From the science forum to science policy

Dr Subho Banerjee attended the NYSF (then known as the National Science Summer School) in Canberra in 1987. Nowadays he is responsible for preparing science policy advice in the Commonwealth Government.

Subho had always had an interest in science through his high school days in Newcastle, including being a national finalist in the BHP Science Prize. So he was very excited to get the chance to attend the NYSF, and it didn’t disappoint.

“Attending the NYSF was an inspirational experience. The program gave us exposure to such a wide range of high-quality science research being done in Canberra, across universities and research agencies. I was blown away by the possibilities.”

“I remember particularly a fantastic talk given to us by a graduate student up at Mt Stromlo Observatory, at the ANU. He really captured how excited he was to be exploring the fundamental questions of the universe – and he made it fun as well.”

“But the best thing was definitely the chance to connect with students from all over Australia who were interested in the same stuff that I was. I made friendships there that I carry forward to today.”

Subho credits his NYSF experience as being crucial in encouraging him to study science at the ANU.   He went on to do a PhD in physics, using lasers to study the structure of the oxygen molecule.

After his PhD, Subho made the decision to move into public policy. He received a Rhodes scholarship to go to the University of Oxford, studying economics and social history, and then environmental policy.

“When I was doing my PhD, I got more and more interested in the interface between science and public policy – so many policy issues are framed by science, but relatively few people with a science background are involved in the policy deliberations.”

Subho joined the Australian Public Service on his return from Oxford. He has since worked across policy issues spanning economic, social and environmental policy, as well as on organisational reform of the public sector itself. In addition to public service roles, he has worked for a not-for-profit Indigenous policy think-tank, and a private sector management consulting firm.

… a grounding in science, such as that provided by the NYSF, is a fantastic foundation. It encourages rigour and clarity in thought

In his current role as a Deputy Secretary in the Department of Industry, Subho is responsible for preparing science policy advice to the Federal government. This spans whole of sector advice on issues such as science funding and infrastructure, as well as policy oversight of Questacon, the National Measurement Institute and the Australian Astronomical Observatory. Subho is also on the board of the international organisation responsible for delivering the Square Kilometre Array – the largest radio telescope in the world.

“I’m really enjoying having a science-based role again. I think a grounding in science, such as that provided by the NYSF, is a fantastic foundation. It encourages rigour and clarity in thought, which makes you better at what you do (whether science-based, or not). But it also encourages enthusiasm about ideas and about the world, which helps you to enjoy doing it.”

Subho Banerjee Siding Springs telescope

Subho Banerjee Siding Spring telescope

“ … it’s easy to become involved in student life at ANU”

For Anneke Knol, participation in the 2011 National Youth Science Forum (NYSF) has opened many doors.

“I love the network that is created for you after attending the NYSF,” said Anneke.

“Because students are selected from all over the country, you can travel basically anywhere and know that there will be a friendly face—someone you have met on session, or met during one of the other NYSF programs.

“I was lucky enough to travel to London as part of an NYSF International Program and so my network extends not only throughout Australia, but to several countries around the world.”

Anneke Knol Dec 2014 newsletter

After attending NYSF Anneke Knol enrolled in a Bachelor of Advanced Science (Honours) at The Australian National University (ANU), majoring in chemistry and mathematics.

“Choosing to attend ANU was one of the best decisions I have ever made and I cannot recommend it more highly to future students,” said Anneke.

“I was attracted to ANU because it is one of the most prestigious universities in the country and since I live in Canberra, it was an obvious choice for me.”

Now three years into her degree Anneke says she loves the way of life ANU offers to students.

I like how easy it is to become involved in student life and really make your university experience exactly how you want it to be

“I like how easy it is to become involved in student life and really make your university experience exactly how you want it to be,” said Anneke.

“I have had a great opportunity to meet esteemed academics in my field and really become directly involved in the research the university is doing through my research project. I hope to continue that next year in my honours project.”

Anneke also participated in the ANU Secondary College Program during years 11 and 12 which she says gave her “a real taste of what it would be like to study at ANU”.

NYSF leads to limitless opportunities

Sylvie Guigere from Queensland on her NYSF experience:

Sylvie Guigere

“After attending NYSF in 2012, I was ready to take on Year 12 and go on to bigger and better things at university. After a year full of hard work, I got accepted into my dream course – a Bachelor of Science at the University of Queensland, with provisional entry into Medicine once I had completed my three-year undergraduate degree.

I got accepted into my dream course – a Bachelor of Science at the University of Queensland

I had my heart set on going to UQ because of its great medical program and the fact that it was still relatively close to my hometown of Mackay. Having to move away from home makes the transition to university so much harder; however, attending NYSF at the start of year 12 meant I knew a bit of what to expect at university. Unlike a lot of other regional students who had come straight out of high school, I had already sat in a lecture theatre, been inside a university laboratory and spoken to academics. These experiences made my transition to university a lot easier because my surroundings weren’t completely unfamiliar, especially since a huge university campus can be extremely intimidating at first.

After staying at Burgmann College during my time at NYSF, I also decided I wanted to live on campus, and I moved into the Women’s College at UQ at the start of 2013. When I moved in, I only knew two other people going into first-year at college with me, both of whom I had met at NYSF.

