Taking the “Next Step” in Sydney for STEM study information

The National Youth Science Forum (NYSF) continued its Next Step program in Sydney this July over a two-day period.  The Next Step Program is an extension of our January Year 12 Program – allowing the current year’s participants with the opportunity to further their knowledge about career and study options available to them.

Day one saw visits to our partner organisations ResMed and Cochlear in the morning and the Sydney Observatory and Powerhouse Museum in the afternoon.

At ResMed students toured the facilities of one of the biggest chronic sleep disorder device corporations in the world. They explored the ResMed manufacturing warehouses, had discussions with leading research and development engineers, and tried their hand at assembling various sleep apnoea devices.

During the Cochlear visit participants went behind the scenes for a glimpse into the hearing implant market and saw why Cochlear is a world-wide market leader.

In an interactive exhibition at the Powerhouse Museum, participants were transported back to Sherlock Holmes’ Victorian London to try and crack the case by conducting their own experiments.

Isabel Beaumont, one of this year’s cohort said NYSF’s Next Step program was a valuable addition to the January Year 12 Program.

“The Next Step programs are always useful as they further broaden your understanding of all the possible careers in science.  The are also a great way to reconnect with friends from the NYSF,” she said.

“I really enjoyed the visit to the Cochlear headquarters. We were able to tour their implant manufacturing facilities and see some very impressive machinery.”

During the evening the NYSF held an Alumni Event that you can read about here.

At the Sydney Observatory, in the heart of the CBD, students looked through a telescope over a century old, as well as more modern equipment. They viewed sunspots on our Sun, and the largest planet in the solar system, Jupiter. They also discussed career options with Danica, the tour guide, who is completing a PhD in Astronomy.

The following day students visited the University of New South Wales (UNSW).  There were multiple visits available such as the opportunity to build and engineer solar cars, explore the Museum of Human Diseases and listen to lectures about psychology, optometry, medicine and various other degrees. NYSF alumni who are at UNSW studying degrees across science, medicine and engineering, visited the group, and  heard about the amazing scholarship opportunities UNSW offers.

NYSF 2017 alumnus, Ben Kirsh said he got a better insight into university life after visiting UNSW.

“It was really good to see the uni (UNSW) and the student tour guides were great because they showed you the side that isn’t portrayed in the open day brochures. They gave insider knowledge of senior students which I thought was pretty cool … and confirmed to me that attending UNSW next year is very possible. All in all we came away with a lot of great information and advice we can use to make informed decisions about study and career options into the future.”

Ben also felt that Next Step gave him additional information about future career and study options.

“Next Step was very useful as it allowed the opportunity to see other (NYSF partner) universities such as UNSW and talk to students currently studying a range of degrees in differing fields to question them to see which may fit myself the best. It also allowed me to catch up with people I met at NYSF, as well as meeting people from other sessions,” he said.

We would like to thank our partners for their continued support and in particular those organisations that participated in the Sydney Next Step Program, IP Australia, UNSW, ResMed, Cochlear and UTS.

Sharing Knowledge and Experience – Sydney Next Step Alumni Event

In partnership with IP Australia the NYSF hosted the second Alumni Event in July. The event was held at the University of Technology Sydney (UTS), where our newest cohort of NYSF participants had the opportunity to listen to older NYSF alumni about their education and career journeys.  The Alumni Event was part of the Sydney Next Step Program which you can read about here.

Professor Louise McWhinnie, Dean of the Faculty of Transdisciplinary Innovation welcomed everyone to UTS, and then several NYSF Alumni spoke about their study and work since leaving high school.

Stephanie Pearce (NYSF 2010)  now works as a patent examiner at IP Australia. Stephanie shared insights about life after NYSF, particularly her career at IP Australia, and the importance of protecting  intellectual property.

Associate Professor Alison Beavis, (NYSF 1997) who is Deputy Dean for the UTS Department of Transdisciplinary Innovation said she felt a part of the NYSF family and offered some sage advice to this year’s cohort.

“This year will be a hard, crazy year but remember in the end it will be incredibly exhilarating. It’s a long journey but you are not alone, you are always being supported.”

Our keynote speaker, Associate Professor Josephine Clayton,  attended the very first NYSF (previously known as National Science Summer School – NSSS) in 1984. She spoke about her professional and personal journey in medicine, and an experience with a dying patient’s attitude to medical care that changed the course of her career.  Associate Professor Clayton is the Director of HammondCare’s Centre for Learning and Research in Palliative Care. Her research aims to explore the best ways to facilitate open discussions around palliative care that aligns with the patient’s wishes as opposed to looking at the issue from a purely medical point of view.

