From the Director

It’s winter in Canberra and that means one thing for the National Youth Science Forum (NYSF) – student selections.  All across the country, the Rotary NYSF District Chairs have been working with their committees to do the very difficult job of selecting students to attend the NYSF 2015 January Sessions.   Thank you to all of the volunteers who have been involved.  We look forward to working with the young people you have selected to attend this year, as we have done for the past thirty–one years of the program’s operation.

Thank you to all of the volunteers who have been involved.

One person who was selected in 1990 was Tanya Feletto, from the Bankstown Rotary Club in Sydney.  Now Professor Tanya Monro, I am delighted to welcome her as she steps into the role of Chair of the Council that oversees operation of the NYSF.  The first alumni to chair the Council, Professor Monro is a distinguished  physicist and is currently an Australian Research Council (ARC) Georgina Sweet Laureate Fellow, Director of the Institute for Photonics and Advanced Sensing (IPAS) and Director of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Nanoscale BioPhotonics (CNBP) at the University of Adelaide. She will take up a new role at the University of South Australia as Deputy Vice Chancellor, Research and Innovation in November 2014.

Other changes to the Council include  Professor John Close replacing Professor Tim Senden (also a former NYSF student) as the representative of the Australian National University; past Rotary District 9710 Governor Maureen Manning has dispatched the baton to the current District Governor Rowley Tompsett to represent the Canberra region Rotary District on the Council; and the representative of the Australian Academy of Science is now Professor Jenny Graves who replaced their long term representative, Dr Elizabeth Trusswell. We are also expecting a new representative of the Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering (ATSE) to be appointed early in the new year. On behalf of the NYSF community, I would like to welcome the new, and thank the former members for their significant contribution to the program.

The current NSYF Council 2014/15 can be found here.

The planning for the January NYSF sessions is in full swing. With the increase in the participant numbers for the Canberra sessions we are in the process of identifying and confirming additional opportunities for lab and industry visits. As a result, there will be another four interest groups added to the 10 existing groups. Our interest groups are named for scientists whose work has significantly contributed to the knowledge of our world and I am pleased with the names our team has selected for the new groups:

Curie – Chemistry group

Blackburn – BioMed group

Hill – Earth and Environmental group

Oliphant – Physics group

If you are not familiar with their work, please look them up.

The student staff (Staffies) led by Steven Falconieri (2015 Session A), Amy Norman (2015 Session C), and Brett Slarks (2016 Session A), are preparing for Orientations and their pending roles and responsibilities during January. See this story about how the Staffies have prepared for January in partnership with Outward Bound Australia (OBA).

The Staffies for 2015 are listed here.

By the beginning September, we will have moved into Orientation season, and I am looking forward to meeting many of the 400 young people selected to attend NYSF 2015 during District Orientations, and their “support team” – mums, dads, Rotarians and teachers – and welcoming them into the NYSF community.


Damien Pearce

August 2014


NYSF Alumna Tanya Monro new Chair of the National Youth Science Forum (NYSF)

The new Chair of the National Youth Science Forum (NYSF) governing Council is Professor Tanya Monro.  Her acceptance of the role marks a significant milestone in the life of the thirty-year program.

Professor Monro is an internationally acclaimed physicist, who is passionate about improving the community’s understanding of the relevance of physics in particular, and science in general.  And she is an alumna of the NYSF, having attended the program when it was the National Science Summer School (NSSS) in 1990.

Professor Tanya Monro, Chair of National Youth Science Forum

Professor Tanya Monro, Chair of National Youth Science Forum


the first time I had the experience of being around other people my own age who were passionate about science

Professor Monro is currently an Australian Research Council (ARC) Georgina Sweet Laureate Fellow, Director of the Institute for Photonics and Advanced Sensing (IPAS) and Director of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Nanoscale BioPhotonics (CNBP) at the University of Adelaide.  She will take up a new role at the University of South Australia as Deputy Vice Chancellor, Research and Innovation in November 2014.

Professor Monro has led significant initiatives bringing together different fields of sciences in a transdisciplinary approach, recognising that the opportunities that lie between different fields of science both generate knowledge and solve real problems.

She says that outreach programs such as the NYSF play a critical role in supporting some of our brightest young people from around Australia by immersing them in stimulating science. “Australia’s future depends on science and technology – we need not just scientists but also politicians, entrepreneurs and citizens working across the range of human endeavour who have an understanding of science and the scientific process.”

