Session C earth science lab visit rocks!

An obvious pun, but it had to be done…

Earth and Environmental Science Group Darwin visited the ANU Research School of Earth Sciences, to get a good look at the many areas of research that the school covers. As an introduction, the group heard the 3-Minute-Thesis speeches of three different post-graduate students – their captivating talks demonstrated the how vast earth science research fields are.

Next the group visited the SHRIMP – the Sensitive High-Resolution Ion Microprobe – used to determine ion ratios in geologic materials. Liane Loiselle, a PhD candidate, talked to the group about the process of radiometric dating, showing the equipment and a range of samples, the oldest of which was a meteorite that predates the earth itself. Liane discussed at length the benefits of uranium-lead dating, including a dice experiment to demonstrate decay rate, before the group participated in a timeline activity. Using both real samples and props, participants placed dinosaurs, trilobite fossil, and the meteorite  (to name a few) along a roll of paper where each square equalled 10 million years.

Next was a tour of Professor Greg Yaxley’s lab, and the experiments he works on. Professor Yaxley’s field is experimental petrology, which focuses on the origin, structure, and composition of rocks. In his work, he recreates the conditions in the earth’s crust using complex machinery, to create samples similar to those found thousands of kilometres below our feet.

After leaving Professor Yaxley’s lab, the group received a brief presentation on seismology from Dr Michelle Salmon. The participants discussed the world seismic monitor, which looks at recent worldwide earthquake activity, before they used the seismograph installed in the room to simulate an earthquake with a group jump, showing the magnitude on the screen.

Professor Yaxley explaining how they create the conditions in the earth’s crust

Finally, the group visited the Geophysical Fluid Dynamics ‘Wet Lab’, which researches fluid flow problems on earth, including ocean circulation and ice melting due to climate change, among others. The group firstly conducted an experiment to show the effect of gravity currents, mixing salt into a portion of water and watching it interact with fresh water when released. This was repeated with different water sodium levels in a larger tank, before the group got a look at the new rotating table machine that models the currents of the southern ocean, and holds a lot of promise for future research.

In the Geophysical Fluid Dynamics ‘Wet Lab’

To have a look at that research, and everything the Research School of Earth Sciences is up to, have a look at their website: http://rses.anu.edu.au/

 

Meg Stegeman, Communications Intern NYSF 2017 Session C and NYSF Alumna 2014

Van Dooren Lab at ANU offers NYSF a hands-on visit

The NYSF 2017 Food, Agriculture and Animal & Plant Biology group ‘Hill’ visited the Van Dooren Lab this afternoon, located in ANU’s Research School of Biology. Hosted by Dr Giel Van Dooren and his team of postgraduate students, the Hill group spent anafternoon learning about parasitology.

Parasitology is the study of parasites, organisms that feed off a ‘host’ organisms, usually with negative effects to this host. The group was specifically looking at protozoan parasites, single-celled organisms that are found in the bodies of hosts, and often with the host’s own cells. The four parasites the participants were focusing on in the Van Dooren Lab are known to be responsible for malaria, chagas disease and toxoplasmosis.

The participants had to determine what parasite was infecting a ‘patient’, with one assigned to each group of four. The participants had to examine blood and tissue samples of a patient, through microscopy, as well as conduct a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) experiment. Each patient also had a scenario attached, to help narrow down what parasite it could be, such as ‘she has recently travelled to the rainforests of Borneo, and upon her return has begun to have headaches, fevers, and chills’.

Dr Van Dooren teaching students how to use the mechanical pipette

Firstly, the group used the PCR technique on DNA from the patients. PCR is a process that replicates DNA, which is then pipetted into an agarose gel solution plate and exposed to an electric field. The field causes the DNA molecule to migrate through the gel, with smaller molecules moving faster than larger ones. This is photographed and shows as ‘bands’ of DNA, with infected patients, containing parasitic DNA as well, showing extra ‘bands’. The actual PCR process can take about an hour after being set up, but the participants were excited to try this new technique, which also meant using tools they had never used before.

Whilst the PCR was running, the group used microscopy to examine the blood and tissue samples. As most protozoan parasites enter their host’s cells, they can often be seen easily under the microscope, and can even give an estimate of how long the patient has been infected. Once the PCR results were found, the group then sat with their demonstrators and discussed the literature behind the parasites, including prevention, treatment, and the struggle for treatment as parasites become resistant to drugs. Groups then presented their findings, combining results from microscopy, PCR, and based on the scenario given, to the rest of participants, including the prognosis and treatment of their patients.

