From the CEO

The National Youth Science Forum (NYSF) 2016 January Sessions program is over, with the 400 students returning home to begin their final year of high school with newfound friends, knowledge and ideas for future study and career options within science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).

A big thank you to our Chiefs of Staff Brett Slarks (Session A) and Meg Trinder-McCartney (Session C), the team of student staff leaders, corporate staff, the various members of Rotary clubs across Australia, Burgmann College, and NYSF Partners and Sponsors for their hard work and support over January. Highlights from session are featured in this edition of the NYSF Outlook newsletter – I encourage you to read about the students’ experiences and the engaging activities that the NYSF is able to offer through our networks and supporters.

We also successfully delivered the National Science Teachers Summer School in January. The NYSF has been operating the program for the past 10 years offering the opportunity for participants to network with their peers and engage in high quality science learning and teaching techniques through lab visits and discussions with Australia’s leading scientists. We are particularly proud of this program’s history and our long involvement with The Australian National University and other science community members around the Canberra area who work with us to support teachers and their commitment to STEM education in their local communities.

To the year ahead, Expressions of Interest (EoI) from students currently in year 11 for the NYSF 2017 program will open on our website on 1 March. Prospective participants should review the requirements as soon as possible so that they can have all of the documentation completed by the 31 May closing deadline.

I am very proud to announce that the NYSF has been selected as one of 20 organisations to take part in PwC’s 21st Century Minds (21CM) Accelerator Program. This opportunity provides us with a unique experience to consider our strategic direction in a supportive and innovative environment. The 21stC Minds program is designed to grow Australia’s best STEM education initiatives and we look forward to its outcomes having a positive impact on the sector.

In March, the NYSF will be taking part in the inaugural World Science Festival in Brisbane. This week-long festival has been operating in New York since 2008; the announcement of the “southern hemisphere” festival in Brisbane is very exciting. The program is packed with great science outreach activities and information. NYSF alumni will feature in the Brisbane program as part of the “Letter to my teen self” event, designed to share experiences of study and careers in STEM fields. We will also be working with the Brisbane chapter of Young Scientists Australia in the Streetscape events to deliver a photo booth activity on Saturday 12 March and Sunday 13 March. If you are lucky enough to be visiting WSFB, come along and say hello to our volunteers.

Currently, our corporate team is evaluating the NYSF 2016 January Sessions; organising the NYSF 2016 International Program; preparing the Next Step suite of programs, as well as the Student Staff Leadership (SSL) program activities, which will be facilitated before the end of July 2016 and delivered in partnership with Outward Bound Australia. In reference to the SSL program, I would like to welcome our incoming Chiefs of Staffs for January 2017 – Meg Lowry from Victoria and Martin De Rooy, from Queensland, both of whom started their involvement with the NYSF as students in 2013. We look forward to working with them to deliver another successful January Sessions in 2017.

Finally, I must congratulate our 2015 students – many have now embarked on the next phase of their education at a tertiary institution of their choice. I hope that your NYSF attendance has contributed positively to your decision and I wish you all the best in 2016 and beyond.

Dr Damien Pearce

Chief Executive Officer

Highlights from January 2016

As the NYSF 2016 cohort commences its final year of high school, we can reflect on the success of both Session A and C.

This year, the January Sessions offered a refreshed program that focused on three central ideas: engaging with STEM in action; understanding the role of STEM in society; and preparing the next generation of STEM professionals. Based on these three themes, students participated in a number of new labs, site visits and workshops.

Each session began with a welcome address by NYSF alumna and Chair, Professor Tanya Monro, Deputy Vice-Chancellor Research and Innovation at the University of South Australia, at the Opening Ceremony at Parliament House. Representatives from the local community also spoke, welcoming the students to Canberra.

Professor Tanya Monro addressing students at the Opening Ceremony Parliament House

Professor Tanya Monro addressing students at the Opening Ceremony Parliament House

Workshops on ethics in STEM covered the ethics of climate change in Session A and was delivered by the ANU’s Dr Janette Lindesay,  The Session C ethics workshop was presented by Professor Shari Forbes from the Centre for Forensic Science at the University of Technology Sydney and delved into ethics in forensic research using her work at Australia’s first body farm as a point of reference.

Professor Shari Forbes Centre from Forensic Science at the University of Technology Sydney

The issues relating to being an entrepreneur were discussed by an expert panel of business men and women from the ACT region – thanks Inspiring ACT! – who explained their experiences and some of the challenges they had to overcome. A facilitated workshop then gave the students an opportunity to develop and “sell” a product.

