From the CEO

Australia’s Chief Scientist, Dr Alan Finkel, launched Australia’s STEM Workforce report in March that provides an up-to-date detailed analysis of the status of Australia’s science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) trained workforce. The report addresses demographics and the types of occupations and industries graduates and PhDs move in to and the income they may earn.

This report is a great resource for students, and those who support students such as parents, teachers and career advisors, to inform about study and career decision-making within STEM.

A warm welcome to our new Rotary District Chairs (and sincere thanks to those who are continuing) who are now mid-way through the application and selection processes for the NYSF 2017 January Sessions. Expressions of Interest opened on 1 March for students to attend the National Youth Science Forum 2017 and applications have been steadily coming through. I strongly encourage potential applicants to not leave submitting their EoI until the last minute as there are several key steps in the process, which include talking to a local Rotary club about endorsing your application. Expressions of Interest close at midnight AEST on 31 May.

Congratulations to the 37 students from our 2016 and 2015 cohorts who have been selected to attend our 2016 International Programs. Once again the standard of applications was high, making the selection a challenge. Students will be heading off to London, Montreal, Singapore, Boston, Gottingen and Heidelberg. Our International Programs are invaluable to students with an interest in building overseas networks for future study and career opportunities.

Our Next Step programs have commenced with Brisbane and Canberra being a huge success. Thank you to our partner universities and organisations for hosting students. I must also thank student staff members Harley Gray for his help in Brisbane and Lucas Logan for his assistance with the Canberra program. Applications for our Melbourne and Sydney programs will be open soon.

Our participation in the PwC 21C Minds Accelerator Program has resulted in significant opportunities to develop our strategic direction as well as to learn more about some of the organisations also working in the STEM outreach space in Australia and explore potential for collaboration and expansion. In February, Dr Tony Wagner from Harvard University’s Innovation Lab, spent time with the 21CMinds participants and shared valuable insights and critiqued some of the thinking around the developing programs. This activity will continue to provide benefit to the NYSF as the year progresses, and we are extremely proud of our involvement. I also wish to acknowledge the NYSF’s Manager of External Relations, Amanda Caldwell’s contribution to this initiative.

I was privileged to attend the 100-year anniversary celebrations of long-term NYSF funding partner, CSL Ltd this month. This iconic Australian company has a proud history of pharmaceutical and health product development in Australia, including the manufacture of vaccines, insulin and anti-venoms. Six of our alumni are featured in this inspiring video released in conjunction with the celebrations – thanks Tayla, Meg, Kushani, Michael, Lachlan, and Charlie for agreeing to be involved. We are proud of all of our alumni, and thank you for representing them.

World Science Festival Brisbane

Early in March, the World Science Festival took Brisbane by storm. A reported 120,000 visitors participated in the program over the week of activities that covered everything from Nobel laureates to turtles.

The NYSF was there at the Street Science events on the weekend, alongside of the Young Scientists of Australia’s Brisbane Chapter. Much fun was had talking with young children about some basic science – magic mud and coiled spring theory – as well as playing dress-ups at the Photobooth.

World Science Festival Brisbane - NYSF and YSA Photobooth

NYSF and YSA Photobooth

A significant team of Brisbane-based NYSF alumni, some of who are also members of YSA, helped out with the activity. It was great to see so many of them enthusiastically encouraging others to get involved and interested in science.

In addition, two of our alumni, Dr Phil Terrill and Holstein Wong, took part in our Letter to my teen self talk, presented in conjunction with Women in Technology Queensland. They shared their insights and top tips with the audience about how to keep motivated and what they learned through studying science and moving into STEM related careers.

World Science Festival

NYSF Alumna Sam Cridland volunteering at World Science Festival Brisbane

Thanks to the team at the Museum of Queensland who managed the events at World Science Festival Brisbane. They will be back next March with a whole new program. Hope to see you there.

Imagine yourself falling in love with the idea of being a scientist

By Kate O’Sullivan

Tanya Monro, Emma Johnston and Nalini Joshi have one very important thing in common. All three are scientists in senior positions in their respective fields. And all three of them took to the stage at the National Press Club in Canberra, in March, to discuss a topic near and dear to all of them – the importance of having women working in science.

Along with some fellow NYSF Alumni, I was very fortunate to attend. I say fortunate because what was to follow was the telling of some of the most interesting stories of women in STEM fields, the barriers they have come up against, and the steps we can take to try and overcome them.