Now almost two years later, I have completed my second year of university and college, as well as having been lucky enough to be involved in the NYSF program as a staff member for the past two years. This brings me to two-thirds of the way through my Bachelor of Science and I have loved every minute of it. Due to my interest in going onto Medicine, I have chosen to major in biomedical science and have focussed mostly on anatomy and neuroscience. My time at university has been challenging but extremely interesting. My first semester was a shock to the system, after I realised how different university is to high school, but I have since learned to love that difference. The freedom to choose my courses has meant that I have been able to explore areas that I find the most interesting, something which is hard to do at high school.

Sylvie Guigere on the student staff trek 2013

The academic opportunities I have encountered at university have been complemented by the leadership opportunities available to me at Women’s College. One of these happened recently during the G20 summit in Brisbane. Through my college, I received an invitation to the address by President Obama, which was held at UQ. Being able to witness this momentous speech was incredible and an experience that I will never forget. One remark of his, which particularly stood out for me, was when he spoke about how lucky we are to be part of a generation which has such limitless opportunities, which is something I couldn’t agree with more. I have been extremely fortunate to receive so many opportunities already in my young life, including being involved with the incredible NYSF, and I am looking forward to making the most of every opportunity that comes my way in the future.”

Alumni giving back to the NYSF at selection time

Milonee Shah, from Sydney has been helping at the NYSF District Selections recently.

“Over the past three years, I have organised and been a guest panelist on the selection committee for the Rotary Sydney District of the NYSF and it has been a very rewarding experience.

“The involvement of alumni on NYSF selection panels has been an increasing trend over the past few years in some areas. Alumni have a personal and relevant understanding of how a student might benefit most from attending the NYSF, and how they might give back to the NYSF community. They also have special insights that can be very valuable for the Rotarians in their consideration of applicants, irrespective of how long ago the alumni attended the program. In my experience, the Rotarians are incredibly grateful for that support, and these connections have led me on to other exciting opportunities enabled through Rotary.

“In 2014, our selection day saw 70 students interviewed, and we were fortunate to have about 15-20 NYSF alumni assist as volunteers through the day.

“As well as being helpful for the selection committee, the alumni also benefit from the engagement … it lets alumni meet others who attended in different sessions and different years, allowing for reconnection with old friends, and new connections to be made. But most importantly, it allows alumni to give back to the organisation and program that has done so much for them.

I encourage all alumni to get involved in their local area

“I am very excited to be a part of this growing trend of returning alumni panelists and I encourage all alumni to get involved in their local area. It’s such a rewarding experience and I guarantee you’ll enjoy it thoroughly!”

If you are an alumni and would like to be involved in your local selections for the NYSF, please email to get the details of your local District Chair.

UNSW Science – In the News

Talented Students’ Program at UNSW Science

Each year, the Dean of Science invites the top students in the Bachelor of Science and Bachelor of Science (Advanced) degrees to join a bright and inquisitive elite group of students who are mentored throughout their study program. Students typically have an ATAR (or equivalent) of 97.50 so you are mixing with some of the best and brightest students on campus. To find out more, please visit

New UNSW Science degree for 2015 – Bachelor of Life Sciences

In 2015, UNSW will launch a Bachelor of Life Sciences degree which focuses on the biological, environmental and health sciences areas. To find out more, please visit:

UNSW Project 50:50, Inspiring Young Women into Science

Science 50:50 aims to inspire Australian girls and young women to pursue degrees and careers in science and technology so they can succeed in an innovation-driven future. Science 50:50 makes the simple point – since half the population is female, why not half the scientists and technologists? To find out more, please visit

UNSW in first Australian team to win Biomod competition

A DNA nanomachine designed to detect viruses such as Ebola has won the Grand Prize for a team that includes three UNSW students in Harvard University’s biomolecular Biomod Competition – a biomolecular design competition for undergraduates from around the world.

Team Echidna – the first Australian team ever to enter the Ivy League university’s annual competition – beat 33 other teams with their ultra-sensitive biosensor which was inspired by the cooperative behaviour evident in the natural world.

The team included two UNSW Science students and one UNSW Medicine student – Advanced Science student Jon Berengut and Honours student Robert Oppenheimer, who are both studying in the School of Biotechnology and Biomolecular Sciences; and Andrew Tuckwell, an Honours student carrying out his project at the Victor Chang Institute.

The six students, who were supervised by Dr Lawrence Lee of the Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute, also won the YouTube video prize at the competition.

Their winning entry can be seen here.

Their YouTube video can be watched here.

UNSW Science stands out in the 2014 Young Tall Poppy Science Award

Stand-out researchers in the UNSW School of Psychology have won three of this year’s 10 Tall Poppy Science Awards recognising excellence in science.

The awards, run by the Australian Institute of Policy and Science (AIPS), honour emerging researchers and award them for their world-class research and passionate commitment to communicating science.

Overall, UNSW won five awards, the largest number of winners from one university. The New South Wales winners, Dr Muireann Irish, Dr Angela Nickerson, Dr Thomas Whitfordm Dr Nicola Newton, Dr Megan Lord – from the science, medicine, and engineering faculties – are nominated by their peers and will spend a year engaging with school students, teachers and the broader community to share their knowledge.

The Beacon newsletter from UNSW Science

Are you a Maths and/or Science high school teacher? Sign-up for The Beacon – our Maths & Science Newsletter aimed at high school teachers – to receive the latest Science and Mathematics research and industry news, events, info about new degrees and changes, and more! Sign up here: