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

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

NYSF 2017 Session A: Speed Date A Scientist

Speed Date A Scientist is an annual event at the NYSF that allows small groups of students sit and chat with many a variety of scientists from various disciplines and backgrounds. The turnout of scientists willing to be interrogated by the NYSF 2017 Session A cohort was phenomenal, resulting in an average of one scientist per group of four students.

The students have the opportunity to ask these scientists about their field, their career path, and their life in general. This article is a collection of quotes (including some bombs of wisdom) from some of incredible scientists who made the event possible.

Dr A J Mitchell – Nuclear Physics, RSPE ANU

“If you’re passionate about what you do, it makes going to work a whole lot easier.”

“At the heart of every atom you have a collection of protons and neutrons that really shouldn’t be held together – there is a whole lot of positive charge very close together so they should repel apart. The work we do is study that nuclei.”

“We collide them together, see what radiation comes off, and use that as a fingerprint to determine properties such as shape. This gives us a fundamental understanding of nuclear forces.”

“I always enjoyed mathematics and physics, and just always pursued what I enjoyed and now people pay me to do it.”

“If you’re passionate about what you do, it makes going to work a whole lot easier.”

 

Matt Lee – Assistant Director of Strategic Communication, IP Australia

“Doing a double degree you meet a whole bunch of different people, and you can demonstrate to employers that you have skills in many different fields.”

“Doing a double degree you meet a whole bunch of different people, and you can demonstrate to employers that you have skills in many different fields. For me I’m able to quickly read documents and give a sharp overview. It also gave me a strong understanding of global politics.”

“I go around to a lot of startup companies in IT, ag-tech, drone-tech, fin-tech and see a lot of amazing things.”

“One discipline in huge demand at the moment is data science. Everything involves data, but how do you make sense of it? People are needed to take the data, figure out how to interpret it, and make decisions.”

 

Gerard Dwyer – Teacher (Canberra Institute of Technology) and Education Officer (National Zoo and Aquarium)

“I used to like picking up and playing with lizards, but never realised it could be a job.”

“I used to like picking up and playing with lizards, but never realised it could be a job. Then I went to Questacon and got a job feeding the spiders – I love spiders so it was the easiest job I’ve ever had.”

“If you want to work in environmental areas, it pays to be interested in everything. ACT is good, because we have really strong legislation when it comes to the environment.”

“I realised that I can’t fix everything, but at least I can teach a lot of people.”

Gerard’s lizard friend, Sally

 

Claire Howell (Manager at National Forest Inventory)

“Do what you’re passionate about, and if you’re not sure what that is then do what you’re good at because that’s also motivating.”

“When I was in year 11 and 12 I knew I loved being outdoors, and I wanted to do Forest Science at university but I didn’t get in. So I did really well in my first year in another degree and then made my case with the Dean of the faculty and was transferred into second year Forestry.”

“Don’t think that your career will always be your career, because it will change.”

“Do what you’re passionate about, and if you’re not sure what that is then do what you’re good at because that’s also motivating.”

Students meet Claire Howell (Manager at National Forest Inventory) and Stuart Davey (Forest Ecology, Institute of Foresters Australia)

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

NYSF 2017 Session A: Human Centred Computing

Nikola Poli (left) and Declan Rixon (right) in the lab

In Session A, NYSF 2017 participants ventured over to the Research School of Computer Science at ANU for a workshop and presentation on Human Centred Computing.

Human Centred Computing (HCC) is based around optimizing computing for people. It is concerned with the function of the computer just as much as it is concerned with ergonomics and the understanding of humans.

After a short introduction to the basics of HCC, students were free to roam around and the lab and look at some of the devices that the PhD students there had been working on.

Human Centered Computing

They had some pretty cool stuff on display, one being an eye tracking exercise through which you can navigate a computer by eye movements alone.

This technology could have an application for people who are unable to use their hands to navigate, but can also be used to learn what kind of information attracts attention on screen, and what doesn’t.

The eye gazing data can also be combined with measurements of heart rate and endodermal activity, then analysed using deep learning or neural network technology to paint a picture of how the content on the screen is making the user feel.

