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

VTAC APPLICATIONS NOW OPEN

The VTAC timely course application period is now open for Year 12 students who are thinking of applying for a Tertiary Education place in 2018, closing on Friday September 28, 2017.

The University of Melbourne offers through its Melbourne Model, the opportunity to create your own study path in over 41 different areas of Science through our Bachelor of Science and Bachelor of Biomedical Science degrees like in areas such as Biology, Chemistry, Animal Health and Disease Management, Physics and Physiology.

Learn more about how our Melbourne Model will immerse you in a different way of thinking here!

 

CAUGHT! THE CELL BEHIND A LUNG CANCER

For four years straight, medical researcher Clare Weeden would go on alert whenever lung surgery was underway anywhere across Melbourne. No matter the time, she would have to be ready in her lab to receive samples of fresh tissue as part of a project to isolate and research the stem cells that repair our lungs as they constantly breathe in contaminants from air pollution to cigarette smoke.

Basal stem cells are very quick at repairing DNA damage caused by inhaled chemicals such as those from cigarette smoke, but they are prone to making mistakes. It means that the more repair work they have to do, the greater the chance of a cancer-causing mutation.

“It isn’t definitive but the evidence is that lung basal stem cells are the likely cells of origin.” Claire says.

Find out more about this amazing research here!

 

CLIMATE CHANGE IN THE AGE OF TRUMP

Just as it seemed the world was starting to make serious efforts towards halting climate change, the United States – a country always considered essential to an effective international response – has elected a leader openly hostile towards climate science and climate action and who is already acting on that hostility.

What does the election of President Trump mean for worldwide attempts to limit warming to well below two degrees Celsius? Where can we find hope? What can Australians, particularly the intelligentsia, learn from his election and the local and international responses to his efforts to unravel US action on climate change? How can and should we respond?

Join us at Melbourne for this free lecture as part of the University’s lecture series ‘The Wednesday Lectures 2017: The Intelligentsia in The Age of Trump’ on Wednesday 30 August in our Public Lecture Theatre, Old Arts Building in Parkville.

Book your spot at our lecture series here!

 

BRUSH YOUR TEETH… IT COULD SAVE YOUR LIFE

Next time you’re racing out of the house without cleaning your teeth, think again. Neglecting your pearly whites can lead to a lot more than the odd filling.

It’s the simplest of actions, but brushing your teeth properly with a good fluoride toothpaste that produces plenty of white froth could save your life. Gum disease is extremely common. One in three adults and more than 50 per cent of Australians over the age of 65 have moderate to severe periodontitis, which is caused by an imbalance of bacteria in the mouth.

Led by University of Melbourne researchers, a global network of experts is working to improve the situation and potentially improve the health of millions of people.

“A lot of people just think they clean their teeth,” Professor Reynolds says. “But you actually have to clean the gum margin – it’s absolutely critical – and in between your teeth. Periodontitis starts in the gaps in between your teeth and around the gum. People are so focussed on tooth decay that they scrub the biting surfaces, which does nothing for periodontal disease.

“You should not only do your gums, in soft circular motions, you should clean the … top layer of your tongue as far back as you can go with the tooth brush and the tooth paste. Scrub it, froth it up. Because it’s that froth, the suds, that gets the biofilm … that harbours the bacteria.”

Read more about this announcement here!

NYSF Alumnus Sandro Young – from top graduate to a career at Google

“I graduated from the University of Toronto with the highest grades in my class, and with a full-time offer from Google. I’ll be moving to Mountain View, California in September. I’m excited to start the next chapter in my life, and I’m thankful for the role that NYSF played in setting me out on this path.”

At the National Youth Science Forum (NYSF) we are more than happy to blow the trumpet for our fantastic alumni and their achievements and NYSF 2011 Alumnus, Sandro Young is no exception!  Sandro recently graduated from the University of Toronto (U of T) as its top student and has already lined up a new career with Google in California.

Sandro talks to us about his time at NYSF and the journey that has lead him to a career with Google.

“Hi! My name is Sandro Young, and I’m an alumnus from the National Youth Science Forum (NYSF) 2011. I’m from Canada, and attended the NYSF as part of a science-themed cultural exchange. In 2010, I participated in the Canada-Wide Science Fair – a competition in which finalists from across Canada in Grades 7-12 are invited to showcase their science fair projects. As part of NYSF’s International Program, a delegation of NYSF alumni visited Canada to attend the fair. The NYSF delegation then selected a handful of Canadian students to attend the following year’s NYSF, and I was lucky enough to be among them.

