NYSF Alumna Nana Liu, Scientist by day, Opera Singer by night

STEM, Science, Alumna, Alumni, NYSF, National Youth Science Forum

Invited to Israel by Prof. Jacob Bekenstein (one of my heroes as a teenager, known for the Bekenstein-Hawking radiation in black holes) at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Here is me enjoying the Old City in Jerusalem

“I’ve always liked what Winston Churchill said, that no failure is fatal and no success is final.”

Twelve years has passed since I was fortunate enough to attend the National Youth Science Forum, and what a ride it has been so far! Looking back, I feel so lucky to have interacted with so many amazing people and to have been inspired by each one of them to better reach my own goals. Interacting with my new friends at NYSF has certainly helped me to learn from interesting and diverse groups of people. I’m looking forward to the next twelve years! Bring it on!

Around the time of attending the NYSF, I became a member of a research group at the University of Melbourne studying the behaviour of granular materials. This dynamic area of research exposed me to the importance of the cross-pollination of ideas coming from different fields, which is still influencing the way I’m viewing research now. During the time I was in this group, I majored in pure mathematics at the University of Melbourne before completing a master’s degree focusing on theoretical physics. My thirst for more physics and the `outside world’ led me to pursue a PhD in theoretical physics at the University of Oxford, where I was fortunate enough to be offered a full scholarship as a Clarendon scholar. This was a very exciting and also a very difficult time, where I was given a great deal of freedom to pursue my own research interests. I began work on finding out how quantum mechanics (the physics governing atomic scale phenomena) can enhance the processing of information. This required a lot of cross-disciplinary research, which my experience in earlier years in granular materials had prepared me for. This led me to study how quantum mechanics can improve the power of computation and also precision measurement, like imaging. After completing my PhD, I began work as a full-time researcher at two research institutions in Singapore, continuing research on how quantum mechanics can make computers so much more powerful than any computer existing today.

I feel blessed everyday that I am living my dream of being a scientist, something I’ve wanted since I was eight or nine. There is no feeling quite like finally being able to feed yourself (to buy as much ice-cream as you want!), house yourself and to buy gifts for your family and friends from what you earn doing what you always dreamed of doing.

One of the best things about scientific research is working with fantastic fellow scientists who also become your friends. Bouncing back sometimes crazy ideas and trying them out with colleagues often feels just like building a treehouse, digging into a new ant’s nest or acting in imaginary worlds with your friends in the playground.

My colleagues live all over the world and I travel all around the world to work with them and share my research with them at international conferences. I have visited colleagues throughout England, Ireland, France, Switzerland, Israel, China, Singapore, United States and of course Australia. From each scientist I meet, I always learn an important lesson. Sometimes it is about how to better clarify ideas, how to be more rigorous in demonstrating an idea or learning different habits to enhance creative moments. Other times, it is being inspired by their enthusiasm, their optimism, their love of learning and most of all their kindness. I have also had the privilege to meet and work with many world-class researchers, some of whom I’ve wanted to meet since I was at NYSF. So sometimes dreams do come true!

STEM, Science, Alumni, Alumna, NYSF, National Youth Science Forum, Oxford University

Left: This is the first ever banquet dinner for the first Women in Physics Society in Oxford, which I helped to organise. We are standing outside the hall of Merton college, one of the oldest colleges in Oxford. Right: Invited to Jiao Tong University in Shanghai. I was born in Shanghai before moving to Australia when I was six, so physics has taken me back to my earliest roots.

Social activities outside my own research have also kept me quite busy and I have found these vital to keep life balanced and in perspective. Oxford has been the perfect place for me to learn from people dedicating themselves to different areas. Every other evening, I would be dining and engaged in discussions with a biologist, a chemist, an archaeologist, a linguist, an anthropologist, a mathematician, an historian, a free-lance adventurer, an economist, a roboticist, a musician, a writer, an engineer, a philosopher, a neuroscientist, an environmental scientist, or the occasional politician and ambassador. It is always super interesting and helpful to learn about the struggles of different people trying to overcome different obstacles in different fields of endeavour. These conversations are always an endless source of inspiration.

