National Youth Science Forum announces new funding partner

The National Youth Science Forum (NYSF) held a launch event today at Parliament House officially announcing Lockheed Martin Australia as their major sponsor for the next three years.

“This investment by Lockheed Martin is significant and reflects an understanding of the important role of outreach and extension programs in encouraging young Australians to continue their studies in the science, technology and engineering spheres,” said Damien Pearce, Director of the NYSF.

“The NYSF is a mature and unique program that mixes science related activities with personal development and early career professional networking. After thirty years we know that coming to the NYSF does make a difference to the participants and their understanding of what might be possible after year 12, and how furthering their studies in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields can lead to an interesting and fulfilling career. We welcome Lockheed Martin’s vision in joining with us to continue our support for young people.”

Joining the various distinguished guests at the launch today were Raydon Gates AO CSM, Chief Executive, Lockheed Martin Australia and Professor Ian Chubb AC, Chief Scientist for Australia and Science Patron of the NYSF.


Professor Ian Chubb AC addresses NYSF 2015 Session C students at the Opening Ceremony 22 January 2015


Mr Raydon Gates, Chief Executive, Lockheed Martin Australia & New Zealand with students from Session C of NYSF 2015

“Lockheed Martin is committed to the future success of Australia’s technical talent by supporting STEM education initiatives, like the NYSF. We believe that this commitment to our youth is critical to keep Australia competitive for generations to come,” said Lockheed Martin’s Raydon Gates.

In his inspiring address to more than 200 NYSF students, Australia’s Chief Scientist, Professor Ian Chubb highlighted the importance of supporting students in their pursuit of future careers in STEM fields.

“The young scientists who come through the NYSF are impressive. They represent the best traditions of the scientific method being curious, logical, analytical and always considering the evidence. Supporting their development is an investment in the future and I look forward to seeing where their journey takes them…and us,” said Professor Chubb.

Professor Ian Chubb speaks to students at NYSF 2015 Session C Opening Ceremony

Professor Ian Chubb speaks to students at NYSF 2015 Session C Opening Ceremony


The NYSF began operating more than 30 years ago to help students moving into Year 12, who wish to follow careers in science, engineering and technology by introducing them to research and researchers, by encouraging the achievement of excellence in all their undertakings, and by helping to develop their communication and interpersonal skills.


More information: Chris Newman, +61 421 477 297;

“I decided on ANU because of the positive experiences I had while at the NYSF…”

Left: Merryn Fraser NYSF 2013

Left: Merryn Fraser NYSF 2013

Merryn Fraser from West Cambewarra, near Nowra in New South Wales, has just finished her first year of a Bachelor of Science (Advanced) (Honours) at The Australian National University.

She says that attending the National Youth Science Forum (NYSF) in 2013 was a huge influence on her decision to apply for a position at the ANU.

“Before the NYSF, I’d never considered studying in Canberra. But “I decided on ANU because of the positive experiences I had while at the NYSF, the stellar reputation of the university and its researchers, and because I knew I liked the accommodation facilities,” she said.

Merryn’s favourite thing about coming to ANU is being amongst students and teaching staff who understand the importance of quality, accessible education.

Although adjusting to university life was “initially tricky … I was master of my own bedtime (or lack thereof). So caffeine was the major supporting factor in (not) overcoming this challenge.”

Seriously, though, Merryn says moving away from home and everyone she knew was a huge change. “But the senior residents at my hall of residence were amazing, as were the many social opportunities provided by my hall. Furthermore, the amazing friends I met on session at the NYSF were a big help in adjusting to uni life,” she said.

Merryn Fraser and Lauren Booth NYSF stall at National Science Week 2014

Merryn Fraser and Lauren Booth NYSF stall at National Science Week 2014

Reflecting on her NYSF experience, Merryn has a long list of positives: meeting so many people who loved science: fellow students, the student staff, and the practicing scientists who talked to us. “I was also fortunate to be selected to travel to South Africa to attend their National Science Olympiad Focus Week. So each experience led to another, and another. And it’s still happening.”




Three for the price of one

Thursday morning of Week 2 for Session A saw the day kick off with a three speaker multi-disciplinary panel, designed to again explore the career and study possibilities available to students who pursue science study and careers, and the different ways they can apply their learnings.  .

Ben Sanders from Wildlife Victoria talked about his work in endangered animal conservation and its importance to our society. This sparked a lot of animal enthusiasts and future zoologists to ask questions about how to get involved in animal conservation and how its role will be impacted by further climate change.

Emma Colenbrander continued the theme of inspiring speakers. She spoke about the initiative she helped to start, Pollinate Energy, which works to “provide India’s urban poor with access to basic products and services to make their lives better”. She provided a different perspective for students, encouraging both a career in science while also illustrating that any career can assist humanitarian causes. Most importantly, she showed that young people can achieve change and make a difference in people’s lives.

Dr Jeremy Austin from the University of Adelaide’s Australian Centre for Ancient DNA explained his research field of forensic DNA investigation. He too emphasised a message that was consistent throughout Session A 2015: that obtaining a degree in a specific field doesn’t dictate where your career will take you.  Rather it’s the decisions you make that dictate where your career will go.

Jeremy Austin Adelaide Uni

Dr Austin started his career with a Science degree at the University of Tasmania, but, “I never would have imagined that I would have end up where I am today.”  His work involves analysing human remains of unknown origin, and using DNA sequencing techniques, such as Mitochondrial DNA mapping, to identify the people to whom they once belonged.  One important case he worked on was the identification of Queensland school boy, Daniel Morcombe.

These three very different areas of scientific endeavour again emphasised to the students the multiple career options that are available and that changing courses and even careers is a real possibility for their futures


By Brett Slarks

A grainy day

Understanding how different strains of grains contribute to the quality and durability of wheat was the focus of one of the hands-on sessions during the Session A program on day 9.

Facilitated through the NYSF’s partnership with the Grains Research & Development Corporation, students conducted a series of experiments that looked at cell structure of plants and the impact of weather on their growth, plant breeding techniques, and soil quality and composition.


Conducting a leaf peel experiment to find out how cells work

Extracting DNA from wheatgerm

Extracting DNA from wheatgerm

Investigating the nematodes in soil

Investigating the nematodes in soil

Guess the grains

Guess the grain

Then they made some dough!  Not the green stuff though … Students were tasked to investigate the effects of weather damage on dough quality and behaviour through testing the grain for starch quality.

There was also a guessing competition – trying to work out which grain was which!.  Even NYSF Director, Damien Pearce, got into the game.



Story by Julie Maynard

The future looks bright at Shine Dome

It’s the weekend and the middle Saturday morning of Session A NYSF 2015 began with a group photo outside of the Australian Academy of Science’s Shine Dome – as many many NYSF students have done before. Inside Dr TJ Higgins representing the Australian Academy of Science talked to the students about the Academy, its history, the unique Shine Dome building, and the important role the Academy plays in Australia’s science community.

The multidisciplinary forum that followed looked at where Australian science would be in 30 years’ time – a broad topic, to say the least!

Dr Matthew Hill – winner of the 2014 Malcolm McIntosh Prize for Physical Scientist of the Year (one of the PM’s Prize for Science winners) – leads work in the use of the ultraporous Metal Organic Frameworks (MOFs) for applications in gas storage and separation at the CSIRO. Dr Hill facilitated an interesting discussion on what the world could look like in 2050 – including a debate on global warming. His team are working with 3D printers and recently developed and tested a printed horse shoe and designed and printed a 3D dragon after receiving a letter from an inquisitive young student.

The future looks bright - Academy of Science Shine Dome - Session A 10 January 2015

The future looks bright –  Australian Academy of Science Shine Dome – Session A 10 January 2015

The second speaker, Dr Katherine Locock, OCE Postdoctoral Fellow at CSIRO, discussed her research into antibiotic resistance and the impending crisis we face as antibiotics no longer work for common illnesses.

The third speaker,  Dr Katrina Konstas, a member of Dr Hill’s team at the CSIRO, led an informative discussion about her work with hydrogen for use in hybrid cars.

There was plenty of time for the audience to ask questions – mostly centred on study paths including choosing a PhD topic and career options.


Question time – Australian cademy of Science Shine Dome – Session A 10 January 2015

Dr Hill’s advice to students when commencing study at university was to “learn to study efficiently and be highly organised. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself in choosing a degree. You can always use your completed credits toward another degree. … There are opportunities to study bridging courses which help you move into your desired degree”, he said.


Question time – Australian Academy of Science Shine Dome – Session A 10 January 2015

Dr Locock suggested that students, “should not get bogged down into one career path – don’t pigeon-hole yourself as you will be working across a range of science disciplines – not just the field you chose to study.” For her, studying a PhD was difficult but rewarding. “80 per cent of what you research doesn’t work and this was difficult to overcome at the start.”

Dr Katrina Konstas told the audience that she didn’t do to well at high school; in fact she almost failed year 12 physics. She moved into chemistry at university and excelled. “I couldn’t believe how easy I found chemistry and how much I loved it. After high school I never wanted to go to university. It was a last minute decision. I was the first person in my family to study at university and I’m so glad I did,” she said.

All three speakers emphasised that when looking for work it was beneficial to use existing networks. The networks students are forming at the NYSF are crucial. When applying for work, students can  either apply using those networks,approaching the organisations they wish to work for, or through traditional approaches.


