“The NYSF gave me the confidence to put myself out there”

Max Rintoul, NYSF Alumni 2011

I first found out about the National Youth Science Forum (NYSF) from a friend who had not only attended the January sessions but had later attended one of the international programs in South Africa. I have always loved to travel and so after hearing about his experiences I was determined to apply, particularly because of those international program opportunities. Little did I know that the January session would be one of the best experiences of my life.

Spending two action-packed weeks surrounded by like-minded students from all over Australia was phenomenal and not something that is offered anywhere else. To this day when traveling throughout Australia I will regularly stay with or at least meet up with friends I made on session.

Max Rintoul

After the January session I was lucky enough to be selected for an international program and as a “staffie” on two other sessions. Through these experiences I have had the opportunity to trek through the outback of South Australia, work in a German microbiology lab for five weeks and attend extremely useful leadership and public speaking training on the south coast of New South Wales.

I am also now studying a degree that I first discovered at the NYSF, the Bachelor of Philosophy program at the Australian National University. Known as the PhB, this program allows undergrad students to get involved in research from their first year. Until I found out about this degree I was considering studying in either Melbourne or Sydney or even abroad in the United States, however I was unable to find a program over there which offered the chance to gain hands on research experience so quickly.

The NYSF gave me the confidence to put myself out there and try out for leadership positions at college as well as applying for trips to help out Indigenous communities in far north Queensland.

My experiences at the NYSF have also helped me to get the most out of my time living on campus at the ANU. At the NYSF there are many opportunities made available to students, however it is still up to the students to take advantage of them and I have found that it is the same at university. The NYSF gave me the confidence to put myself out there and try out for leadership positions at college as well as applying for trips to help out Indigenous communities in far north Queensland.

The NYSF was without a doubt one of the best programs I have ever been involved with and I would recommend anyone with an interest in science to get involved.

Nobel prize ceremony tops off the year for Aussie science students

To top off their final year at high school two 2014 NYSF students headed to Sweden early in December to take part in the Stockholm International Youth Science Seminar (SIYSS).

Matt Snell and Dechlan Victory in Stockholm for the 2014 Stockholm International Youth Science Seminar

Matt Snell and Dechlan Victory in Stockholm for the 2014 Stockholm International Youth Science Seminar

Facilitated through the NYSF’s International Program, Matt Snell from Shepparton, Victoria and Dechlan Victory from Adelaide, South Australia were selected to attend the SIYSS after applying for a spot in one of the international programs in February. Both attended the NYSF in January 2014 and were advised of their successful selection in March, so it has been a long wait for them. NYSF students selected for other NYSF international programs travelled in May-July to South Africa, Canada, Copenhagen, Boston and London.

Having finished their year 12 studies, both of these young men were excited to be heading off to Stockholm, despite the extreme cold they will face.

Before he left Matt Snell commented, “In some ways it is a daunting feeling to be heading to Europe for a month, with only one of my peers for company. Yet, at the same time, I am extremely excited. I have been preparing all year for this program by fundraising, writing the presentation for the seminar, and planning for the trip. Now I am finally able to make use of it all.”

Spending time with 25 students from all over the world, who are passionate about the same thing – science

Matt says he is most looking forward to experiencing the mix of cultures at the Stockholm Seminar. “Spending time with 25 students from all over the world, who are passionate about the same thing – science – is a very unique opportunity. Add to that the chance to meet Nobel Laureates … I really can’t wait!”

The SIYSS is a week-long event for young scientists and is held in conjunction with activities related to the Nobel Prize Award Ceremonies, including attending the Nobel Ball. As well as a comprehensive social program, the students will attend lectures and seminars, and make a presentation of their own research.

Matt was interviewed by ABC Shepparton before he left for Stockholm. Listen to the interview here.

From the Director

Welcome to the December edition of NYSF Outlook.

At the time of writing there are 400 young people who are preparing to travel to Canberra for the January 2015 NYSF Sessions. This map shows just how widespread our reach is for young Australians.

Screen Shot 2014-12-08 at 3.37.10 pm

To say that there is a sense of excitement building would be an understatement! I know of at least one group of students that are already ‘counting the sleeps’. Thanks to the support of The Australian National University (ANU), in 2015 we have been able to increase the number of students by 40 places for each of the sessions, giving us a total cohort of 200 per session.

Our domestic students will be joined this year with students from Germany, South Africa, New Zealand, Canada and for the first time Brazil and Fiji. The international participation over January is relatively small, however is well justified in terms of the opportunities it provides for our young people for knowledge and cultural exchange. This also exposes the international students to the study and career opportunities that are available within Australia, which they share in their home communities.

One of the highlights of the NYSF January sessions this year will be the Science Dinners. Instead of having a single keynote speaker as we have had in the past, the dinners this year will be run as a symposium. We have secured some of the best thinkers, researchers and practitioners to participate and offer us their insights. The theme for the Session A Science Dinner is engagement of Women in Science and Engineering (WISE). The Session C Science Dinner will focus on Indigenous Engagement and Knowledge with science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). We believe both of these discussions and the Q&A sessions that will follow will be stimulating for the students. If you are interested in coming along to the dinners, you can buy a ticket.  Email nysf@nysf.edu.au and we can send you the information.

For the 2015 National Science Teachers’ Summer School (NSTSS) we will be welcoming 50 science teachers from across the country from primary, secondary and senior secondary schools. The NSTSS is an NYSF program that is currently conducted in collaboration with the Australian Science Teachers Association (ASTA). The aim of the NSTSS is to immerse teachers in cutting edge STEM research and feed their – often infectious – motivation. The NSTSS challenges the participants to consider the question, “What do we want our students to know about science?” The resulting discussions regularly transcend curriculum frameworks. I would like to acknowledge Questacon and the Federal Education Minister, Minister Pyne, for their financial support for this much-needed program. Negotiations are ongoing to secure the longevity of NSTSS program into the future with the hope of it being extended to other locations.

On behalf of the NYSF Council, Executive and everyone here at NYSF Central, I would like to extend our best wishes for the Festive Season and New Year! And to the 2015 students … we’ll be seeing you soon!

Nobel prize ceremony tops off year for young Aussie science students

To top off their final year at high school two 2014 NYSF students headed to Sweden early in December to take part in the Stockholm International Youth Science Seminar (SIYSS).

Facilitated through the NYSF’s International Program, Matt Snell from Shepparton, Victoria and Dechlan Victory from Adelaide, South Australia were selected to attend the SIYSS after applying for a spot in one of the international programs in February. Both attended the NYSF in January 2014 and were advised of their successful selection in March, so it has been a long wait for them. NYSF students selected for other NYSF international programs travelled in May-July to South Africa, Canada, Copenhagen, Boston and London.

Having finished their year 12 studies, both of these young men were excited to be heading off to Stockholm, despite the extreme cold they will face.

Before he left Matt Snell commented, “In some ways it is a daunting feeling to be heading to Europe for a month, with only one of my peers for company. Yet, at the same time, I am extremely excited. I have been preparing all year for this program by fundraising, writing the presentation for the seminar, and planning for the trip. Now I am finally able to make use of it all.”

Spending time with 25 students from all over the world, who are passionate about the same thing – science

Matt says he is most looking forward to experiencing the mix of cultures at the Stockholm Seminar. “Spending time with 25 students from all over the world, who are passionate about the same thing – science – is a very unique opportunity. Add to that the chance to meet Nobel Laureates … I really can’t wait!”

The SIYSS is a week-long event for young scientists and is held in conjunction with activities related to the Nobel Prize Award Ceremonies, including attending the Nobel Ball. As well as a comprehensive social program, the students will attend lectures and seminars, and make a presentation of their own research.

Matt was interviewed by ABC Shepparton before he left for Stockholm. Listen to the interview here.

NYSF International Program can take you places

NYSF offers a range of International Program opportunities each year, and applications open early in February after the January Sessions have completed. 2015 session students are encouraged to look at the reports on the NYSF system from previous years’ participants, and seriously consider whether this is something they would like to apply for. Although the costs may seem a lot, the opportunities and benefits are significant, as the reports from students will attest to. But it is something that needs to be discussed with parents, school and families — year 12 is a very busy time.

Queensland NSYF alumni inspired by US President at University of Queensland

NYSF 2014 alumni Sophia Aston attended US President Barack Obama’s speech at The University of Queensland during his visit to Brisbane in November for the G20 summit. She was part of an audience of young people – for whom the President’s landmark speech was intended – alongside of four other students from her school, chosen because of their academic achievement and leadership involvement.

Sophia says that throughout the speech, Mr Obama conveyed various pertinent key messages. “Among the three that stood out to me in particular were: the need for action regarding climate change, the importance of gender equality, and the value of collaboration across nations.”

“Citizens, especially the next generation, you have to keep raising your voices, because you deserve to live your lives in a world that is cleaner and that is healthier and that is sustainable, but that’s not going to happen unless you are heard.” President Barack Obama, November 2014, The University of Queensland

“I thought it was wonderful that President Obama used such a high profile moment to convey such a vital message. The need for us to protect the environment for generations to come is undeniable and for him to recognise this and encourage people to take individual responsibility for their actions certainly reflects a step in the right direction.

On the issue of gender equality, the US President said,

I believe that the best measure of whether a nation is going to be successful is whether they are tapping the talents of their women.”

“It was so encouraging for me to see such a prominent leader reinforcing the importance of gender equality,” says Sophia, “particularly for a young woman seeking to contribute to the scientific domain. Mr Obama’s speech reflected the possibility for a better and brighter future for my gender and our generation.”

Mr Obama’s speech reflected the possibility for a better and brighter future for my gender and our generation

President Obama clearly recognises the need for collaboration not just between people, but also between nations, in order to achieve excellence in innovation, to assist developing countries, and, through travel and educational exchanges, a greater level of cross-cultural understanding and thus, global harmony.

One of Australia’s great writers spoke of this – a son of Brisbane and a graduate of this university, David Malouf. And he said, ‘In that shrinking of distance that is characteristic of our contemporary world, even the Pacific, largest of oceans, has become a lake.’” President Obama

“It was a privilege to be addressed by such an articulate and powerful leader and to hear first-hand the vital messages that I – and I hope many other youth – will take on board in order to work towards a brighter future for our global community.”

Sophia attended the NYSF in January 2014, and was endorsed by the Rotary club – The Gap, Ashgrove in Brisbane.

NYSF alumni stars in Qld Peter Doherty Awards

In August this year, five out of the 10 recipients of the Queensland Peter Doherty Awards for Excellence in Science and Science Education were NYSF 2014 alumni.

The Awards are named after Professor Peter Doherty, a Brisbane-born Nobel Prize-winning scientist who was educated at Indooroopilly State High School and the University of Queensland.

Four of the five NYSF student recipients of the 2014 Peter Doherty Awards - Rosalie Petersen, Victoria Poon, Lachlan Oberg, Jordanna Mladenovic

Four of the five NYSF student recipients of the 2014 Peter Doherty Awards – Rosalie Petersen, Victoria Poon, Lachlan Oberg, Jordanna Mladenovic

The Awards commenced in 2004, and recognise students, teachers, support officers, schools, volunteers, mentors and organisations that have made outstanding and innovative contributions to science and science education in Queensland.

NYSF alumni finalist in innovation challenge

2014 alumni Lochie Ferrier from the ACT ended the year as a finalist in the Young Innovator section of The Australian Innovation Challenge with his project developed during the NYSF International Program he attended at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Boston. His Optical Autonomous Satellite Identification System (OASIS) is designed to identify inactive satellites orbiting in space, and has potential for reducing amounts of space junk. Read the story in The Australian here

“NYSF is a four letter word!”

This January, Session C will hear from NYSF alumni and academic Dr Neeraj Sharma from the University of New South Wales during Partners’ Day.  Here’s a bit about Neeraj…

Neeraj

“Summer of 2001 was when I discovered that scientists are very cool – they get to discover completely new things and play with complicated and funky pieces of equipment. Most importantly, they were others like me who loved science and loved finding out about how things work (and making them better). People often ask me what got me into science and I would say two things – my high school science teacher and the four letter word, NYSF!

People often ask me what got me into science and I would say two things – my high school science teacher and the four letter word, NYSF!

After attending NYSF in 2001 (and while being a Staffie in 2002), I studied a Bachelor of Science at the University of Sydney and spent a year on exchange at Uppsala University in Sweden – study abroad is an awesome experience that I would recommend to all. I continued on to do Honours and a PhD at the same institution working on new materials for solid oxide fuel cell applications and ones that show weird-types of magnetism. Then I moved to ANSTO as a post-doctoral fellow, essentially irradiating batteries with neutrons and trying to figure out how to make better batteries – so our phones can last longer and we can all drive around in electric vehicles. Now I am a lecturer in Chemistry at UNSW, teaching, making new materials and trying to make new and better batteries. I also dabble in making materials that contract when heated and room temperature superconductors (I wish).

Neeraj Sharma

Neeraj Sharma

One thing NYSF has instilled into me is the need to communicate the science that I do – so I am involved in a number of outreach activities. I also enjoy making science fun and exciting and am often amazed at the types of questions I get from audiences! All in all, NYSF was an eye-opener and I am so glad to be a part of it from the scientists’ perspective now – to encourage students to do what they love (or at least appreciate what they love even if they end up elsewhere).

So if you’re an NSYF-er and find yourself at UNSW, pop by my office for a coffee =). Did I mention I met my wife at NYSF 2001?”