NYSF at the National Press Club Left. Brody, Ruth, Brittany & Julie Right - Melanie, Kate, Madeline & Patrick

NYSF at the National Press Club
Left- Brody, Ruth, Brittany & Julie Right – Melanie, Kate, Madeline & Patrick

Professor Tanya Monro, NYSF Chair and Deputy Vice Chancellor Research and Innovation at the University of South Australia, shared her story that highlights the implicit biases against women in research. Professor Monro was turned down for one of the PhD projects she applied for because the prospective supervisor did not think she was the type of student that could thrive in physics research – this was prior to her supervisor seeing her resume or academic credentials. This is a woman who went on to be the first-ever female professor of physics at the University of Adelaide.

Emma Johnston is a Professor of Marine Ecology and Ecotoxicology at the University of New South Wales and Director of the Sydney Harbour Research Program at the Sydney Institute of Marine Science. She told the story of her parents – both with aspirations of careers in science. Her father became a Dean of Engineering with her mother working for a couple of years and then never returning to science after having and raising children because of highly gendered structural barriers and cultural expectations at that time. According to “the system”, Professor Johnson recounts that she “did everything wrong”, from dropping physics and mathematics at university because of the lack of female lecturers and students, to not applying for PhDs or postdoctoral opportunities, but going into teaching instead.

Professor Nalini Joshi, is the first female professor of mathematics at the University of Sydney and an ARC Georgina Sweet Australian Laureate Fellow. She recounted an experience of “being mistaken for the serving staff” at social and networking events.

These women are prime examples of what women can do in science – but we often don’t hear their stories because of biases and barriers to women’s progression in the scientific fields. The subtle push of women out of research is not for females’ lack of interest in STEM areas – rather it is due to institutional, endemic and unseen biases. Nalini Joshi said, “Australia is frozen in time.” The field is competitive and the selection policies for roles tend to self-select women out. As Emma Johnson put it – Why does the system shoot itself in the foot?

These explicit biases have been discussed widely – the motherhood penalty being one of the most commonly mentioned. But the hidden biases are ‘slipperier’ and harder to define. To quote from the discussion – the “under-representation of women in science is only one of the barriers that faces the increasing progress of women.”

Tanya Monro reported that when she had her first child, she found the experience focused her mind more than anything. While at work, she wanted to be there and achieve everything she possibly could because, “why else was he [her son] in childcare?” What made this possible were advocates and mentors. Her boss allowed for a four day week to count as a full time load, empowering her to succeed and feel valued in the workplace.

The three speakers offered the following suggestions to address the issues currently faced by women in STEM:

  • Quotas and Targets
    Although these often cause fear of appointment based on things other than merit, the panel in general agreed that targets, if not quotas should be implemented. They have been shown to work, and to make the definition of merit more equitable in the future. A change in the number of women in an organisation can help shift the culture to better include women.
  • Role models and the idea of critical mass
    In the words of Emma Johnston “When there are fewer women in a room full of scientists, women are acutely aware of their gender. When there is a critical mass, it becomes a discussion of ideas,” she said.
  • The SAGE initiative
    The Australian Academy of Science has adapted this from the Athena Swan program in the UK to eliminate gender inequity and a demonstrated commitment to bolster the hiring, promotion and retention of women, while also improving the workplace environment for people of all genders.

But one quote summed up the entire event for me. “STEM can transform people.” And that is something we need to hold onto – no matter who you are, studying and working in STEM fields can transform a life. We need to make that transformation accessible for everyone. This is much more than getting girls into the science pipeline and into our labs. It’s about making sure that our society can benefit from an education that is rich in science. Until we are all able to pursue our passions (no matter how ‘untrendy’), we have lost the game. Because, as Tanya Munro put it, “we don’t want our daughters to have fewer choices than our sons.”

Watch the discussion on ABC News – or read the speech transcripts.

Reference

Other interesting facts about the proportions of Women in STEM can be found at:

 

Keeping the NYSF in the family

When Ben Kenworthy received the offer to attend the National Youth Science Forum (NYSF) 2016 he was excited to be following in the footsteps of his older sisters Sarah and Jessie-Anne who attended the program in 2015 and 2011.

“I’d heard so much about the program from my sisters. They encouraged me to apply as they had the time of their lives. I counted down the sleeps until it was time to go.”

Visiting world-class facilities, learning about the diverse areas of science, living at The Australian National University and experiencing life on campus were some of the highlights for Ben.

I’d heard so much about the program from my sisters. They encouraged me to apply as they had the time of their lives. I counted down the sleeps until it was time to go

“I also enjoyed the social aspect too. They were a fantastic group of people. I made so many new friends that will be lifelong.”

Ben hopes to study optometry at Deakin University in Geelong next year. “There is a large science component in this course and attending the NYSF has given me the confidence to embark on my goal of becoming an optometrist.”