Eye gazing technology

This is the project of PhD student Chris from the Research School of Computer Science at ANU, who had a bit to say about career paths and life in computer science and software engineering:

“Everybody uses technology. Our graduates go off everywhere to big banks, startups and so on. There are always new ways to apply the way of thinking, and there are a wide range of things that IT can apply to.”

“My work is to research into how people use websites, read emails and so on, but the way you configure it could make it good for many things such as self-driving cars or finding a cancer tumour. The basis is the same – neural networks are able to iterate and learn by themselves.”

There are always new ways to apply the way of thinking, and there are a wide range of things that IT can apply to.

Another cool device they had was the Myo PowerPoint arm band, which when strapped to your forearm can monitor the electrical activity of your nerves and allow you to navigate a slideshow using hand gestures.

Double tap your thumb and index finger to go to the next slide, flick your wrist to go back, clench your fist and turn to zoom it. A built in gyroscope even allows you to use your fingertip as a laser pointer!

A very stoked Tom Wright (NYSF student) learning to navigate a PowerPoint presentation with hand gestures

The students left the lab today feeling pretty blown away I think. Myself included. The work that they’re doing here is super cutting edge and exciting, and I can’t wait for the day that I can write these articles with my eyeballs.

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

NYSF 2017: Chemistry at ANU

Did you know that the level of vitamin C legally defines the difference between a fruit drink and a fruit juice? Well you do now. The purpose of this definition is to prevent manufactures from watering down their juices, and that’s what some of our students investigated first NYSF lab visit at the Research School of Chemistry at ANU.

The students used a technique called a titration to experimentally determine the concentration of vitamin C in a particular orange juice (to keep those sneaky juice manufacturers in check).

The students added an indicator to their sample of orange juice, then very carefully, drop by drop, added another liquid which consumes the vitamin C and causes a colour change. By monitoring how much liquid they add, they can accurately calculate the vitamin C content.

Maths, maths, maths.

Measuring vitamin C is cool, but you can’t have a chemistry lab without some Frankenstein-style experiments. So next our students synthesized some fluorescein – a substance which gives off an eerie green glow when struck with ultraviolet light.

Here the students learned how to use several new pieces of lab equipment, including analytical scales and oil baths used to heat samples to over 200oC. After several involved steps they added the final ingredient and produced a gooey green substance, which after much poking and prodding on the benches and inside the ultraviolet cabinet, they managed to produce several masterpieces:

The “Curie” interest group and their marvelous creation.

Fluorescent NYSF goo under an ultraviolet light.

The students had a blast on the benches and all learned a thing or two about chemistry and skills in the lab. Knowing the concepts and calculations on paper is one thing, but as they found, performing the experiments and learning the ins and out of the laboratory environment is a whole other can of worms.

The demonstrators at the Research School of Chemistry did an incredible job exposing the students to real bench work in a real lab environment, and each of the students came away not only with huge smiles on their faces, but with a new bag of tricks in the lab and some important bricks to add to their wall of knowledge.

But that’s not the end – they even left with buckets of liquid nitrogen ice-cream. How cool is that?

The faster you stir, the better it tastes.

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

NYSF 2017 Session A: Opening Ceremony

On Wednesday, the participants in NYSF 2017 Session A were off to the Australian Parliament House for the official Opening Ceremony. After the “compulsory” group selfies outside of Parliament House and a wait in the queue for the security check, they found themselves inside the Main Committee Room for a series of talks.

The Ceremony began with Mr Andrew Metcalfe AO, Chair of the National Science Summer School (NSSS) board, who had some fine words for the students making the most of attending the NYSF:

“The next couple of weeks is an opportunity for you to immerse yourself in all aspects of Australian science, the diversity of Australian science, and the opportunity to make friends and contacts from which you will benefit for a lifetime.”