Students quiz Dr Katherine Locock after the forum – Australian Academy of Science Shine Dome – Session A 10 January 2015

The half way mark – Session A NYSF 2015

It’s Friday already – half way point of Session A NYSF 2015.

Thursday was another full day, with lab visits beginning in earnest.  Thanks to all of our partners and providers – your generosity in sharing knowledge, expertise and resources makes a real difference to the experience that the NYSF students have in visiting labs and sites to learn more about STEM study and careers. Among the visits in this first week were the ANU’s Physics Education Centre and the Research School of Physics, Canberra Institute of Technology’s Forensics Labs, the National Arboretum, the Canberra Railway Museum and Canberra Deep Space Communications Centre.

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The Rotary Dinners this year are providing an opportunity for local Rotoract clubs to present to the NYSF students about their activities, and the opportunities available to them if they join.

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Friday morning was all about beyond Year 12 and thinking outside of the square, encouraging students to consider a range of opportunities once high school has finished.

Friday afternoon saw more lab visits, and a trip to a local shopping mall in preparation for the social activities over the weekend, before a well earned rest during home hosting on Sunday.

What will next week bring?




Opening Ceremony kicks off Session A NYSF 2015

Session A of the NYSF 2015 program was officially opened today in a Ceremony at Parliament House in Canberra.


Students arriving at Parliament House


Rotary Uncle Danny, Aunt Ruth and Uncle Kevin

Rotary Uncle Danny, Aunt Ruth and Uncle Kevin

Professor Ian Young, AO, Vice Chancellor of the Australian National University; Senator the Hon Kate Lundy, Senator for the ACT; Professor Tanya Monro, Deputy Vice Chancellor Research at the University of South Australia and the Chair of the NYSF Council; and Rowley Tompsett, District Governor for Rotary D9710 all addressed the students, congratulating them on their achievement in being selected to attend the NYSF.


Senator the Hon Kate Lundy, NYSF Student staff member Megan Lowry, NYSF Director Damien Pearce, Professor Tanya Monro, and Professor Ian Young AO

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Professor Ian Young AO, Vice Chancellor of ANU

Professor Young identified that many changes were facing the Australia of the future and asked the students to accept the challenge of finding ways to address them.

Senator Lundy encouraged the students to continue their studies in science and to make the most of the opportunities offered during the program.

Rotary District Governor D9170 Rowley Tompsett

Rotary District Governor D9170 Rowley Tompsett

Mr Tompsett reminded the students of the role that Rotary has played in their being selected to attend the NYSF, encouraged them to give back to the community in the future, and to consider how they will be changed through their attendance.

Professor Tanya Monro

Professor Tanya Monro, Chair of NYSF Council

And Professor Monro, an alumna of the NYSF herself, reflected on her own time at the program, and how it impacted on her decisions for future study options, before officially opening the Session and wishing the students well.

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Rotary support a key role in NYSF

January is Rotary Awareness Month, and at the NYSF we could not be more aware of Rotary and the support it provides for our program.

Every student who attends the NYSF has a relationship with Rotary, due to the role it plays in running the selections of participants from across Australia each year.

Rotary also organises home hospitality for students during the January sessions, and supports students while travelling to the program.   Each year, for example, the Rotary Club of Cowra provides lunch for students travelling by coach from the northern parts of Australia en route to the January sessions.  And in our capital cities, Rotarians help by meeting students flying in from remote and regional areas, and assist in loading the coaches and ensuring every student is accounted for before the students’ journey begins.

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Rotarians are also involved in the January sessions through the roles of Rotary Mum and Dad, and Rotary Aunts and Uncles.  These volunteers provide assistance and back up to the student staff that deliver the NYSF program each year, as well as pastoral care and medical support if required.

Alumni often ask how they can continue to be involved in the NYSF, particularly after they have completed their studies. One real option open to them is to contact their local Rotary NYSF District Chair, to volunteer their services during selections for each year’s applicants.   Their experience and insights are invaluable in ensuring the students who will benefit most from attending the NYSF each year continue to be selected.

Session A 2015 begins!

200 year 12 students have arrived in Canberra to participate in Session A of the National Youth Science Forum 2015.

First there were a few, mainly local area students, who took the time to have a chat and get to know each other.  Then, the buses arrived and students began to pour forth onto the grass in front of ANU’s Burgmann College.

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Session A 2015 3Arrivals 2015 A 1

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Monday and Tuesday will involve a series of ice-breaker activities, as the students get to know their way around the university, and get to know each other.  Lab visits start in earnest later in the week.

Students will listen to interesting and exciting speakers, take part in great debates, and go on site and lab visits that can show them science in action in ways they may not have understood before. They will learn about science collaboration, communication and knowledge interchange.  And they will start to build professional networks that will last well into the future, and make some great new friendships.