I also became the first social events coordinator for the first Women in Physics Society in Oxford and this provided an excellent opportunity to learn from amazing women physicists. I was also very lucky to belong to one of the oldest colleges in Oxford (Merton) and sang in the college choir for many years and performed regularly. One of the highlights is performing in the 750th anniversary celebration of the college and singing with world-class performers. Since coming to Singapore, I have been fortunate enough to join the chorus of the Singapore Lyric Opera Company and am due to perform in my first major opera production. Working with a fantastic team towards a thrilling goal is incredibly inspiring, whether it is in science or not!

In the twelve years since I attended NYSF, I have discovered that science is not a solitary island or an ivory castle in the clouds (you guys are smart and probably already know this, but I’m a bit slow). It is a vibrant marketplace, populated and run by people, with all the pluses and minuses that come with people. The direction of a field can be more often led by beliefs than by solid demonstrations. Therefore, to navigate better in science, I have found that it is important to better understand other people and how to interact with different kinds of people. Doing science is not a pure intellectual activity. It can be more often than not a heavily emotional activity. So it is important to take good care of yourself, to be kind to yourself and to keep the company of good friends. Resilience and enthusiasm counts for more than being clever. Success only happens perhaps 1% or less of the time (maybe you’ll be luckier than me), so it is important to keep yourself happy and motivated the rest of the time. I’ve always liked what Winston Churchill said, that no failure is fatal and no success is final. There’s no final destination and no real dead-ends, so it must be the ride that counts. You NYSFers are all amazing, resilient and unique, so just go for it and keep positive during the exciting ride that awaits you!

Meet Associate Professor Tara Murphy, 1995 National Youth Science Forum (NYSF) Alumna and Astrophysicist

STEM, Science, NYSF, National Youth Science Forum, astronomy

Tara giving an astronomy talk at Monivong High School in Battambang, Cambodia

“My time at NYSF was transformational. I am the first person in my family to attend university and I didn’t have ready access to anyone who could give me career advice. NYSF opened up a window to a whole new world.”

I’m an astrophysicist at the University of Sydney, working on transient radio sources: astronomical objects that vary on rapid timescales. These include extreme events like supernovae and gamma-ray bursts, as well as flaring stars and pulsars. My research is data-driven, I conduct surveys on telescopes like the Murchison Widefield Array, processing terabytes of data to find extremely rare objects in our Galaxy and beyond. I’m also the founder of an edtech start-up company, Grok Learning, https://groklearning.com with the mission of teaching kids to code. I think I have the best job(s) in the world!

When I finished high school I wasn’t sure what path I would follow, but I loved science (and literature, and lots of other things). I ended up choosing a Bachelor of Science (Advanced) at the University of Sydney. My decision was based on two things: advice from the veterinarian I did work experience with in Year 10, who said “if you really love science you should do a science degree” and the advice I got when I attended NYSF in 1995, where the advantages of general science degrees was explained. I really enjoyed my university experience, and I ended up majoring in physics and mathematics, and then went on to do Honours in astrophysics.

Science, STEM, NYSF

With colleagues from AT20G Survey team, arriving at Ayers Rock Airport to be the first CAASTRO Astronormer in Residence at Uluru, with 4 of Tara’s radio astronomy student at graduation last year.

After I graduated most of my friends decided to go overseas for postgraduate study, and so we scattered around the world. I went to Edinburgh with my boyfriend (a computer scientist) and did a PhD in astrophysics. I learned a lot about science, but I also got absorbed by the Edinburgh Festival, travelled around Europe, and went on some fun cycling trips. After a postdoctoral position at CSIRO I got a fellowship and then an academic position at Sydney.

“My time at NYSF was transformational. I am the first person in my family to attend university and I didn’t have ready access to anyone who could give me career advice. NYSF opened up a window to a whole new world.

It (NYSF) had such an impact on me that for 10 years I was Director of the National Computer Science School, a similar program that focuses on IT. The highlight was when a student from the country walked into the Google Sydney offices and said: “Wow, I didn’t realise that jobs like this existed”. That’s how I felt as a student at NYSF, and now I’m lucky enough to have one of those cool jobs I didn’t even know about when I was at high school!