NYSF was a formative experience for me. I was interested in STEM throughout high school, but NYSF really solidified that interest for me. We visited some amazing labs, including a particle accelerator, an astronomical observatory, and a massive supercomputer. We heard talks from incredible scientists and engineers, including a scientist working on the LHC at CERN. We held mock debates about the future of energy and the ethical implications of genetic engineering. We went to barbeques, picnics, trivia nights, and a science-themed disco. I made some incredible friendships over the course of the forum. It was also the first time I got to visit Australia, and I loved discovering this beautiful country.

After finishing high school, spurred on by the experiences at NYSF, I decided to pursue a degree in computer engineering at the University of Toronto. University offered plenty of exciting opportunities. I worked on a robotics team, designing a rover which autonomously navigated obstacle courses. I co-led the Spark Design Club, fusing engineering with art to create large interactive displays. I interned at Altera (now owned by Intel), a company which builds reconfigurable integrated circuits. I developed an interest in artificial intelligence, and took courses in machine learning, computer vision, and natural language processing. Finally, I got an internship at Google, where I had the opportunity to work on real-world machine learning problems.

I graduated from the University of Toronto with the highest grades in my class, and with a full-time offer from Google. I’ll be moving to Mountain View, California in September. I’m excited to start the next chapter in my life, and I’m thankful for the role that NYSF played in setting me out on this path.”

You can read more about Sandro’s achievements at the U of T HERE.

NYSF 1987 Alumnus, Dr Jason Smith, talks about his varied career path

I attended the National Youth Science Forum (NYSF), formerly known as the National Science Summer School (NSSS), in 1987, some 30 years ago – that does make me sound old! It was the first time I realised there were lots of other kids like me who really enjoyed science, and it was fantastic to make friends across the country with others who shared a similar outlook. I was in the Human Biology group at NYSF/NSSS, which gave me a great insight into the world of health care and science within it.

Following Year 12 I studied Medicine at University of Queensland (UQ) and after working as a hospital doctor for a couple of years I started work as a GP. I then studied Civil Engineering as it was another area of interest for me, and I worked in that area for a short while before coming back to Medicine. After more time working as a GP, I undertook specialist training to become an anatomical pathologist, which is my job now and I love it.

In high school my favourite subject was biology and at the NYSF/NSSS I was amazed to see the possibilities that science was bringing to this field. The emerging knowledge of genetics that I first became interested in at NYSF/NSSS is now part of my regular work in regards to the different genetic mutations in tumours that we test for. A better understanding of these mutations allows for more accurate diagnoses and treatment with newer targeted therapies. This area of medical science is still changing at a rapid pace!

The NYSF/NSSS had a profound effect on me. It gave me the motivation to keep studying hard at school to get into university and opened my eyes to the wide range of jobs and careers that are based on the different sciences. It also gave me self-confidence – even if my school mates thought I was a bit of a nerd, I now knew there were others just like me all around the country who I’d met and made friends with.

I still keep in touch with fellow students from NYSF/NSSS 1987, both as friends and work colleagues. And although I’ve lost contact with some of the other students I met there, I’m sure many of them have also found their way to a happy and successful life somewhere in the sciences.

You can donate to the NYSF at any time

Did you know you can donate to support the activities of the National Youth Science Forum?

The NYSF holds Donor Gift Recipient (DGR) status with the Australian Taxation Office and all donations to the NYSF over $2 will attract tax deductions in your tax return.

Some people choose to give through the Good2Give platform where the donation is processed by their employer as part of their regular pay.

NYSF CEO, Dr Damien Pearce, says that workplace giving platforms are a valuable mechanism for people who want to make a difference over a longer timeframe by donating small amounts throughout the year.

“We want to acknowledge the support of these donors – we really appreciate them considering the NYSF as a donor recipient. People are still also able to make one-off donations at any time during the year through our website. Just go to www.nysf.edu.au and scroll down to the bottom of the page – under the “Get in Touch” section there are options for making donations. All of the funds donated go towards the delivery of quality NYSF programs.”