The Diversity in STEM seminar focused on some of the challenges in ensuring women and other minorities are represented in top STEM positions.

Skills to critically analyse information were tackled through an interactive discussion through the Critical Thinking seminar. And the highly successful and informative Speed Date a Scientist session proved popular with students in both sessions. This session was designed to help students learn about how to find their own career pathway, with advice from those who currently work in their chosen fields.

New to the program was a visit to the iconic The National Film and Sound Archive where students learned the science behind audio-visual preservation.

Image: Karli Williamson

National Film and Sound Archive

Major partner Lockheed Martin Australia hosted two groups at their NextGen Cyber Innovation and Technology Centre and IBM hosted students at their Linux Development Lab.

Lockheed Martin Australia

NextGen Cyber Innovation and Technology Centre, Lockheed Martin Australia

In total, 196 site and lab visits were conducted over the course of the two NYSF 2016 January Sessions. Our sincere thanks to The Australian National University, our host university in Canberra, as well as the many other facilities that hosted our student visits during the program.

There was also time for socialising and networking at the two science dinners. The ANU’s recently appointed Vice-Chancellor and Nobel Prize winner Professor Brian Schmidt addressed the students of Session A on his “three big questions” while Dr Ranjana Srivastava, author, academic and oncologist addressed the students of Session C about the personal and clinical challenges of caring for patients with cancer.

Dr Ranjana Srivastava, author, academic and oncologist

Dr Ranjana Srivastava, author, academic and oncologist (Image: T8 Photography)

Session C Rotary dinner guest speaker featured 1988 Alumni Subho Banerjee, Deputy Secretary at the Department of Education and Training. Subho asked the students consider the roles of excellence, boldness, contribution and kindness in their futures. At Session A’s Rotary Dinner, Dr Heather Bray (Alumna 1987) a Senior Research Associate at the University of Adelaide reflected on her career to date, taking her from research scientist to science communicator to researcher again. She also raised the issue of mental health in academia in an inspiring speech.

Dr Subho Banerjee (Image Sandra Meek)

Dr Subho Banerjee

Image Sandra Meek

Students with Dr Heather Bray

Our programs were featured in the media many times during the NYSF 2016 sessions.

WIN Television News interviewed Rose from Tasmania and Tim from Armidale, NSW, and the story was included in their national regional news program. Kaliopi from Canberra was interviewed by the Sunday Canberra Times; and Patrick from Woolgoolga, NSW and Grace from Camberwell, Victoria were interviewed by ABC Radio’s 666 Canberra, which was also featured on programs across Australia. ABC Radio’s 666 Canberra interviewed Dr Heather Bray about her address to students, and Dr Rish Ratnam talked to ABC Radio’s 666 about the session on entrepreneurship. The National Science Teachers Summer School was featured in The Canberra Times when they visited award-winning teacher Geoff McNamara at Melrose High School.

PwC’s 21st Century Minds Accelerator Program

The National Youth Science Forum has been selected to take part in PwC’s 21st Century Minds (21CM) Accelerator Program.

21CM is designed to unearth, grow and scale Australia’s best STEM education initiatives focused on building Australia’s pipeline of innovators and problem solvers.

NYSF is one of 20 organisations selected to take part in the initiative through an intense and bespoke acceleration process, which will help the NYSF achieve rapid and effective scale.

“Being selected to be part of this program is very exciting for the NYSF,” says CEO of the NYSF, Dr Damien Pearce. “It will allow us to access a strategic planning process to support our existing work in this area, as well as opening up networks for future activities.”

The program provides access to the PwC’s probono services, a mentor team, the opportunity to access skills, expertise, products or unique resources of collaborators and the potential to pitch at the 21CM event in late 2016 that will be attended by PwC, program supporters and other interested investors.

Growing great minds and great grains

Did you know that wheat, maize and rice make up 60 per cent of the world’s population energy intake? With the world population on the rise and the ever-increasing demand for Australian grain, scientists and farmers are working to breed better varieties and develop new and improved farming technologies and techniques. It’s all about producing high quality and high yielding grain crops – sustainably.

“We never considered that programming and coding were part of growing food, and that technology was such big part of farming.”

At the National Youth Science Forum 2016 program, students had the opportunity to participate in the Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) session, which explored the science behind growing great grain. This session was all about hands-on science.

NYSF students exploring the science behind growing great grain.

