From the Director

Geoff BurchfieldMid-winter here in Canberra is generally a quiet time for the National Youth Science Forum. But this year the place is buzzing with significant developments, some perhaps surprising.

First up, I have decided to step down from my role as Director of the NYSF, effective from the end of August. It’s a been a wonderful nine years for me but it’s time to move on and pursue other interests. My succession program is already in place and I feel I’m leaving the NYSF in very good hands.

The interim director, Damien Pearce, is already on board. He is a Fulbright scholar with a strong background in education. And he is no stranger to the organisation. In his former role as NYSF Assistant Director, he will be known to many who have attended the Canberra sessions over the past two years. Additionally, Damien has been closely involved in the student-staff training program.

the place is buzzing with significant developments

Recently he has been an architect of major office re-structures that have not only streamlined portfolios and brought operations under one roof but made possible some new staff changes. In particular we are delighted to welcome Amanda Caldwell as our Manager, Communications & Partnerships. Also there are now three part-time positions in our office, specifically for former NYSF students. This is an important way of maintaining connections with the student body while also providing training opportunities.

As I write, the Next Step Program is in full swing around the country and the International Program is underway too. Currently we have students at programs in Boston and Pretoria with others soon to leave for Heidelberg and London.

The re-vamped Outback Leadership Treks are also about to get underway. This year our young student staff leaders are trekking in Southern Queensland under the guidance of Adventure Out.

While I am leaving to explore new personal opportunities, I am keeping options open for the possibility of continuing my involvement in some way, so strong is my belief in NYSF, its future and the organisation’s ability to achieve change in the lives of the young people we support.

Geoff Burchfield

Taking the Next Step in Brisbane

From speed dating with a working scientist to speed breeding — of plants, not scientists — NYSF’s Next Step Program in Brisbane in April this year had it all.

The Next Step Program offers students who attend the NYSF January sessions of the National Youth Science Forum with a follow up opportunity to learn more about future study and career options in science in their local area. Next Step programs are held in other capital cities through the course of the year.

Hosted by NYSF partners in Brisbane, 108 students visited a wide range of facilities allowing them a valuable insight into just what is possible in a career in science.

QUT Sc Eng Centre

The Queensland University of Technology’s state of the art Science and Engineering Centre, provided students with an overview of the Centre and what it can offer.


Workshops at Griffith University’s Eskitis Institute, where pharmaceutical discovery research is undertaken, was a highlight for many students, who commented that it was, “Great to hear about science collaboration,” and “I really enjoyed visiting Eskitis facility as it was in an area (drug discovery) that I’m really interested in.”

UQ Labs1

The program’s second day provided an array of workshops and presentations at the University of Queensland, including talks about Scanning Electron Microscopy, Genetic Blueprints, Fuels for the Future, Animal Diseases, “Speed Breeding” and Plant Diseases, Medicinal Chemistry, and a trip to the world of quantum weirdness! And then it was off to the Anatomy Museum, also on site at UQ.

Feedback from students that attended the Brisbane Next Step program was positive, with many grateful for the opportunity to reconnect with people they had met at NYSF sessions in January.

“Interesting, especially to hear from the guy who got the pictures of the atom’s shadow and also to see the layers.”

“Amazing to see real physics lab. Would have loved more time. Speaker was cool.”

Next Step programs are operating with NYSF partners in Newcastle, Sydney, Adelaide and Perth in July in 2013.

Graduates from Water Corporation vie to present at NYSF

The Water Corporation of Western Australia uses an innovative approach in selecting graduates to present at the January sessions of the National Youth Science Forum (NYSF).

Graduates submit a presentation on their chosen field, and from there a short-list of four candidates is selected to present to a panel. Then the two most compelling presenters are chosen to represent the Water Corporation across three sessions at NYSF.

The aim of each presentation is to spark interest in the water industry in the minds of talented young people, and build awareness of the Water Corporation’s graduate program and employment prospects.

The Water Corporation offers its graduates the chance to present because it’s a fantastic development opportunity. They can also relate well to the students because they’ve been through similar deliberations and decisions about their future, in the not so distant past.

Graduate Chemist from the Water Corporation’s Technology and Energy Management Branch, Ben Currell, was lucky enough to be selected to present at NYSF earlier this year.

“It was great to see so many enthusiastic young students, and I really enjoyed being able to share my passion for science with a new generation of potential scientists,” Ben said.

(image courtesy Water Corporation, WA)

(image courtesy Water Corporation, WA)

Project Manager, Daniel Jackson, (pictured above) also from Technology and Energy Management Branch, presented in Canberra and Perth.

“The best and brightest young minds gathered at the NYSF, where I was fortunate enough to be able to speak to hundreds of students about all the possibilities of a career in science and engineering on behalf of the Water Corporation,” Daniel said.

“It was a great to not only experience speaking in public in a professional context but also to connect with some extremely clever and motivated young adults who in the coming years will be clamouring for an opportunity to test their mettle in the sciences.”

Life after NYSF: a student’s view

NYSF Staffie and Student, Patrick Haylock, is moving on from his role with NYSF to a new and exciting job. Here he reflects on his time with NYSF:

To say that the experience was transformative understates the impact the program had on me.