Meet the Youth Advisors of NYSF STEM Explorer

“Australia needs more students passionate about STEM and wanting to work in these fields. I want to play a role in making students aware of the pathways they can take in STEM but also show them how interesting it can be.” Damian

The National Youth Science Forum (NYSF) has used a by youth for youth model in our NYSF Year 12 Program for the majority of its 35 years in operation. This is just one aspect that makes the program so unique! This same tried and tested model has also been implemented for the new STEM Explorer program running in Adelaide this week. What we have found through this model is that the young participants on program find the youth leaders highly relatable and inspiring as they are close enough in age and stage that they can more easily picture themselves in their shoes. Being a Youth Advisor also offers a great opportunity to develop leadership skills.  The Youth Advisors volunteering at STEM Explorer are all NYSF alumni, and the majority are currently pursuing their own future in STEM through university or graduate jobs.

There were ten fantastic Youth Advisor volunteers lending a hand at STEM Explorer. I spoke to some of them on site and here are some of the pearls they had to pass on to our young STEM enthusiasts.

Teejay is currently studying to become a maths and science teacher at the University of Newcastle and loves sharing her passion for science and learning.

Reflecting on her own time as a participant with NYSF, Teejay said “The NYSF introduced me to creative scientific thinking and made science interesting and relatable. I loved that the NYSF taught us science through experiences. Everyone at NYSF radiated a passion for science and learning which inspired me to become a science and maths teacher so I could show more students that passion.”

Katie is nearing the end of a Bachelor of Information Technology & Science at the University of Queensland. Katie feels very passionate about the value of STEM and supporting young students to pursue this. “I applied for the Youth Advisor role with STEM Explorer because supporting students through the early days of an education in these fields is an endeavour I will always be passionate about.”

Damian is currently completing a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Sydney. He applied for the role as a Youth Advisor because – “Australia needs more students passionate about STEM and wanting to work in these fields in the future, I want to play a role in making students aware of the pathways they can take in STEM but also show them how interesting it can be.”

We asked the Youth Advisors – If you could give one piece of advice to the Year 7 & 8 students attending STEM Explorer, about pursuing a future in STEM, what would it be?

Here is what they had to say:

“Do it! There are an infinite variety of jobs in STEM and the beauty is, if you don’t like any of them you can make your own job. STEM is limitless and always changing, you will never be bored or lose passion within STEM.” – Tegan

Parallel to the NYSF’s own key mission, Damian says “Keep your options open and try as many things as possible, particularly at such a young age.  You never know what opportunities you will come by and which of those opportunities you will enjoy.”

What the NYSF has found through so many years of running STEM programs is the power in bringing together so many young students who are all enthusiastic about the same thing – STEM! The energy at the STEM Explorer Program in Adelaide was testament to that.

A big thank you to all our NYSF STEM Explorer Youth Advisors!

Highlights of NYSF STEM Explorer 2017

“I thought it was very interactive, interesting and fun to learn about how things can be structured.”

NYSF STEM Explorers were kept busy throughout the five-day program in Adelaide.

Arriving on Monday afternoon, participants spent the first afternoon getting to know each other, their Youth Advisors and the NYSF team.

On Tuesday, the day kicked off with a critical and scientific thinking workshop hosted by Ellen from NYSF designed to encourage analytical thinking and questioning, so important in this era of fake news. That afternoon was the first off-site lab visits, where the participants were split into five groups, visiting five different sites.

One group was thrilled to explore Lochiel Park, a housing development using latest science innovations to strive for sustainable, low emission living. In Lochiel Park the houses have a minimum 7.5 star energy efficiency rating and use on average 64% less energy than an average house. The Park has won a number of design awards since first being built over a decade ago and is supported by a a strong community engagement program.

Another visit toured the South Australian Aquatic Sciences Centre, a purpose-built marine and freshwater research facility. Students learned about why it is important to manage fishing stock into the future, and the Centre’s role in supporting the sustainable management of those fisheries resources. They also looked at the wider aquatic environment and how it underpins sustainable growth of aquaculture industries in South Australia, which can lead to future employment for the community.  The tour showed how oysters are grown, and how algae is farmed and harvested to feed crustaceans. Students dissected fish, looking closely at the otilith – a small bone in a fish’s ear that determines its age.

Mount Barker High School student, Cameron said the visit was well prepared and very informative.

“There is a lot under the topic of marine biology – a lot of work that isn’t talked about,” he said. “We learnt a lot of things like the management of fisheries, different methods of catching fish and other sea life.”