After introducing the program Mr Metcalfe handed over to Mr Steve Hill, Rotary District Governor 9710, who recognised the key role that the students play in the ongoing success of the NYSF, as well as the critical parts they go on to play for the future of Australia:

“The most important thing in the world is our youth, our youth is our future. Every Rotarian in the world now recognises that without the assistance of our youth, us old folks can’t do it.”

“We need you to carry on into the future and to make this world a better place. For the next two weeks take advantage of what you’ve been given. Take all opportunities with both hands and run with them.”

“For the next two weeks take advantage of what you’ve been given. Take all opportunities with both hands and run with them.”

The students also heard from Dr Anna Cowan, Deputy Director of Education at the Australian National University (ANU)’s College for Medicine, Biology, and Environment, and the ANU College for Physical and Mathematical Sciences.

Dr Cowan has covered a lot over her extensive career, specializing in topics such as the central nervous system, cellular nervous systems, receptors and membrane biology, as well as other neurosciences. She is a renowned and esteemed scientist, and assured the students that they were in for good things by coming to the NYSF and following their passion in science:

“NYSF will be one of the most significant choices that will shape your future as a scientist. From my perspective, you’ve made the right choice. Not only in giving up your time over summer to attend the NYSF, but also in following your interest in science.”

 “STEM underpins a differentiated and adaptable economy. And such an economy is what is required in our rapidly changing environment. Automation and technological enhancements will change the work force, however they will also create new jobs. Most of those jobs will require science and technology.”

STEM underpins a differentiated and adaptable economy. And such an economy is what is required in our rapidly changing environment

Dr Cowan is also passionate about teaching and professional development, and dropped some gems that I’d be printing out and sticking to my wall if I were a student at the NYSF in 2017:

“The best scientists I know are those who are motivated by curiosity – by a need to understand their environment and who are driven by the opportunity which scientific knowledge provides to help humankind.”

“I challenge you while at the NYSF to find further insight into the world of scientific research. To exercise and expand your scientific curiosity, and to become an active and engaged member of the NYSF community. It is people like you, and your generation, that continue to navigate the challenges of our world. I wish you a fascinating and inspirational experience.”

It is people like you, and your generation, that continue to navigate the challenges of our world.

After the formal proceedings the students headed off for tours of Parliament House, followed by mock parliamentary debates about energy policy.

The first lab visits for the students are on the horizon – stay tuned for stories of students doing some seriously sciency things.

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

NYSF 2017 Session A: Welcome lecture

What better way to kick off the NYSF 2017 than with a visit to the Australian Academy of Science – in particular, the iconic Shine Dome itself. Students were off to an early start for the annual photoshoot outside of the Dome. We then ventured inside to be welcomed by the CEO of the Australian Academy of Science, Ms Anna-Maria Arabia.

Ms Arabia outlined the role of the Academy, its philosophy towards science, and learning in general, at the AAS:

“Here [at the Academy of Science] we raise science, we nurture it, from primary schools all the way through to research.”

“Being a scientist has very little to do with what you think, but everything to do with how you think.”

Being a scientist has very little to do with what you think, but everything to do with how you think.

That second thought in particular really struck a chord with the students. It’s good to be reminded that it isn’t which degree you choose or which courses you take that matters, but ultimately how you grow your skills as a thinker and a scientist.

To wrap up Ms Arabia left the students with some sound career advice, as well as an insight regarding the motivation for pushing scientific research:

“I encourage you to think about your passion for science and technology in the broadest of terms, and to be open to the many career paths that may be open to you.”

“There are endless discoveries to be made that can improve our health and bring about a better understanding of the world around us.”

Following Ms Arabia’s introduction we were given a presentation by Professor Linda Richards, Deputy Director of the Queensland Brain Institute.

Professor Richards graduated from Monash University with a Bachelor of Science and First Class Honours, then later went on to complete her PhD at The University of Melbourne. Her story seems uncommon, and is also quite powerful:

“When I was your age I didn’t think I would finish school. I left halfway through year 11 due to circumstances out of my control. But I knew I wanted to make a difference in the world, and so I needed to continue my education.”