So I am reaching the end of my student career. Over four years of work will shortly produce one of the most important pieces of paper I will ever receive. This piece of paper, which I won’t possess for a few weeks yet, has already landed me an exciting job and the promise of a career. Whenever I go through periods of big changes, I tend to grow quite reflective. This time is no different, and I have been focusing on the events that have led to my current circumstances. No matter where I begin though, I always end up passing through my time with the National Youth Science Forum. To say that the experience was transformative seems to understate the impact the program had on me.

Patrick Haylock

Patrick Haylock

I attended the National Youth Science Forum in 2007 as a student and I returned twice as a “staffie” – NYSF participants who are invited back to work on the program. I came from rural Victoria and the opportunities to extend myself into areas of science were thin on the ground. The Forum presented a chance to break from this restriction and find out where my passion for science could take me. For the first time I could meet working scientists. But when I finally talked to them face-to-face it was not their work or the letters after their name that I found admirable. It was their passion, their kindness and their patience which affected me profoundly. They became role models for me as a young scientist. I used the opportunity to find out as much about the researchers as I could, with the intention of emulating their journeys. I can even trace my current degree choice to one scientist in particular, who conducted research in microbiology but had a PhD in geology. He talked me through his strange educational background and showed me that I could fearlessly follow my interests. I have followed his example and will be graduating with disparate majors in chemistry and philosophy.

This is sort of what the NYSF became for me, both as a student and a staffie. Whilst I learned a lot about potential careers, I learned even more about the sort of person I wanted to be. I was inspired to develop the skills I found exemplified by the students, staffies and scientist I met. These skills have given me a head start on my career. Because of the NYSF, I am graduating with confidence in my public speaking skills and my ability to communicate scientific ideas effectively and passionately. Most of all, I am graduating with an openness to life-long learning and new opportunities. The NYSF deeply affected how I see the world, and I believe that many of the successes I have had since the program in 2007 owe much to the time I spent there.

I will be beginning work as a chemistry patent examiner at the end of July. I will get to combine my love of science and philosophy into the one career, thanks in no small part to the sage advice of a scientist I met at the NYSF. My life could have taken many directions and I may have been in a dozen different circumstances right now. But of all those other circumstances, without the NYSF few would leave so many possibilities for me to explore.

Patrick and the candles

Picture this … calling all NYSF Alumni and Staffies

Calling Staffies from NYSF in 1999 … are you in this picture?


What about this one of staff from 1996, with Rotary colleagues?


This just a small selection of photos that we are collating to coincide with our thirtieth anniversary this year.

Have you any pics from your time with NYSF that you would like to share?

We’re collecting photos for an exhibition we will mount at the 2014 sessions. And we’d like your snaps too. So if you’ve got them sitting in a box in the back of a cupboard, take a quiet moment to dig them out and have a look. We’d love to see them and add them to our collection. Further information contact Amanda Caldwell.

NYSF in the news

NYSF Next Step program was recently delivered in Newcastle.  The Newcastle Herald ran this story about their visit.

Several NYSF students are attending events as part of our International Programs.  Local media in their area have been following their progress.

Isabelle Capell-Hattam from Coffs Harbour High School attended the Euroscience Open Forum in Dublin.

Cath Bowler from Byron Bay High School attended the International Youth Science Forum in London.

Isaac Vorreiter from John Paul College in Coffs Harbour also attended the International Youth Science Forum in London.

We want to know more — please send the links to stories about NYSF students to

Science careers in the news

The Conversation recently ran a four part series on science and maths education.

An interview with Dr Brian Gaensler was published in the Sydney Morning Herald on Saturday 22 June. Dr Gaensler is a former Young Australian of the Year (1999) and heads up the Australian Research Council’s Centre of Excellence for All-Sky Astrophysics. He was made a fellow of the Australian Academy of Science this year. Dr Gaensler was a guest speaker at the National Youth Science Forum January session in 2010.

 Engaging young people with science policy – article from The Guardian UK, 31 May 2013

For the diary

The following information is provided as a service to our readers.  NYSF does not endorse any of the programs or sessions whose details are provided here.

Western Australia

Curtin University’s Open Day will be held on Sunday 4 August 2013, from 10am – 4pm; More information:

Curtin University’s Primary Industry Centre for Science Education runs an Industry Placement Scholarship Program, connecting tertiary bound science students with primary industry scientists, university professionals and outlining career pathways.

Consisting of five days of Residential Camp (October school holidays), five days of Industry Placement (December/January) and a Reporting Back Session, this free program is a great experience for students interested in exploring the science related to the Primary Industries. During Reporting Back Session participants share their experiences with fellow students, parents, teachers, and University and industry mentors. Upon completion of the program students receive a scholarship cheque to the value of $300 and a Certificate of Completion.

This program is open to year 11 and 12 students. Application forms and more information is available from Gina Pearse. Applications close 16 August 2013.

New South Wales

University of Technology Sydney is holding its open day on 31 August 2013. Further information: