundation has a long history of supporting scientists in the important work that they do. In an effort to foster the next generation of medical researchers, the LMRF and SPARQ-ed are pleased to announce travel scholarships for students from regional and remote Queensland participating in SPARQ-ed research Immersion programs. These awards, of up to $750 per recipient, are paid directly to the families of student participants to help defray the costs in travelling to and staying in Brisbane during the program.


In order for students to be eligible for an LMRF SPARQ-ed Scholarship, students must :

  • Be willing to provide an estimate of travel and accommodation costs on application and provide copies of receipts once availiable
  • Have been accepted into a SPARQ-ed research immersion program through the normal application process
  • Be enrolled in Year 10, 11 or 12 at the time they participate in the research immersion program at a Queensland school (state or non-government sector- NOTE year 12's cannot participate in the Nov program as they are no longer enrolled in school)
  • Have as their principal place of residence a location which is at least 56km from the SPARQ ed facility (in Woolloongabba, Brisbane) by the local transport service or at least 3 hours total travelling time per day from the SPARQ-ed facility by the local transport service


  • Be willing to stay at a location other than their principal place of residence during the duration of the SPARQ-ed Program. This may be alternative accommodation with friends or family or other accommodation organized by their family.
  • Be achieving at least a B average in science related subjects at school (students must be studying Biology and/or Chemistry)
  • Be prepared to appear in publicity materials for and engage in negotiated promotional activities organized by SPARQ-ed and the LMRF which clearly identifies them as LMRF SPARQ-ed Scholarship recipients

Other Considerations

  • Funding available for scholarships is limited to a total of 40 per year. Scholarships are awarded based on time of application to students who are attending their first research immersion program
  • Scholarship funds will be made available to parents or nominated guardians of the students following successful completion of the research immersion program

How to apply

  • LMRF SPARQ-ed Scholarships are awarded to students who have successfully applied for and placed in a SPARQ-ed research immersion program. Students should consult with their teacher and then complete the online application form found here.
  • Once the application and approval process has been completed eligible students will be contacted with further information about applying for the scholarship. Successful scholarship recipients will be notified prior to the commencement of the program and provided with the necessary forms to complete
  • Scholarship funds will be transferred to the nominated bank account following completion of the required forms and successful engagement with the research immersion program.

For more information about these scholarships, please contact the SPARQ-ed office on (07) 3443 6920, or at

For more information about the Lions Medical Research Foundation, please visit

All immersions are now full. If you would like to go on the wait list for the immersiond in September, November, or December please contact Ward Nicholas directly on, or the normal application process.  

  • 11-15 September (years 10, 11, 12) Virology - more details to follow (Full, but waiting list available)
  • 18-22 September - CANCELLED
  • 24-28 September (Full, but waiting list available)
  • 27 November - 1 December (Full, but waiting list available)
  • 4-8 December (Full, but waiting list available)

Bookings for 2018 immersions will be opening soon, please watch this space. 

Dynamic tumour heterogeneity in melanoma therapy: exploring this using a novel model system

Associate Professor Nikolas Haass is a clinician scientist specializing in skin cancers. His team specialize in three-dimensional cell culture models, which recreate the correct interactions of the melanoma with its tumour microenvironment and thus predict the effects of drugs on the tumour in a much better way than the conventional two-dimensional cell culture models. His team apply cutting-edge intravital multi-photon microscopy.

In this project students will work with Assoc. Prof. Haass’s model to identify what causes acquired multidrug tol­erance in melanoma. Using the Fluorescent ubiquitination-based cell cycle indicator (FUCCI)-system, cutting edge imaging technology, participants will explore the biology of dynamic heterogeneity, which is critical for the develop­ment of novel melanoma treatment strategies such as drug sensitivity and resistance.

View course pre readings and resources

DNA breast cancer gene mutations and genome rearrangement

Dr. Eloise Dray's team are researching genome mutations in breast cancer patients. Some cancer cells have what is called a ‘hot’ genome. It means that they accumulate mutations at a higher rate than normal cells, which not only contributes to the cancer phenotype but also makes the cells become resistant to treatment.

In this project, students will visualize the chromosomes of various breast cancer cells lines, and cells containing patient mutations, to investigate whether their genome undergoes physical rearrangement as they grow in normal media or after treatment with drugs. 

View immersion resources

Turning off the Immune response in Rheumatoid Arthritis sufferers: investigating anti-collagen II (AC II) antibodies

Professor Ranjeny Thomas and her team are developing treatments for Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) sufferers to target and turn off the immune response to specific self-antigens, such as citrullinated peptides or collagen II. In this project students will test  anti-collagen II antibodies in patients with RA and at-risk relatives, and determine whether they are produced at higher levels in patients carrying HLA-DRB1 RA-susceptibility genes. View more information.

Purifying the guardian of your genome hSSB1 

Associate Professor Derek Richard’s team are investigating the cellular processes that allow cells to cope with genomic stress and how these processes are modified in disease. This research centres on the initial basic discoveries of how these processes function in normal cells to prevent disease, and then how these pathways go wrong in diseases such as cancer and Alzheimer’s disease.  In this project students will work with researchers from Associate Professor Derek Richard’s team to amplify and purify the human protein hSSB1 for use in experiments that will address how this protein functions at the molecular level within our cells. View more information and resources.