“The NYSF serves as a bridge between the science taught at schools and the world of science research and its application in our world. I look forward to working with the governing Council to strengthen the NYSF and its capacity to inspire Australia’s students as they enter year 12.”

Of her own experience at the NYSF, Professor Monro says, “It was the first time I had the experience of being around other people my own age who were passionate about science. Engaging alumni in the program is a tangible way of showing the students some of the career pathways they might consider. One of the biggest insights from the program was that there were many fascinating fields of science that I had not previously discovered and that I should keep an open mind about what area I might want to specialise in until I had a chance to experience a few at university.”

Australia’s Chief Scientist and Science Patron of the NYSF Professor Ian Chubb congratulated Professor Monro on her appointment. “When we talk about inspiring students and getting our skills pipeline right, I can’t think of any person better able to do that than Tanya. I wish her every success.”

Damien Pearce, Director of the NYSF, says that the NYSF is delighted that Professor Monro has agreed to become the Chair of the Council.  “Professor Monro brings a wealth of experience and understanding of the science education environment both in Australia and internationally.  She has substantial knowledge of Australian industry and the priorities we need to be setting so that our science, technology and engineering workforce is well-placed to take us into the future.

“Professor Monro is a great role model for young women and men interested in study and careers in science and technology, which is the focus of the NYSF.  We look forward to working with her.”

Mr Pearce also thanked outgoing Chair, Dr Craig Cormick, for his guidance of the program during his time as Chair of the organisation.  “Dr Cormick’s insights and leadership were extremely valuable and we thank him for his commitment to the NYSF.”

Further information:  Amanda Caldwell 0410 148 173

The long road to leadership

After dealing with trekking in sleet and snow in a Canberra winter, the student staff leaders for NYSF 2015 will probably be able to cope with any challenge that presents itself in January – although the weather conditions will be very different.

The 2015 NYSF Student Staff Leadership Training Program began in April, with the ANZAC course held over four days at the Australian National University’s Kiola campus on the south coast of New South Wales.

NYSF Director, Damien Pearce, says that, “Our ANZAC program is basically about bumping in as a group, learning about each person’s personalities, their strengths and weaknesses. We also do a lot of work on NYSF values, being supportive and respectful of individuals, as well as transitioning from being an NYSF participant to being a leader of a team.”

The Outward Bound experience was challenging for us on both a physical and personal level

The second phase of training comprises a week-long outdoor trek experience, conducted by Outward Bound Australia. Held on the rural outskirts of Canberra, the trek brings the session groups together, and provides physical and intellectual activities designed to challenge the participants and develop their sense of self as well as their interdependence.


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At the Tharwa base camp the groups participated in a high ropes course, a session in different leadership styles, as well as team activities including ‘Chicken Run’, ‘Lava’, and ‘The Bomb’. The students were upbeat with their feedback.

“The Outward Bound adventure has been one of the most beneficial and enlightening trips for me personally. We were able to learn valuable lessons in perseverance, pushing our limits, learning to trust and support both ourselves and others. It really brought us all so much closer as a team. We were also given an opportunity to spend some time alone on a ‘values trek’. The trek carried us through the beautiful mountains and valleys, where we had a chance to reflect and appreciate the scenery.” – Jasmine Rose

“The Outward Bound experience was challenging for us on both a physical and personal level, but I am so grateful for the opportunity. We all realised our potential to overcome adversity, both within ourselves and with the team. It was an adventure that brought out the best of people and is an experience that I will never forget.” Adi

“… then it snowed! It was such an amazing surprise that was thoroughly enjoyed by all. Our amazing experience was a reflection of the high calibre of the instructor that supported us along the way. It’s an experience I recommend and will never forget.” – Brittany


Images courtesy Alistair Chandler

The last Next Step was Sydney

The 2014 Sydney Next Step program ran in early July this year and 74 students attended over the course of the three days of the program.  Visits were made to partner organisations Cochlear, Orica, ANSTO, the University of Western Sydney – Campbelltown and Richmond campuses, and the University of New South Wales.

True to its aim of showing students real-life experiences of science, technology and engineering study and careers, the Next Step Sydney visits provided insights and examples of what they could expect in the coming years if they chose to attend these universities and work in these kinds of fields.

At Orica’s Water Treatment Plant, students visited the various parts of the facility before doing a hands-on water filtration activity.  Student comments included:

A very interesting and fascinating presentation. Really enjoyed the tour and titration was great.

Engineers are quite different from scientists.

I learned about … the actual role of a chemical engineer, which was really helpful.

I absolutely loved the visit to the Cochlear factory

At the Cochlear factory and research facility on Sydney’s north shore, the students gowned up and were shown through the factory to learn about the very specific and detailed work that is involved in making the Cochlear products.

I absolutely loved the visit to the Cochlear factory. … I particularly loved hearing from the engineer who was one of the first to develop the cochlear implant; it was incredible to be able to see the continuous development that has been going on but also to be able to understand the origins of the project and to see the way that the concept was developed into a reality.

I learned … how many different types of scientists and engineers are involved in the development and production of bio-medical technologies.

Visiting the ANSTO Discovery Centre is always popular with NYSF students, and this year was no different.  The tour through the OPAL reactor was regarded a highlight, as was the opportunity to speak to the scientists working there.

It was wonderful to see the incredible work ANTSO is doing. Was very interesting to learn just how much of an impact this organisation has on our everyday lives, and how their work is extremely beneficial to Australians and those all over the world.

I was very excited to visit ANSTO as I had been there before with school, however the tour and presentation they gave us was definitely more interesting and engaging than the one I had heard before. I really enjoyed having tour guides who were so knowledgeable and were able to answer all of our detailed questions about the reactor and what they do there. I especially loved how much passion all the staff had and their friendly nature as it made the experience personal and therefore more enjoyable.

The visit to the University of Western Sydney was divided into two sections.  In the morning, students visited the Campbelltown campus and toured the anatomy, physiotherapy and nanotechnology departments.

There is some wonderful work going on at UWS

There is some wonderful work going on at UWS; especially in the nanotechnolgy and imaging laboratory. I was astounded as to how numbers and figures can translate into knowledge expansion and, in turn, result in a more informed scientific generation. Witnessing first hand how they image particle movement is something I would never dream of having clearance to back in rural Queensland. The anatomy lab visit took me to a whole new world, one that I could never experience in my own biology class. We learnt from scientists that were specialists in that area specifically how the body is structured to function perfectly. We found the intense passion they held is what we all desire, which really relit a spark of inspiration within all of us.

 It was an incredible opportunity to be exposed to an anatomy lab so early on. It was an experience that would definitely never have been open to us if we had not attended NYSF, which makes me even more grateful for all that the NYSF has done for me and all of us year 12 students.

In the afternoon of the second day of the program, the students travelled to the Richmond campus, visiting the Hawkesbury Institute for the Environmental Sciences, organised on behalf of NYSF Partner, the Grains R&D Corporation.

It takes a lot of work to monitor and learn more about the environment! You have to be so careful of so many factors that can influence the environment.

I found a lot of the experiments and projects extremely interesting and discovered that while it may not be the area of science I want to be in, I am really interested by the research that is going on in this area.

I learnt a lot about environmental research being undertaken. I never knew it was so comprehensive – the amount of research that is going into climate change.

A full day at the University of New South Wales rounded off the Sydney Next Step, with visits to a wide range of science and engineering labs and facilities as well as talks from UNSW Student Ambassadors.

The students were really interesting and spoke eloquently and all the lab visits were awesome! Biomed was good because we had hands-on work rather than just talking. Medicine was good because the student speaker organised his information well so he was easy to listen to, but I found the whole process of medicine, even though I already knew lots about it, more daunting after listening to how difficult it is to get in the UNSW medicine. Psychology was absolutely amazing because the speaker made me thing about new concepts and got me even more interested in psychology.

 The lab visits like Chemistry and Civil engineering were extremely good and I loved how we were told a little about the department and careers in that area but also go to do some hands-on activities. It was much more engaging and interesting.


Building a bridge from Charleville to Copenhagen and back

When Sebastian Kohli first received the application form to chaperone the six National Youth Science Forum (NYSF) delegates to the Euro Science Open Forum (ESOF) 2014 in Denmark, he really thought it a little far-fetched. What chance would he, a science teacher from Charleville State High School in south-west Queensland – a school of only 230 students – have of being selected for such an opportunity? Straight away though he reconsidered. Limiting thinking in that way can stop people from reaching their highest goals or even getting involved to start with. And isn’t that what he tries to help his students to overcome?

What better way … than to get involved myself

Sebastian knew this opportunity would give him an excellent platform from which to promote the NYSF to his students. “What better way to make this kind of involvement in the science community seem more possible, than to get involved myself?” he said.

“The prospect of travelling from a rural town of 3 000 people in outback Queensland to an international forum in Copenhagen, with 4 800 attendees, and almost 14 000 members of the public also involved with the associated Science in the City Festival, was both exciting and daunting.”

Sebastian had only formally met the six NYSF students with whom he was to spend almost three weeks, in a country he had never visited, a few hours before departure from Sydney. “In truth, the whole venture did not seem real until the very last moment despite the time I had spent preparing for my absence from school and the events ahead,” he said.

“Fortunately, they were a great group of outstanding young men who were more eager to learn, had more to gain from ESOF than any other group there, and certainly made the most of our packed time at this amazing event.”

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ESOF is held every second year in a different European city, and NYSF offers six places to students through its International Program.   ESOF provides a platform where researchers, journalists, policy makers, and the public at large can meet and debate cutting-edge research, research policy and global challenges. The highlights of the forum were the presentations at the Opening Panel Debate, the five Plenary Lectures, and the nine Keynote Lectures selected to inspire and motivate ESOF’s diverse audience.

Sebastian, just like any other teacher, aims to bring what he learned on his trip back into his classroom. “If the stories of the outside world can be my own, if my interactions with the researchers, mathematicians and scientists are authentic, then they hold much more weight in the classroom.”

Sebastian’s key lesson to take back to Charleville is that science is happening everywhere. “The level of involvement of the citizens of Denmark and neighbouring Sweden was astounding, with the large grounds of the former Carlsberg Brewery seemingly at capacity with the influx of visitors to the program there. Through the Science in the City events held in parallel with ESOF, members of the public were able to participate in activities ranging from the capture of energy from renewable sources, and the production of beer, to the dissection of crabs, producing electronic music, and of course demonstrations involving the staples of science demonstrations; liquid nitrogen and static electricity.”

Sebastian now has to connect his school, classrooms and students to the science and mathematics of the real world. “The metaphor used throughout ESOF was Building Bridges. With bridges, the impassable is spanned, the unreachable is connected and the distant is brought near.”

Through his experiences and observations, shared with many thousands, but most closely with that small group of six NYSF students, Sebastian knows he can bring more answers, ask harder questions, and guide the inquisitive minds of his students.

Sebastian whole-heartedly thanks the staff members and director of the NYSF, Damien Pearce, for his amazing opportunity. “It has truly been a highlight of my teaching career, and will furnish me with stories and ideas for decades to come,” he said.

By Julie Maynard

Living in paradise

Loren Atkins attended the NYSF in 2005, and was selected to attend the Stockholm International Youth Science Seminar.  She returned as a student staff member in 2006 and 2007, and was the Chief of Staff in 2009.

These days, her life is idyllic – and this is her story to date:

I am looking out over the reef and pondering the serenity from my hammock on the small tropical island of Yap, Micronesia.

This is my second year in this island paradise, where I work as the legal advisor for the environmental protection agency.  Yes, a lawyer is in the NYSF newsletter.  But before you cry treachery and close the tab, I beg that you hear me out.  I am a lawyer, but I am also a scientist, and bridging the link between science and policy is what I do.

In 2010 I graduated from the University of Tasmania with a Bachelor of Laws and Bachelor of Science (Geography and Environmental Science), and I had no idea of what my ideal career would be.

Loren Atkins Yap 4

But I had a law degree to my name and a job offer with large corporate law firm on the table, so in 2006 I suited up and moved to Melbourne.  This was an excellent and challenging opportunity for me, and the experience has significantly shaped how I practice today.  Yet after two years, I knew that corporate law was not my calling.

I secured a volunteering position through Australian Volunteers International and in January 2013, I condensed my entire life into 23 kilograms and boarded several planes to a little known island in the Pacific Ocean.  Besides trips around the region, this is where I have been ever since.

 Loren Atkins Yap 1 Loren Atkins Yap 3

I draft laws, regulations and policies on a really diverse range of environmental issues.  I get to spend my weekends diving with clients (read manta rays, sharks and reef fish) and my week-days writing laws to protect them.

NYSF gave me the confidence to know that I can thrive in foreign environments

I was nervous and uncertain about moving here, but thanks to the NYSF I had the confidence to do it.  The NYSF gave me the confidence to know that I can thrive in foreign environments; that I can lead groups of peers; that I can make a difference; that understanding and utilising science is essential for everyone, not just scientists; and that it is ok to have no idea what I want to do when I ‘grow up’, because what real life has in store is far more exciting than anything 18 year old me could have imagined.

Not your usual “high flying” student

Australian National University (ANU) Science Student and NYSF alumnus James Ansell has added a unique string to his bow, becoming the first young person to graduate from Scouts ACT’s balloon pilot training program and receive his private pilot certification from the Australian Ballooning Federation.

Scouts ACT received funding to purchase the hot air balloon during the Centenary of Canberra in 2013 and their training program aims to train one pilot per year.

james balloon phot

James is studying astrophysics/astronomy and science communication, and says attending the NYSF in 2009 definitely contributed to his decision to enrol at the ANU.  “It offered the chance to study both of these disciplines at the same time – it seemed an ideal place to come.”  That this has led to him being able to train as a balloon pilot is unexpected.

“It was a very unique opportunity … to get a balloon licence,” says James, who studied for two years doing both theory and practical training for his license.

James is looking forward to navigating the Scouts ACT balloon above Canberra once he has 50 hours of flying experience.  His ‘ultimate flight path’?  “Anywhere in the country with tonnes of empty space, good scenery and access for the retrieve crew to come and get me.  And a good bakery to get brekky from afterwards.”

Research by Julie Maynard

Fundraising ideas to share

Fundraising for any kind of extra-curricula activity can be challenging, especially for year 12 students. Most of the NYSF students selected to participate in the 2014 NYSF International Program have undertaken a wide range of activities, including cake stalls, selling chocolates, raffles, trivia nights and bowling nights to raise money to pay for their trips.

Jordan Epstein from Sydney was selected to attend the London International Youth Science Festival this year. Fortunately, he had lots of ideas for raising money for the trip, having been an active fundraiser for many years. “I’ve done a lot of fundraising for worthy causes and charities in the past. When I was 12, I did the MS Readathon and raised $5,000. This time, though, the task was focused on my own activities.”

Seeking advice from the NYSF Alumni Facebook group, Jordan says he received incredible support. “They definitely steered me in the right direction. Contacting science-based companies and local MPs provided me with good contacts for funding requests.”

“I wrote a personal letter to the contacts, attached the media release we received from the NYSF about the international program, and offered to come to present about my trip on my return. This seemed to be viewed as a fair exchange for donations.”

Jordan also tapped into his school’s charity program, offering to organise a bowling night for an existing fundraising target, with the left-over funds donated to his own trip. “We raised $4,500 in total, with 120 people attending the bowling night. The venue cost $500 to hire, and we needed to set aside $1000 for the school charity program. We sourced raffle prizes and sold tickets at $5 or 3 for $10.” Prizes included a case of wine, and a dinner at a local restaurant – both donated by parents whose children attend Jordan’s school.

Blues signed Jersey

A silent auction focused on two big ticket items – a signed and framed 2003 Sydney Roosters’ jersey, and a signed 2014 Blues 100th game memorial jersey from the first rugby league State of Origin win for New South Wales in nine years. “This was an incredibly valuable piece of memorabilia, also donated by a parent at the school.” It sold for $1000, and the Roosters’ jersey sold for $500.

The upshot for Jordan was that $3000 from the total funds raised was directed to the London trip, with those two pieces of sporting memorabilia key to this success.

“It was a really efficient way to raise large amounts of money and I would recommend this approach to others who need to fund-raise.”


All of the students from New South Wales, including Jordan, received funding from NSW Trade & Investment in support of their trip.

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Be Curious

This month a group of NYSF alumni  launched a new website to help people delve into the inquisitive side of their brain. Aptly named Curious Science, the website’s purpose is to encourage more young people to take an interest in science by making it more accessible, interesting and engaging. The website is a place to share achievements, discuss recent science news, teach one another and find science events and lectures that are free to attend.

The website also aims to encourage more young people to get involved in science camps and programs, such as the NYSF, as a way to kick-start a career in science.

Visit the website at for explanations of scientific phenomena, How-To’s, opinion pieces, and upcoming events every Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

Curious Science was started by 2014 alumni as a way to share their passion for science. It is a place to record what they have learnt and spread the word about their achievements. Curious Science welcomes all contributions – if you have an article you’d like to write or see written, please let them know!

by Claudia Schipp