NYSF students exploring the science behind growing great grain

Students started by getting the dirt on soil, looking for nematodes and assessing soil health, testing soil permeability and emulating ‘in the field tests’. Students then delved into the genetics of plant breeding, conducting crosses to develop superior wheat plants and getting creative designing their own futuristic species.

Our hands-on programming session gathered a lot of interest, with students able to use smartphones to pick up temperature readings from frost sensors they built, while others honed in on drone technology with an insight into unmanned aircraft use for monitoring crop health. Our focus was showcasing the ‘STEM’ (science, technology, engineering and maths) in the Australian grains industry.

The GRDC session finished with hands-on grainy food science, where students extracted gluten from dough and conducted a sensory analysis of bread products. Students explored the role of proteins and chemistry in food production.

NYSF students getting hands on with grainy food science

NYSF students getting hands on with grainy food science

The packed session was highly enjoyable, with many students learning to appreciate a side of primary industries that they had not considered before, discussing the scientific challenges of growing grains in Australia and enjoying the journey, from seed to store.

Our favourite quote was, “We never considered that programming and coding were part of growing food, and that technology was such big part of farming.”

Story and images by Sarah McDonnell from AgCommunicators

Science is what inspires me and it is what I want to spend my life doing

When Claudia Strauss Forster received the email advising of her selection to attend National Youth Science Forum (NYSF) 2016, she changed her plans for January entirely. Instead of spending the final two weeks of her summer holiday on exchange in Germany, she accepted the offer via the Royal Society of New Zealand, and flew from Munich to Sydney to begin her NYSF adventure.

For Claudia, the highlight of the program was the welcome lecture from NYSF Chair and Deputy Vice-Chancellor Research and Innovation from the University of South Australia Professor Tanya Monro, an expert in the field of photonics.

NYSF re-fired my spark for science, but also the spark for writing crazy ideas on paper and thinking about how they could actually work

Claudia Strauss Foster and Will Inveen, Director Education, Murray-Darling Basin Authority (image t8)

Claudia Strauss Foster and Will Inveen, Director Education, Murray-Darling Basin Authority (image t8)

“Her work surrounding lasers and using photons to identify rust in aeroplanes without having to take pieces apart fascinated me. It was something I had never considered possible. Her talk also made me realise that in order to make change in the scientific world, you need to believe that what you are studying has an application to the problem someone else is facing. You need to make the connection between two seemingly unrelated topics, as Professor Monro and her team have done with lasers and aeroplane rust.”

In order to make change in the scientific world, you need to believe that what you are studying has an application to the problem someone else is facing

At the NYSF, Claudia was a member of the Darwin interest group, which focused on earth and environmental science. “I had not fully appreciated that this encompassed everything from anthropology, to an arboretum, to using aquatic life as a mechanism to monitor pollution of a lake. I found the visit to CSIRO Black Mountain’s facility particularly interesting. We were looking at the genetic modification of cotton and wheat, and seeing if it would be possible to make a stronger crop, that was less prone to factors such as frost or rust. They had found that although their previous work with potatoes had generated a crop much stronger and produced a much greater yield, the food industry still did not want to use genetically modified potatoes. I then realised that there is more to scientific discovery than just doing the most and the best you can do, as for it to be useful it needs to be accepted by the community. I realised that the next challenge for science is not only discovering more, but proving to the world that it is worth the change.”

Claudia says that the NYSF’s science-related social activities and the presentations she gave have been of great benefit. “These moments assisted with developing my personal identity. The moments where you were suddenly discussing the ethics behind using nuclear power, and it seemed normal because everyone else there was just as into the conversation as you were. It was more than just tips on public speaking or hints about body language that made the personal difference at NYSF. The atmosphere made me realise that you can be smart, humble and recognised for who you are while still being yourself.”

the next challenge for science is not only discovering more, but proving to the world that it is worth the change.

“One of my favourite social events was the science dinner. It was inspiring to talk to and sit at a table with a representative from Monash University, the NYSF, Canberra Institute of Technology and IP Australia, as well as fellow students. It provided ideas as to where I want to go with science and how I could get there, all at one dinner table.”

Claudia’s NYSF experience has not sent her down one career path, but instead, “… opened my mind to numerous possibilities. After being in Germany I was inspired to write my five-minute presentation on how languages affect the way we think, particularly in science. NYSF made it clear to me that I want science to be a big part of my life, but that languages, dancing and all the other things I love can play a part. Ultimately science can be found in everything, and finding these connections and being able to see things from a unique perspective is what makes science so fascinating.”

How does origami relate to science? NYSF Alumna Edith Peters tells us more …

“In high school, one of the students two years above me raved about his experience at the National Youth Science Forum. I had to see what all the fuss was about. At that time, I wanted to discover engineering so that one day I could design the most environmentally friendly buildings possible.

In the hot summer of January 2011, I marvelled at the nuclear research conducted by The Australian National University, I absorbed the research going into the Cotter Dam expansion and I sang until I could sing no longer. I was also really moved by how my peers accepted climate change and that it was caused by human influence. Coming from conservative regional area it wasn’t really on the agenda. I did know about it, we had watched the Inconvenient Truth and studied the greenhouse effect.

Edith Peters

Edith Peters, APEC Youth Science Festival

I was selected to also attend the APEC Youth Science Festival in 2011. The APEC Youth Science Festival (YSF) is a science fair run by the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation, or APEC. It is for 15–18-year-olds with an interest in science–technology, and seeks to break down cultural barriers for learning.

At the APEC YSF I was in the Nuclear Energy stream and Origami Stream. So, how does origami relate to science? We were told it is used to model solar panels on spacecrafts. It needs to be able to fold down and minimise area during solar flares and maximise area for power generation.

There was something about the dissonance of the situation: If climate change could cause such devastation why weren’t governments or other leaders doing more?

This led me to question my own plans. If global environmental change was a major problem, what could I do to help? Building energy efficient buildings would only get me so far. Also, how likely was it that I was going to get a job creating these great buildings when most of the population are primarily concerned about the upfront cost?

Rather than take a path looking at improving the efficiency of things, I decided to focus on what leverage points are available to shape the cultural climate around climate change, climate justice and sustainability. This led me to the ANU, where I am studying for a Bachelor of Interdisciplinary Studies of Sustainability.

Burgmann College was my first preference in terms of accommodation. Through the Green group at Burgmann, I was able to get involved in activities such as tree planting. The student group was also able to implement under-desk recycling bins and replacing disposable cups with keep cups.

During my time at university I’ve not just been studying; I have been involved in a number of environmental initiatives at Burgmann College, been a Peer Assisted Learning Mentor facilitating activities to help students learn content and develop skills vital for university, and I was appointed to the role of First Year Co-ordinator where it has been my joy to assist first year students in settling into university. Last semester, I organised ‘Climate Week’ to draw attention to Paris COP 21 – the United Nations conference on climate change – and the intersection of how climate change affects other social issues such as indigenous rights, refugees and food security. I also participated in the Australian National Internship Program interning at Parliament House, exploring the barriers to aquaculture expansion in Northern Australia.

2016 sees me beginning an Honours year looking at health and wellbeing in regional areas through the influence of built environment. Coming from Albury-Wodonga it will be awesome to work on a project so close to home. It’s also a concern because we already know mental health issues increase with drought, and drought is likely to increase with climate change. Regional areas also suffer from higher obesity rates than the major cities.

One day, I hope to run my own consultancy company focused on developing innovative cultures in workplaces that create public value beyond their core business. My favourite quote at the moment comes from a farmer featured in Naomi Klein’s book, This Changes Everything, ‘The only thing sustainable is how we treat each other.” We have to do our best to make our world better for everyone.

World Science Festival marches in to Brisbane

National Youth Science Forum alumni will participate in the events program as part of the inaugural World Science Festival being held in Brisbane on Sunday 13 March 2016.

The co-hosted event between National Youth Science Forum and Women in Technology, “A letter to my teenage self – what I’ve learned about study and a career in science” will feature a series of five-minute talks from four unique individuals who chose a career in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).

Two of the featured speakers are NYSF alumni Holstein Wong and Dr Philip Terrill.

Holstein Wong attended the National Youth Science Forum in 2008 and studied Materials Science and Engineering at the University of New South Wales, where she was awarded the University Medal and 1st Class Honours in Materials Science Engineering.

For the past two years, Holstein has been working for BHP Billiton, the world’s largest resources company. She started her career as a Graduate Processing Engineer at Peak Downs Mine, which produces metallurgical coking coal used for manufacturing steel, then moved to a similar role at Blackwater Mine. In 2016, she joined the Category Management division in Brisbane to bring her operations experience to the team that negotiates multi-million dollar supply contracts for goods and services needed on site.

Dr Philip Terrill attended the NYSF in 2000. He holds a Bachelor of Engineering with Honours from The University of Queensland where he also received his PhD.

Philip is currently an early career academic employed at The University of Queensland as a lecturer in Electrical Engineering and Biomedical Electronics with the school of IT and Electrical Engineering. Trained as a biomedical engineer, his overarching interest is the development of novel medical diagnostic tools and therapies that will improve the health outcomes of people in Australia and globally.

His current research is focused on the application of electronic instrumentation, mathematical modeling and signals processing in children and adult sleep medicine – he considers his research strength is the ability to bridge the gap between clinical physiology and biomedical engineering.

World Science Festival Brisbane – A letter to my teenage self

Date: Sunday 13 March 2016

Duration: 4pm – 5pm

Venue: Festival Lab, Cultural Forecourt, Southbank – Brisbane

Speakers: Representing the National Youth Science Forum (NYSF) – Ms Holstein Wong (BHP Billiton), Dr Philip Terrill (The University of Queensland);

Representing Women in Technology (Brisbane) (WIT) – Dr Kerrie Wilson (The University of Queensland), Dr Heidi Uytendaal (Rio Tinto).

The inaugural five-day World Science Festival Brisbane presented by the Queensland Museum from 9-13 March, will bring some of the world’s greatest thought leaders to Queensland, showcase local scientists and performers from around the Asia Pacific region, and host the brightest and the best from previous events in New York.

Expression of Interest NYSF 2017 opens 1 March 2016

Expressions of Interest for the January 2017 Session will be open from 1 March 2016 and close on 31 May 2016.

Applicants must be in year 11 this year, to be eligible to attend in the January before they start year 12. Please use your networks to make as many year 11 science students aware of the program.

Visit for instructions on how to apply.

If you would like to promote the NYSF in your school or communty, an electronic poster and hard copies of brochures are available. Please email if you would like to receive copies.

National Press Club address: The future of women in science

The National Youth Science Forum Chair Professor Tanya Monro will take part in a panel discussion at the Future of Science: Women at the National Press Club in Canberra on 30 March 2016.

Joining Professor Monro on the panel are:

Professor of Marine Ecology and Ecotoxicology at the University of New South Wales Emma Johnson, a strong advocate for increasing the participation of women in science, and Vice-President of Science & Technology Australia; and

Professor Nalini Joshi an ARC Georgina Sweet Australian Laureate Fellow in mathematics at the University of Sydney; member of the Commonwealth Science Council; and in 2015 was chosen as one of the Australian Financial Review and Westpac’s 100 Women of Influence.

For further information about this and future events, visit National Press Club.

News from The Australian National University

Will your dream job still be there when you finish uni?

As you enter your final years of school life you’re probably thinking pretty hard about what you’ll do next. There seem to be so many options, thousands of degrees to choose from and hundreds of decisions to make.

But don’t panic. ANU has a degree for you and one that is firmly focused on the future and a job at the end would be useful, right?

To help you choose the right degree we’ve put together a handy career wheel called “Find your future career” which helps you match your current interests, like physics, with one of our degrees, let’s say a Bachelor of Science, and the possible career outcomes that will be available to you at the end such as biophysicist, material scientist or meteorologist.

Oh and we’ve also had a little bit of help from the man in the top job at ANU. Professor Brian Schmidt, you may have heard of him. He proved the universe is accelerating and won a Nobel Prize for it … anyway, Professor Schmidt knows science and he knows how important it is for our future.

“In the short term, science helps make our lives better; but in the long term, it will be crucial to our continued affluent survival,” Professor Schmidt said.

“Here at ANU you can take your science degree and combine it with economics, arts, or whatever you want, to give you this incredibly broad foundation. You will not get a better opportunity in Australia and very few opportunities like this exist in the world.”

News from ANU Engineering and Computer Science

Meet ANU Engineering Research and Development student and NYSF Alumna Emily Rees, who has big dreams of making a real difference to people’s lives.

Emily Rees ANU Engineering student and 2014 NYSF Alumna

Emily Rees ANU Engineering student and 2014 NYSF Alumna

“Engineering can be whatever you want it to be – it can be super creative and innovative or it can be very standard and straightforward. Basically there is huge scope in engineering to carve out your own niche and do what you love. What is particularly great is that engineering has tangible real-world impacts and this can be incredibly rewarding. There is a massive lack of women in STEM fields which means we’re missing out on having a say on the future and the technology we will be using. Engineers, and particularly female engineers, are in high-demand in Australia and globally, so this is certainly a career that can provide travel opportunities, and lots of opportunities in general.”

To learn more about Emily’s study and career pathway, visit ANU College of Engineering and Computer Science.