Participants presenting their findings

To Find out more about Dr Van Dooren and his work, check out the university website: http://biology.anu.edu.au/research/labs/van-dooren-lab-cell-biology-and-metabolism-apicomplexan-parasites

Meg Stegeman, Communications Intern NYSF 2017 Session C and NYSF Alumna 2014

Session C engineering lab visits start with robotics by Robogals

The first science visit for the Session C engineering and advanced manufacturing group ‘Newton’, was a visit to ANU’s College of Engineering and Computer Sciences. Here Matthew (an NYSF 2012 alumnus) and Theresa, an ANU Physics undergraduate and an ADFA UNSW Mechanical Engineering undergraduate respectively, ran the workshop on behalf of Robogals. Robogals is a student-volunteer based organisation that encourages primary and secondary school girls to get into engineering and technology, through workshops such as the one delivered for the NYSF.

The robots used in the workshop were Lego Mind-Storms, and although most of the group had used them before, the session was anything but ordinary for the young scientists. The first exercise was to demonstrate how exact instructions had to be for a low-level thinking machine to process. One participant, the ‘programmer’, had to instruct two others to draw a symbol they had never seen, with their eyes closed. Whilst one ‘robot’ participant managed to do a fairly accurate job, the other ‘robot’ became a little confused by the programmer’s instructions…

The robot-participant attempts

Next, they flashed coloured cards in front of the robots’ sensors to instruct it which way to move, which was the basis of the program they went on to start using. The group’s goal was to program their robots to complete a maze, with all successfully completing the task. From here, the instructors showed the participants how to modify the program so the robot now created sound when its sensor moved over a certain colour. Suddenly the engineers were musicians as they began replicating nursery rhyme tunes!

Matthew brainstorming with the group

The last half hour was special to the group, as they were given the opportunity to problem solve concepts set by the presenters. Matthew worked with a group to figure out a way to program the robots as an etch’n’sketch, combining their usual program with paint and having the robot’s trajectory tracked on the screen. Theresa was helping the students figure out a way to program the robots to follow their hand movements. Both groups were brainstorming ideas, and going through the trial and error process to figure a solution. Although the groups did run out of time to complete their projects, they agreed this section of the afternoon was definitely the most challenging, having never been given this opportunity when using the robots before.

To find out more about Robogals, check out their website: http://robogals.org/.

The Lego Mind-Storm

Meg Stegeman, Communications Intern NYSF 2017 Session C and NYSF Alumna 2014

NYSF 2017 visits University of Canberra Health Sciences

The NYSF 2017 Health and Medical Science groups Blackburn and Doherty visited the University of Canberra learning what it would be like studying nursing, pharmacy, or radiology.

First was a visit to the Nursing Laboratory. Here the workshop focused on the heart. The participants tested each other’s heart rates, learned how to use a stethoscope and measured the oxygen saturation of the blood using a pulse oximeter. After learning the basics, the participants devised a care plan for patients who had tachycardia, brachycardia, a fatal cardiac arrhythmia or asystole after looking at their ECG results.

Yes, you are alive!

Next – to the radiology department where the participants learned about X-rays including how they are produced, how they differ from other forms of radiation, and how the image is taken. Then they looked at a series of patient X-rays that included images of coins, sharp objects and broken bones, learning that multiple images need to be taken to know the positioning of an object inside the body as only 2D images are produced. They then tried to identify everyday objects which proved much more difficult than expected!

Participants try to identify 25 everyday objects hidden in a shoebox

The next workshop was very hands on with the participants exploring the pharmacy lab. Here they tested the dissolution rates of various analgesics and learned how this relates to how quickly the drugs are absorbed in the body as well as preparing a menthol cream to take home.

Participants test the dissolution times of paracetamol and aspirin

The visit was thoroughly enjoyed by all the participants, Hugh Churchill said he “really enjoyed the hands on experience in the pharmaceuticals lab. It gave us an insight into the different areas of pharmacy.”

Participants make a menthol cream

Veronica O’Mara, NYSF 2017 Communications Intern and NYSF 2014 alumna.

Advocacy, Activism, Academia.

In an intriguing and captivating lecture to the NYSF 2017, Associate Professor David Caldicott explored the politics of science, the rise of anti-science and some of the challenges that the world faces. Dr Caldicott is an Emergency Consultant at Calvary Hospital in Canberra, an Associate Professor at the University of Canberra, and a Clinical Senior Lecturer at the ANU Faculty of Medicine.

Dr Caldicott speaks to students

The presentation was enjoyed by all

Dr Caldicott is well known for his stance on the legalisation of medicinal cannabis and combating drug use through education and pill testing. He stressed to the participants his view that drug use should be treated as a health issue rather than a criminal issue. His research has shown that people are less likely to use drugs if they know the actual composition, reinforcing the evidence which routinely shows the best way to change behaviours is through science rather than morality.

Using his experience and knowledge, Dr Caldicott used this to emphasise the importance in being involved in politics as an advocate for the accurate representation of science, giving the participants advice for surviving in a world where even the truth is present. He concluded his presentation with a few important reminders for the participants as they finish their high school studies and head out into the world.

Be true to yourselves, your beliefs and what you stand for

“Be true to yourselves, your beliefs and what you stand for. Live in the intersections, talking to people in other disciplines.” He emphasised the importance of being a good communicator.

The presentation was thoroughly enjoyed by the participants with Dr Caldicott’s advice and humour engaging the students well. One participant, Adele enjoyed the lecture as it appealed to everyone no matter their interest area.

“The lecture was good whether you were coming from a health, physics or chemistry background as it was really relevant to everyone. This coupled with David’s presentation skills really got you interested and excited not only about the specific issue of drugs but the wider themes he was talking about like politics in science.”

Thankyou David for sharing your experience and for making an advocate out of all of us!

 

Veronica O’Mara, NYSF 2017 Session C Communications Intern and NYSF 2014 Alumna

NYSF 2017 Session C welcomed to Parliament House

NYSF 2017 Session C NYSF Participants found themselves in the heart of the nation on Wednesday at Parliament House as they attended the official opening of NYSF 2017 Session C. Dressed to the nines, the group were warmly greeted by an impressive array of speakers.

Dr Andrew Metcalfe AO, chair of the NSSS Board, opened the event. With a personal connection to the program through his son, who is an NYSF alumnus and currently completing a science PhD, Mr Metcalfe conveyed to the participants the unique opportunity to immerse themselves in science that they had been given. Next, Mr Steve Hill, the District 9710 Rotary Governor, addressed the group. He highlighted the importance of Rotary to support youth programs, and encouraged the students to take advantage of the wonderful opportunities and experiences that are to come.

The group also heard from Ms Glenys Beauchamp PSM, the current Secretary of the Department of Industry, Innovation and Science. Having a business and economic background, the way she spoke so highly of science emphasised to the participants the importance of science in a political setting. After all, as she made a point of saying, ‘you can’t look at innovation without science’.

Ms Beauchamp shared many of her own views on the science community, equating scientists with rock stars, and the need to celebrate science. She proudly outline the many scientific achievements of Australia, and also the need for more entrepreneurial endeavours from scientists. Being in an age where technology and science are reaching exciting new levels, she stressed the importance of finding ways to let science translate into commercial and economic benefits for the whole nation. She concluded with inspiring words, ‘hope to see some of you in business, academia, and government’,  – which is fitting as all are possibilities with the varied pathways science can lead to.

Finally, Dr Anna Cowan addressed the group, outlining the great community that the NYSF creates, with many colleagues and students being NYSF alumni. Being the Deputy Director of Education at ANU’s college for Medicine, Biology and Environment, as well as the ANU College of Physical and Mathematical Sciences, her inspirational words were especially significant to the group of future scientists.

Once the speeches concluded, the group was treated to an exclusive tour of Parliament House, including the opportunity enact the process of passing a bill in the House of Representatives through a mock proceeding. The growing confidence of the group was evident in this activity, and with lab visits looming on the horizon, things are only just getting started for the Session C participants.

 

Meg Stegeman, Communications Intern NYSF 2017 Session C and NYSF Alumna 2014

Photos by Veronica O’Mara, Communications Intern NYSF 2017 Session C and NYSF Alumna 2014

NYSF 2017 Session A: Closing Ceremony

The final day of NYSF 2017 Session A was an emotional one to say the least. After two weeks of intense science and bonding with like-minded students, it was finally time to say goodbye. Who would have thought it could be so hard to do after a mere two weeks?

It was a rollercoaster of emotion; a fast moving mixture of ecstatic and saddening feelings – but it was exactly the way I remember it from my experience on NYSF a few years ago. There is nothing quite like it, and it isn’t an experience easily forgotten.

However, while it was the last day of the NYSF, we weren’t done learning just yet.

At the Closing Ceremony we were fortunate to have 2011 NYSF alumnus, Jeeven Nadanakumar share his story. Jeeven graduated with a Bachelor of Law with First Class Honours and a Bachelor of Economics at ANU in 2016. He has worked for World Vision Australia, and has represented the organisations in many fora, including at the United Nations in New York.

Jeeven had some powerful points about science, leadership, and what the future holds for our participants– particularly on what it takes to create change:

“In the 21st century, being a good scientist, engineer, researcher, or a good thinker, is simply not enough. You need to be a good advocate for your science and your research. That’s the only way you can have your voice heard and have an impact.”

“I’ve always found that it is the rule-breaking, risk-taking, creative, entrepreneurial, daring and adventurous people among us that make the best scientists, the best leaders, and the most interesting people to have over for dinner.”

In regard to being a good advocate for your work, Jeeven hinted that it’s always better to beg for forgiveness than to ask for permission:

“I’ve always found that it’s the rule-breaking, risk-taking, creative, entrepreneurial, daring and adventurous people among us that make the best scientists, the best leaders, and the most interesting people to have over for dinner.”

Having attended the NYSF in 2011, Jeeven knew exactly the calibre of the audience he was speaking to, but also knew the challenges they are destined to face in the year to come. He stepped down from the podium leaving the students pumped to go and tackle their year 12 and life beyond:

“You’re here at the NYSF because you have those some of those qualities. You’re leaders, and you’re prepared to think outside the box. The year ahead is going to be challenging, but if anybody is ready for it, it is you.”

“I hope that we maintain the friendships that we’ve made here for the rest of our lives, but what I hope even more is that you guys maintain your curiosity and unadulterated passion, and use it to change the world.”

Following Jeeven’s talk several of the students stood up to share their thoughts on their time at NYSF, and how they feel it had changed them as a person. Each of the speeches were incredible, but I picked up a couple of particularly eloquent quotes from our dear Frankie Mackenzie:

“What really made the NYSF though, as soppy as it sounds, is the people. It is the best feeling ever to see your friends’ face light up when they start talking about their favourite field of quantum physics.”

The evening wasn’t just emotional for the students, but also for all the dedicated student staff who put themselves out there and facilitated all the growth. Megan Lowry, the linchpin and head of the student staff, had a particularly heartfelt message to share:

 “Each one of you now are more than when you arrived. Whether you found your passion, found your voice, found your confidence, or found a friend – you are now more you. We are proud of you for it.” 

“Remember the NYSF however you can; whether that’s through photos, or writing it down. Because these emotions are transient, yet powerful. Only you will ever understand what it felt like to experience all these emotions in combination all at once.”

 “Each one of you now are more than when you arrived. Whether you found your passion, found your voice, found your confidence, or found a friend – you are now more you. We are proud of you for it.” 

And of course what would a Closing Ceremony be without some final words of wisdom from the CEO, Damien Pearce:

“We’ve been here for two weeks together, but the NYSF has just started for you. Your careers have just started for you. And I look forward to engaging with each one of you in the future.”

It is tough to say goodbye, but Damien speaks the truth when he says this is just the beginning. The NYSF changes lives, and its influence pops up again and again all throughout your life – whether that is in the work you do, the bold decisions you make, or the compassion you show to others.

I want to extend my own thank you to everybody at the Closing Ceremony and everybody behind the scenes making the NYSF the incredible and memorable experience that it is.

Keep sciencing, and don’t let your memes be dreams.

By Jackson Nexhip, NYSF 2017 Session A Communications Intern and NYSF 2013 Alumnus

Session C’s first workshop has them thinking

Interactive, relaxed, entertaining; all excellent descriptors of the ‘Critical Thinking Skills’ Workshop the NYSF 2017 participants attended this afternoon.

The workshop was presented by Dr Will Grant, a University of Queensland graduate with a PhD in Political Science. Dr Grant currently works at ANU as a researcher, lecturer, and graduate studies convener at the Australian National Centre for the Public Awareness of Science.

Critical Thinking is important for everyday life and future careers, and participants were engaged from the start, questioning and delving deeper and deeper into the topic. And developing a thorough understanding of these skills was about to immediately come in handy for the participants, as the practical section of the workshop began.

The opportunity to practice Critical Thinking Skills in a supportive environment encouraged a lively debate. Example scenarios with five possible solutions were shown, with Dr Grant prompting participants to discuss their answer with those around them, before taking a group consensus.  Constructive arguments were presented and rebutted as the scenarios became more difficult, and many differing opinions emerged from the group.

Dr Grant wrapped the workshop up with a discussion on Critical Thinking in everyday life, and as the group exited the lecture hall, the excited chatter confirmed the afternoon was a great start to the many activities and discussions yet to come in Session C.

 

Meg Stegeman, NYSF alumna 2014 and Communications Intern NYSF 2017 Session C

 

 

NYSF 2017 Session C: Welcome lecture

NYSF 2017 Session C started off with a visit to the Australian Academy of Science at the Shine Dome. In this iconic building, the participants were intrigued by the words of the Chief Executive of the Australian Academy of Science, Dr Anna-Maria Arabia and Deputy Vice-Chancellor Research and Innovation, at the University of South Australia, Professor Tanya Monro.

A common theme in both Dr Arabia and Professor Monro’s presentations were the importance of gender equity in STEM careers and the role that all of the participants have in ensuring equal opportunity for men and women.

Dr Arabia’s welcome emphasised the importance of thinking about science in a broad sense and not to limit your options by being fixated on one particular career path.

“Think about your passion for science and technology in the broadest way possible, and be open to the many career paths that may be open to you … be driven by your curiosity of the world.”

Furthermore, she highlighted the importance of being a ‘thinker’ stressing that scientific enquiry has “little to do with what you think, but how you think”.

Dr Anna-Maria Arabia

Following Dr Arabia’s welcome, the participants were addressed by Professor Tanya Monro. Throughout her presentation she focussed on her area of specialisation, photonics, as well as explaining the pathways she took in achieving her goals.

Professor Tanya Monro addressing participants

Professor Monro was a NYSF alumna, attending the National Science Summer School as it was, in January 1990. She credits the program as her “first chance to absorb science beyond the classroom”.

She told the NYSF 2017 cohort that while at school, she planned on studying astrophysics, however as she was exposed to new fields in science she found that her interest was elsewhere. Throughout her career she has completed a PhD at the University of Sydney, undertook a fellowship at the Optoelectronics Research Centre at the University of South Hampton and was the Director of the Institute for Photonics and Advanced Sensing (IPAS) from 2008 to 2014 and was also the inaugural Director for the ARC Centre of Excellence for Nanoscale BioPhotonics (CNBP), both at the University of Adelaide. Further information about her career can be found here.

Professor Monro concluded her talk with some advice for the participants to use throughout their studies, career and life underlining the importance of having “passion, persistence and patience”.

 

By Veronica O’Mara, NYSF 2017 Session C Communications Intern and NYSF 2014 Alumna

NYSF 2017 Session A: Partners’ Day Expo

After the Partners’ Day presentations the students gathered for the Partners’ Day Expo , where they were able to meet, chat and network with representatives of the NYSF partners.

The students were able to meet reps (and the presenters) from Lockheed Martin, IP Australia, UNSW Australia, Monash University, Melbourne University, Australian National University, University of Queensland, CSIRO, CSL, Resmed, and Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC).

The one-on-one conversations with the representatives proved to be valuable for the students – they got their questions answered and expanded their horizons in terms of career choices and opportunities.

All of the students were obsessively engaged in conversation that evening, but I managed to pull two aside for a quick chat about their thoughts on the expo.

“It encourages people to think and create change, and I’m a big advocate for creating change.”

“IP Australia really stood out for me” said Sharon Nguyen. “People are coming up with new ideas all the time, and so the work that they do at IP Australia is important because they can protect it. It encourages people to think and create change, and I’m a big advocate for creating change.”

“Before NYSF I wanted to do occupational therapy, then through talking to NYSF friends and the presenters I realized there was a whole world of opportunity and options out there that I hadn’t thought of.”

Sharon Nguyen with Matt Lee (Assistant Director of Strategic Communication, IP Australia)

As well as career choices, the conversation with the university reps in particular also illuminated life as a tertiary student. It seems as though it not only helped inform the students, but also sparked some excitement.

“Talking to all the presenters and other professionals has got me really excited to start university and the next stage of my career.”

“[Partners’ Day] made me realise how many options are out there, and it got me thinking about and considering many different universities” said Danyon Farrell.

“I’ve always wanted to do a double degree but I wasn’t sure, but after hearing the talks today it really made it obvious how valuable they are and the opportunity that they open.”

“Talking to all the presenters and other professionals has got me really excited to start university and the next stage of my career.”

One happy Danyon Farrell

By Jackson Nexhip, NYSF 2017 Session A Communications Intern and NYSF 2013 Alumnus