Tara has just released lots of video lectures in a (free) MOOC that may be of interest to NYSF alumni https://www.coursera.org/learn/data-driven-astronomy/lecture/fA0EF/thinking-about-data

ANU Event – Girls in Engineering and Technology Program (GET Set)

The ANU has the following event on offer to young women interested in engineering and technology with registrations now open.

Girls in Engineering and Technology Program (GET Set) is designed for female students in years 11 and 12, who wish to explore an education and career in engineering or technology.

This year The Australian National University (ANU) is celebrating the 10th GET Set event with a very special program of activities. This free, fun-filled day of non-competitive activities includes design, test and build tasks, lectures, demonstrations and more.

To find out more and register, visit the ANU College of Engineering and Computer Science website.

Date: Wednesday 19 July 2017

Time: 8.30am-4pm

Location: Ian Ross Building 31, The Australian National University

 

What’s happening at Melbourne University?

What’s happening at Melbourne? News and Updates from Parkville

As written by the University of Melbourne

FOCUS ON MELBOURNE – COURSE INFORMATION EVENINGS

Our Focus on Agriculture, Biomedicine, Engineering, I.T, Science and Veterinary Science information evenings are a great way to learn more about our Biomedicine and Science undergraduate degrees and career pathways. The event will feature a range of different presentations, Q&A panels and opportunities to meet with our current staff and students.

  • Talk to our friendly staff about your study options in 2018
  • Hear from current students and staff about, and get a glimpse of University life
  • Explore majors, breadth options, electives, internships and research opportunities in your chosen faculty

Focus on Biomedicine – Tuesday 16 May
Focus on Agriculture – Thursday 18 May
Focus on Veterinary Science – Thursday 18 May
Focus on Engineering -Tuesday 23 May
Focus on I.T – Wednesday 24 May
Focus on Science – Tuesday 30 May

To learn more and register, visit the Focus on Melbourne website: https://futurestudents.unimelb.edu.au/explore/events/victoria_and_interstate/victoria/focus-on-melbourne

SHARKS – HOW A CULL CAN RUIN AN ECOSYSTEM

Killing of sharks in high numbers can devastate oceanic ecosystems, leading to plummeting populations and serious environmental consequences. Associate Professor Robert Day, a marine biologist in the School of BioSciences at the University of Melbourne, says sharks’ role is so tightly interwoven with the health of the ocean, if their numbers are reduced everything goes out of balance.

“The top predators in any ecosystem are very important because they decide on whether other creatures become numerous or not,” he says.

“If there is a lack of sharks, then fish and other ocean creatures that would otherwise be consumed by sharks will become too numerous and eat too many smaller creatures and so on, meaning that the whole ecosystem changes massively.”

Find out more about this amazing research here!

PLANTS HAVE FEELINGS TOO!

Plants may not have eyes, ears or a tongue, but their skin can perform many of the same functions. Plants are not only aware of when it rains or when it’s windy, but they can respond accordingly.

Dr Kim Johnson, a research fellow in the School of BioSciences, University of Melbourne, studies the world of plant senses.

“Plants are constantly under environmental stresses. You can actually see how plants respond to those physical stresses because they change their shape,” Dr Kim Johnson says.

“So if a plant is getting constantly hit with strong wind, it will actually change shape to better resist that wind; if roots hit a rock, they’ll grow around it, so they sense things around them.”

Find out more about this amazing research here!

FROM POKEMON GO TO THE CLASS ROOM – HOW THE UNIVERSITY OF MELBOURNE AND MICROSOFT IS TAKING STUDENTS UNDER THE SKINS OF THEIR PATIENTS

Pokémon Go pushed Augmented Reality, or AR, into the mainstream, sending over 500 million people chasing cartoons with their smartphones. But now, in a unique multi-disciplinary collaboration, it’s making the leap from entertainment to education.

A new fusion of augmented reality, gaming technology, and anatomy is giving physiotherapy students at the University of Melbourne access to cutting-edge technology to take a look inside the human body by projecting different layers of muscles and bones over the top of a volunteer ‘patient’. It provides an inside view of how the body works as it moves in real time.

By using tracking sensors mounted on a scaffold it projects images of our muscles and skeleton directly onto a volunteer. The images automatically follow the shape and movement of the body, giving students in the studio space an interactive all-round view of how our bodies work. It can even allow them and their teachers to “draw” on the projected image to make information and action more explicit.

Find out more about this amazing research here!

An update from the University of Queensland

There is much happening at the University of Queensland – Here is an overview of recent and upcoming events.

UQ St Lucia campus tours
This is a great way to become familiar with the campus. If you take your tour between 6 March – 30 October 2017 you can go into the draw to win a GoPro HERO5 Black, a Red Balloon Voucher and a UQ shirt, at a total value of $800.
To book a guided tour, visit UQ’s Future Students website.

Big Day In
8 June 2017
UQ is hosting the Big Day In on 8 June in the AEB Auditorium at our St Lucia campus. Join us to hear leading speakers from companies such as Microsoft, Adobe, Technology One, WiseTech Global, Tata Consultancy Services plus loads more. Tickets are $10 for students.  Book now.

Scinema

8 June 2017
SCINEMA is a celebration of the power of the moving image to tell stories about the world, how it works, and our place in it. There are hundreds of science stories to be told on screen. Festival screenings will take place across Australia, with the Brisbane screening at the Palace Barracks Cinema at Petrie Terrace. Book your tickets online.

Experience Science 2017
Register as: An individual student – individual students may register to attend on Friday 7 July.
Experience Science is a free event that provides students in years 10 – 12 the opportunity to discover what studying science is like at UQ and how science is applied in industry and everyday life. The event is facilitated by experts from UQ and industry through a series of hands-on, interactive science workshops.

Visit UQ at TSXPO
16 – 17 July 2016
The Tertiary Studies Expo is on again at the RNA Showgrounds. More than 250 representatives from universities and industry will be present and admission is FREE. Drop in and speak to UQ staff about programs, study options and exchange opportunities.


Register now for UQ Earth and Environment Day
21 July 2017 – Register as an individual.
Come and experience the applications and relevance of
geography, planning, earth sciences and environmental management, and find out about career with real world impact. For more information, visit UQ Earth and Environment Day.

 

See UQ up close  –  UQ Open Days
7th August – St Lucia Campus & 21st August – Gatton Campus
UQ Open Day is your chance to get a feel for what it’s like to be a UQ student. At our Open Day you
can speak with staff, take a campus tour and attend information sessions about studying and life at UQ.

AYAF Brisbane
3 – 7 July 2017
The Australian Youth Aerospace Forum (AYAF) is a five-day residential conference on campus at UQ which provides students in years 11 and 12 the opportunity to investigate careers and pathways in the aerospace industry. The forum showcases university and industry opportunities available to students upon completion of secondary school. Applications close Friday 26 May 2017.

 

Spinifex and snakes: women in STEM applauded
Two University of Queensland researchers have won the Queensland Women in STEM competition in recognition of their work paving the way for young women to enter science careers.

 

SPARQ-ed
June-November 2017
The SPARQ-ed Program is a unique initiative of the Translational Research Institute (TRI), the UQ Diamantina Institute (UQDI) and Queensland’s Department of Education and Training (DET) proudly bringing together quality researchers to engage with keen science students and their teachers throughout Queensland.
Spaces are still available in many programs for years 10-12.

 

 

News from Monash University

Monash University has invested more than $200 million in the last few years to transform the Clayton-based Science Faculty into one of the leading science precincts in the southern hemisphere.

Spanning the disciplines of Physics and Astronomy, Biology, Chemistry, Earth Atmosphere and Environment, and Mathematics, the Science Precinct at Monash University has recently been transformed into a research powerhouse and provides state-of-the-art research, teaching and learning environments.

From the new Chemistry laboratories to the science student only lounge, the spaces provide an excellent on-campus experience. Monash’s approach to teaching is ground breaking and includes world-class and unique outdoor classrooms such as the Earth Sciences Garden and the Jock Marshal Reserve facility.

The new 360 virtual reality video offers the opportunity to experience these facilities.

To see this please visit http://www.monash.edu/monash-science-precinct

(Note mobile users: best results please view in the YouTube App.)