Sarah attended the NYSF in 2015 and has just started her university career studying nursing and midwifery at Deakin University and hopes to study post-graduate medicine.

Jessie-Anne and Sarah Kenworthy

Jessie-Anne and Sarah Kenworthy in the delivery room in Mannya, Uganda

Sarah recalls, “NYSF helped me to determine that I wanted a career in the medical field. Attending the NYSF prepared me for year 12 and beyond. I was able to develop personal skills through the communication and body language workshops and hearing from NYSF student staff leaders about their year 12 and university experience. I also experienced other fields of science I had not considered previously.”

I have become more aware of the world around me and all the amazing things in it and how it relates science

“We were also exposed to some of the top science facilities around Canberra and were privileged to listen to and meet some of Australia’s leading scientists.”

Sarah’s outlook on life has changed. “I have become more aware of the world around me and all the amazing things in it and how it relates science. The NYSF has changed my life for the better, I will always be thankful for everyone who attended and played a part in the planning of the program.”

Jessie-Anne attended the NYSF in 2011. Growing up she always loved science and science subjects were her favorite at school.

“The NYSF helped me see the different options available to me at university and where different careers could lead. NYSF improved my confidence which helped me prepare for my interview to get into med school.”

Jessie-Anne is currently in her final year of medicine at Monash University and starts her internship next year.

“Medicine actually involves a lot of science, it has anatomy, physiology, biology and chemistry to name just a few.”

“I’m not 100 per cent sure what my specialty is yet, but lately I have been thinking about paediatrics, oncology, general medicine, geriatrics, but those ideas are constantly changing.”

Medicine has a lot of research opportunities too. “Later this year in one of my rotations I will be working on a research project in paediatric oncology. I have also participated in a research project which focused on creating a 3D printing of a part of the brain.”

Sarah and Jessie-Anne Kenworthy

Sarah and Jessie-Anne Kenworthy, Mannya Uganda

NYSF improved my confidence which helped me prepare for my interview to get into med school

In November 2014 to early 2015, Sarah and Jessie-Anne volunteered in Mannya, a remote village in Uganda, working in a health centre and maternity ward.

“Jessie-Anne and I were involved in antenatal care performing physical examinations on pregnant women. We also spent time in the birthing suite watching deliveries and one of my highlights was delivering three babies by myself. Jessie-Anne delivered seven,” says Sarah.

“We also assisted with the post-natal care of women and children by giving injections to reduce preventable, life-threatening diseases. Our work involved visiting remote villages where people could not get to a clinic, assessing the patients with medical treatment, and giving injections.”

“In addition, we raised $18,000 to go toward 1,800 solar lights to replace kerosene lamps which create life-threating toxic fumes. It also provided much needed lighting in houses to allow children to study at night.”

All siblings have won an array of awards. Jessie-Anne won the Zonta award for Young Women in Public Affairs, Rotary Volunteer Award and Geelong Impetus Award 2015 for Working with Young People and is a finalist for the Victorian Young Achiever Awards announced in May 2016.

Sarah was nominated for Geelong Impetus Award; and Ben was nominated for an Online Community Engagement and an Impetus Award in Culture/Arts 2016 and has also been selected for the Year 12 Diaries cast, a 26-week program airing on ABC3 in 2017 in which 13 students from around Australia, film their year 12 experience.

But wait … there’s more! Ben, Sarah and Jessie-Anne also have a brother Mathew who successfully completed a Bachelor in Nursing/Midwifery and is currently in second year medicine at Notre Dame, Fremantle Western Australia.

 

Canberra College students recall their 2016 National Youth Science Forum experience

Canberra College students Matilda Dowse, Morgan Kikkawa and Kaliopi Notaras were selected to attend the 2016 National Youth Science Forum (NYSF) held at The Australian National University.

Over the course of two weeks, Matilda, Morgan and Kaliopi along with almost two hundred students attending Session C, participated in
a variety of STEM-related activities including lab visits, lectures, workshops, site visits, formal dinners and group activities.

It wasn’t until NYSF commenced that I realised how little I actually knew about the other fields of science

For Matilda, the major highlights of the forum included the opening lecture from leading Australian physicist Professor Tanya Monro from the University of South Australia, participating in an entrepreneurial workshop led by influential business leaders in STEM, and joining a live video conference with Dr Rolf Landau from CERN in Geneva Switzerland.

Matilda Dowse at the NYSF Science Dinner

Matilda Dowse at the NYSF Science Dinner

“The program opened up a world of opportunities I previously had never considered. The NYSF experience was about building a strong sense of belonging and friendship through science. The friends and memories we built in our interest groups, at mealtime, dorm groups and social activities remain some of my greatest memories, and removed all doubts about fitting in. The NYSF kindled a love for science and I would strongly recommend the program to any year 11 student vaguely interested in STEM.”

“Thank you to Canberra College chemistry teacher Mr Stephen Ford for encouraging me to attend the forum. I owe much of my continued interest in science to him.”

Seeing 200 fellow students light up at the same things I did was truly the most staggering part of all

Before attending the NYSF, Morgan says he had his sights set on a career in medicine. “After the NYSF I found that my passion lay in all sorts of different areas of science. Seeing 200 fellow students light up at the same things I did was truly the most staggering part of all.”

Morgan Kikkawa

Morgan Kikkawa

“The fascinating discussions I had not just with the guest speakers and scientists but also the students, is by far the most valuable experience I took away from the program. While the program distorted my vision of the specific career I wanted to pursue, it clarified perfectly my love of science and desire to pursue it to my heart’s content.”

Kaliopi shares a similar experience. “I gained a lot from the opportunities within the program, in that it shaped and developed my understanding of science immensely. I entered the experience with a certain mindset about the career path I wish to follow and it wasn’t until NYSF commenced that I realised how little I actually knew about the other fields of science. I gained a new found interest in the research aspects of biology and was thoroughly intrigued by physics, engineering and even computer science, subjects I never regarded previously.”

Kaliopi Notaras

Kaliopi Notaras

“The NYSF validated my desire to continue in science and showed me that within my career I could couple public speaking, teaching and research, along with my love for practical involvement in hands-on environment.”

Know that STEM skills will serve you well

Australia’s Chief Scientist launched Australia’s STEM Workforce report in March 2016 that provides the first detailed analysis of Australia’s Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) trained workforce.

The report confirms that the 2.3 million people with STEM qualifications at the time of the 2011 census (the most recent data available) were working right across the Australian economy.

In an interview with the Financial Review on 30 March, Dr Finkel said that people with STEM qualifications had an unemployment rate of 3.7 per cent, while the unemployment rate for those with non-STEM qualifications was 4.1 per cent. Eighty-five per cent of STEM-qualified people worked in the private sector compared with 77 per cent of non-STEM-qualified people.

The report demonstrates the types of careers available to graduates. The most common occupations are technicians and trade workers which account for a third of the STEM-qualified population. University graduates in professional positions accounted for 55 per cent and managers at 18 per cent. The most common industry for STEM graduates was in manufacturing, accounting for 17 per cent of STEM-qualified workers.

As for salaries, graduates fell into the highest income bracket (over $104,000) for STEM than non-STEM qualified workers. At the Vocational Education and Training (VET) level, more than one-in-10 STEM graduates made the top bracket; compared to one-in-20 non-STEM graduates. At university level, it was more than one-in-four; compared with fewer than one-in-five.

Dr Finkel said, “Success, of course, may not come in the most obvious form. If you leave university with a degree in mathematics, you’re more likely to become a software programmer than an actuary, mathematician or statistician. Just 13 per cent of employed chemistry graduates work as chemists – which means 87 per cent are successful in other roles.”

“And why should we hide from that reality? De-couple choosing a degree from committing to any particular career, and the possibilities can begin to unfold.”

He suggests that new industries like FinTech, demonstrate just what a PhD with a laptop can do. “There are existing industries greatly in need of an infusion of STEM talent, like education – both harness new technologies and teach STEM extraordinarily well.”

His advice to students studying STEM, “I say choose STEM because you enjoy it. Know that it will serve you well, if not necessarily in the way you expect,” he said.

To read Australia’s STEM Workforce report, visit Australia’s Chief Scientist website.

To read the full news report, visit Financial Review

Next Step kicks off in Brisbane and Canberra

The National Youth Science Forum (NYSF) Next Step programs kicked off in Brisbane and Canberra in April.

“Our Next Step program aims to promote our partner organisations through laboratory and site visits in capital cities across Australia. They give the NYSF students a better understanding of the facilities available at the universities who partner with the NYSF. We also aim to show the students the kinds of jobs they can aspire to by visiting our corporate partner sites,” says NYSF Chief Executive Officer Dr Damien Pearce.

The Brisbane program visited The University of Queensland (UQ), The Edge at the State Library of Queensland, the Pharmacy Australia Centre for Excellence (PACE) at UQ, Queensland Museum and UQ Engineering.

Next Step Brisbane - Lachie Dowling

Next Step Brisbane – Lachie Dowling

Social activities allowed students to catch up with friends from the January Sessions as well as an opportunity to meet with the Brisbane chapter of the Young Scientists Australia for dinner and a trivia night.

Next Step Brisbane - Olivia Jones and Jessica Heazlett

Next Step Brisbane – Olivia Jones and Jessica Heazlett

Canberra Next Steppers visited the CSIRO Black Mountain Discovery Centre, followed by a picnic lunch in the Parliamentary Triangle before visiting the Ian Potter Foundation Technology Learning Centre. The Australian National University’s (ANU) Mount Stromlo Observatory hosted dinner with an opportunity for stargazing. Students spent their final day in lab and site visits presented at the ANU.

Next Step Canberra - L-R - Montana Coombes, Emma Croker, Adam Ehrke, Morgan Kikkawa, Sanna Wei, Kate Swann

Next Step Canberra – L-R – Montana Coombes, Emma Croker, Adam Ehrke, Morgan Kikkawa, Sanna Wei and Kate Swann

Manager of NYSF Programs Madeline Cooper says, “The NYSF experience doesn’t finish at the end of January. Next Step gives students the opportunity to continue the friendships they made on session while seeing cutting-edge research and facilities outside of Canberra. We’re so thankful to the organisations who give their time to host students during these visits. We were able to put together fantastic experiences in Brisbane and Canberra due to the generosity of these hosts, and there’s still Melbourne and Sydney to come!”

Good2Give

Good2Give is a workplace giving donations program developed by Charities Aid Foundations Australia enabling employees to donate pre-tax pay to any eligible Australian charity or not-for-profit organisation like the National Youth Science Forum.

NYSF is a deductible gift recipient registered charity with Good2Give and has been receiving regular donations from a number of donors keen to support our activities. These contributions are relatively small – between $5 to $10 per pay per donor, but they make a big difference to the opportunities the NYSF provides for students and Alumni.

Good2Give also offers an employer matching service, with businesses having the opportunity to match the donations of its employees.

All tax deductible donations made to NYSF go directly to supporting NYSF and its STEM outreach programs for young Australians.

To learn more or donate to the NYSF, visit the Good2Give website.

News from the Australian Academy of Science

Super Nova

What do decomposing bodies, batteries, leeches and gravity have in common? The science behind all these things is explored and explained in the latest topics to feature on the Australian Academy of Science’s Nova: science for curious minds website.

Nova

Thanks to the generous support of Telstra, Nova brings science to all Australians with its engaging, accurate and relevant explorations of scientific topics. With all topics reviewed by Academy Fellows or other experts, Nova is an authoritative source of information presented in an accessible way.

nova-infographic (academy2)

There are now 60 topics on everything from nanoscience to the mathematics of voting. Upcoming features will look at gene editing; the science of practice; quantum mechanics and memory.

The Nova ‘Ask an Expert’ function has been a hit with visitors to the website, with interesting and thoughtful emails regularly arriving in the Nova inbox. Messages range from complex, well thought out scientific questions, to innovative ideas about solving some of industry’s most pressing problems. It’s exciting to see so many people interested and engaged with science via the Nova site—who knows where this interest will lead them?

On the Job to recognise science support staff 

Do you know a great school lab tech? We’re searching for passionate people who love their job and the role they play in Australian science.

Academy of Science on-the-job-banner1

The Australian Academy of Science and Australia’s Science Channel (RiAus) understand that Australia’s world-class track record would not be possible without the technical and support staff who keep science moving. The people who slice the specimens, run the machines, collect the data, grow the crops, sterilise the equipment and mix the chemicals.

For National Science Week this year, we’re delighted to partner with Australia’s Science Channel to bring you ‘On the job’— a video series showing a day in the life of seven Australian science support staff or support teams. We’ll explore science behind the scenes to uncover and celebrate the fantastic work being done all around the country to keep Australia’s scientific progress moving.

Academy of Science onthejob-composite

Nominations open until 1 May 2016

We’ll spend a day with each of the seven finalists (or teams) around Australia, using a professional filming team to capture and share the great work they do. Then during National Science Week in August, we’ll release the videos and announce the winner of the competition. Individuals can nominate, or their organisation can nominate them. Teams can also be nominated. Don’t delay—nominations are only open until 1 May 2016.

Win a day with a leading scientist

The star of the winning video will get the chance to spend a day with an internationally recognised Australian research scientist and Fellow of the Academy in the discipline of their choice—an outstanding career opportunity and a unique experience to boot. Travel and accommodation costs will be covered (if a team wins, the prize might be different). We’ll also have a great science prize for voters.

See www.science.org.au/on-the-job for more information.