Professor Richards acted on that thought, and now leads a lab group  of 14 people at the Queensland Brain Institute, and spends her time researching how the brain is wired during development. Through her words she displayed a burning passion for her work:

“Being a scientist is one of the most amazing career paths you could possibly aspire to. It is the ultimate way of intellectual curiosity. It isn’t just a job. It is a way of looking at the world. And of solving the big problems that face humanity.”

It isn’t just a job. It is a way of looking at the world. And of solving the big problems that face humanity.

Professor Richards also placed a huge emphasis on legacy, and encouraged the students to think early on about the mark they want to leave on the world:

Scientists around the world are building a pyramid of knowledge. If you can leave a legacy, which is what drives me, then you can make a difference in the world.”

It’s not every day that you come across scientists so passionate and engaged in their work, and so today was a real pleasure. I’m sure I don’t just speak for myself when I say I left feeling energized and inspired to go and do some hardcore science.

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

Faces of the NYSF 2017: Session A

In this photo above, we have the first of our volunteers supporting the NYSF 2017 Session A students and student staff: from left to right Damien Butler, Kirsten Hogg, Nigel Liggins, and Angela Forthun.

First, let’s meet Damien and Kirsten, both former participants of the NYSF (or the NSSS, back in their day).

Damien is somewhat of an NYSF veteran, first attending the program as a student in 1990, and also attending the Stockholm International Youth Science Seminar (SIYSS). He returned as a student staff member in both 1991 and 1992 before being involved in several NYSF seminars as a guest speaker. He started university with a double degree of law and chemistry, but felt attracted to law and now works as a solicitor.

Kirsten attended the NYSF in 1991, and after graduating and completing her postdoctoral studies in physics she took on the world of research as an academic. Now Kirsten works as a secondary school teacher and has been awarded the Excellence in Teaching Award by Queensland College of Teachers (QCT).

meeting all these other brilliant students your age who reflect your interests was a real eye-opener

On the first day of the NYSF 2017 Session A program, I asked them what they thought of returning to the NYSF, as well as how they feel about the NYSF experience as a whole. Their responses were enlightening:

“We were both country kids, and meeting all these other brilliant students your age who reflect your interests was a real eye-opener.”

“There is enormous diversity in the people, and without even mentioning the science the atmosphere of the NYSF was incredible.”

I can definitely relate to everything Damien was saying. Pre-NYSF you rarely have any idea of the types of amazing people and opportunities out there for you. The NYSF is incredible in that you often go to the program alone and as a result have no choice but to grow, and fast.

Since becoming a secondary teacher Kirsten has worked hard to promote the NYSF:

“Often students go to the NYSF alone and sometimes they can come home on a low because nobody in their school understands or thinks of the NYSF as anything special. But it is an incredible experience, and having been there I encourage as many students to go as I can.”

Nigel Liggins and Angela Forthun are attending the NYSF 2017 as Rotary aunts and uncles. They come from different parts of Victoria, and have been involved with the program through Rotary for some time.

Angela Forthun teaches Japanese at primary and secondary schools in Melbourne. She has been involved with the NYSF for the past 12 years, starting out by interviewing NYSF applicants for her local Rotary club and now attending the NYSF 2017 as a Rotary aunt. Angela hopes to learn more about the opportunities the NYSF presents for high school students, with the goal of sharing this knowledge with her local Rotary club in Melbourne.

Nigel is a high school science teacher at Notre Dame College in Shepparton, Victoria. His involvement with the NYSF stretches back to 1988 when he sponsored a student to attend the National Science Summer School. Almost thirty years later, Nigel’s interest in the NYSF has only grown stronger as he returns for his second session as a Rotary uncle.

Partners’ Day is the most important event in the program

“Partners’ Day is the most important event in the program, as it informs students about tertiary options and career paths that they may not yet have considered,” he said.

Damien, Kirsten, Nigel and Angela are providing valuable assistance to the NYSF, underlining the important role that Rotarians and our alumni can play in continuing the work of the organisation that runs the NYSF programs.

They can also dab.

 

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

and Dan Lawson, NYSF 2017 Session A Communications Intern and NYSF 2015 Alumnus