At the visit to the South Australian Museum on Wednesday the Chief Scientist of South Australia, Dr Leanna Read, spoke to the students about her role and own career. There were also talks from two PhD candidates – a palaeontologist and a microbiologist – both of whom engaged the students with their stories from their fields. More site visits, including to  South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute (SAHMRI) where the students toured the innovative building and learned that the design was modelled on a pine cone (and not a cheese grater as many often comment). With 16,000 windows and more than 600 scientists, there is certainly a lot going on at SAHMRI!

The University of Adelaide’s Why Waite program hosted students for some fascinating hands-on science. In the soil experiment, they learned about the different absorption properties of sand, soil and clay and how this would impact plants growing in those different soils. After that, the students got their hands dirty learning how to extract DNA from strawberries.

The University of South Australia hosted five visits from students.  In one visit, “Waging Peace”, they learned about the ongoing impacts of land mines used in war-torn countries. And during a tower building exercise, they put on their engineering hats. Working in teams, they set about designing and drafting plans to build a tower out of spaghetti and marshmallows so it could support a small can of tuna.

Monique from Parafield Gardens High School took away a lot from the Tower Building workshop:

“I thought it was very interactive, interesting and fun to learn about how things can be structured.  I learnt that through trial and error and team work you can make something better.”

The Government of South Australia’s Natural Resources Management Board (NRM) Water Testing Activity saw all of  the STEM Explorers take to the water at the Mylor Adventure Camp – the program’s host site.  During the water testing in the local creek they looked for aquatic macro-invertebrates, and found numerous specimens from yabbies to scuds, mosquito larvae and water mites.  They also surveyed the bird life to gain a general overview of the biodiversity at Mylor.

Amy Blaylock, NRM Education Officer said the testing helped to make the students aware that there is so much life around them, even though they can’t see it.

“Even though they’re (macro-invertebrates) small they’re still part of the eco-system.  They give us a long-term picture of what’s happening with the eco-system.  It’s fascinating because you get so many stories of adaptation and niches they occupy.”

NYSF STEM Explorer roams across the Adelaide landscape

The first National Youth Science Forum (NYSF) STEM Explorer Program was delivered successfully in July, and what a week it was! Running from 17-21 July in Adelaide, the Program was the first residential STEM camp in Australia for year 7-8 students. Feedback from the students, site visit providers and all involved has been overwhelmingly positive allowing a strong base to build for next year’s program.

The NYSF STEM Explorer Program was delivered as a partnership by the NYSF and South Australian Department of Education and Child Development (DECD).  Championed by the NYSF’s Science Patron, Professor Tanya Monro from the University of South Australia, and supported by the Hon Susan Close MP, Minister for Education and Child Development and also for Higher Education, the STEM Explorer Program was designed to stimulate students’ interest in the study of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).

“The STEM Explorer Program is an ideal opportunity for our students to explore STEM on a deeper level and network with other students and experts who share similar interests and levels of passion in these subjects. There’s an identified need for more STEM graduates in the state, and NYSF have worked hard to tailor their specialist pilot program to profile a host of opportunities,” said Ms Close.

Picture: The Hon Susan Close MP speaking to the participants about the value of STEM.

Professor Tanya Monro believes STEM skills are critical to keep Australia moving as an innovative country. “STEM literacy is simply a core capability that Australian employers need. As an education provider, NYSF is proud to offer a new program which aims to attract new students to STEM and equip them with the necessary skills and knowledge to succeed.”

Picture: Professor Tanya Monro, NYSF Science Patron, getting to know the students in the Monro interest group.

A huge thank you to all of our supporters, who generously offered their time and resources to host the students and share with them their own science endeavours, research and passion for STEM:

  • The University of South Australia
  • The University of Adelaide – including the Why Waite program
  • Flinders University
  • the South Australian Museum
  • SciWorld
  • the South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute (SAHMRI)
  • the South Australian Research and Development Institute (SARDI)
  • the South Australian Aquatic Sciences Centre (SAASC) and the
  • NRM Education – a program of the Adelaide and Mount Lofty Ranges Natural Resources Management Board.
  • Finally, a big thanks to Mylor Adventure Camp for being excellent and supportive hosts!

Most importantly we owe thanks to our funding partners SA DECD and the National Innovation and Science Agenda (NISA).

Read about the NYSF STEM Explorer Program highlights here.