“In an ageing population we can’t cope with palliative care. There are not enough beds.  We need to get GPs involved.”

“I am blessed to have a job that has dedicated time to researching and teaching.  I love collaborative research that focuses on translating research into clinical practice,” Associate Professor Clayton said.

The other presentations highlighted the diversity of our alumni’s experiences, touching on everything from overcoming obstacles and changing paths, through to advice on what employers are currently looking for and following your passion.  All in all NYSF alumni had a great evening, gaining great advice about study options and career, networking and meeting other alumni and catching up with old friends.

NYSF thanks our alumni speakers including Rhys Killian (NYSF 2013), Emily Smith (NYSF 2010), and Jacob Silove (NYSF 2014)  and our fabulous MC Jason Borg (NYSF 2010).  A special thank you also to Professor Louise McWhinnie, Associate Professor Alison Beavis, the staff at UTS who made the evening such a great success and IP Australia for its continued support.

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.

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.

Forty Students to benefit from new NYSF Equity Scholarship

Scholarship, NYSF, National Youth Science Forum, NYSF, STEM

Biological Anthropology, ANU College of Arts and Social Science

If you’re thinking about applying for the NYSF 2018 Year 12 Program but are not sure about the cost – our equity scholarships may help you on your way. The scholarship will award up to 40 students $1,000 each towards their fee to attend the Program.

The NYSF Equity Scholarships are designed to encourage young people from more diverse backgrounds to attend by contributing to the reduction of the participation fee.

The NYSF Equity Scholarship stems from funding secured from the Department of Industry Innovation and Science (DIIS) via the National Science and Innovation Agenda (NISA).

To find out more about our Equity Scholarships follow the link HERE

There may be further opportunities to cover part or all of the programs cost through community fundraising or sponsorship, or contributions from your endorsing Rotary Club or school.

Please Note: Submitting an application for an Equity Scholarship does not constitute an application to attend the NYSF Year 12 Program. A separate application for NYSF 2018 will also need to be completed.

If you have any questions that are not answered by the information on our website, please email programs@nysf.edu.au

NYSF Rotary District Chair, Stephen Lovison talks about student selections

Rotary, NYSF,

“I honestly had no idea the depth and breadth of the program”

From our larger cities to small regional towns in outback Australia, Rotarians have been super busy over the past few months promoting the National Youth Science Forum (NYSF) and conducting student selections for the NYSF 2018 Year 12 Program.

We spoke to NYSF Rotary District Chair (DC), Stephen Lovison from Sydney (D9675), about his involvement with Rotary and the NYSF Student Selection process.

Stephen first joined Rotary in 1999 as a Rotaractor and has been president of his Rotary Club, Como-Jannali, twice and served on numerous district boards.

“(I joined Rotary) primarily to give back to my local community and to assist overseas causes championed by Rotary International.  I like the fact that club members are local community leaders, but the beneficiaries of our volunteer work could be anywhere on the planet,” Stephen said.

“When the opportunity for NYSF District Chair became available I decided to try something different. I honestly had no idea the depth and breadth of the program until I got working on it – it’s been challenging and rewarding all the same.”

Rotary Liaison Officer on the NYSF Board, Rob Woolley, estimated that last year Rotarians volunteered more than 20,000 hours to the NYSF in promoting the program and conducting student selections.  Rotary has over 30,000 members, 1,100 clubs in 21 Districts throughout Australia, giving students from all corners of the country the opportunity to attend the NYSF.

“Rotary provides a massive logistic service when it comes to student identification, interview and selection. We rely on our network of business and community leaders to ensure the most suitable candidates are put forward (to district selection),” Stephen said.

This year the NYSF Year 12 Program will be expanding, allowing 600 students to attend in either Canberra or Brisbane.  Stephen added that the program provided a great opportunity for students who were interested in the STEM fields of study.

“Experience and exposure to the top minds and resources in STEM at the level NYSF provides is unrivalled. If you can get access to this as a young person and springboard your career in STEM because of this opportunity, go for it.”

Rotary, NYSF

This year the NYSF is offering 40 Equity Scholarships of $1000 each to students who may need assistance to attend the Year 12 Program.  Stephen believes this will encourage a more diverse range of students to apply.

“There are a number of schools and districts where, for various reasons, a program such as this may be deemed “out of reach”.  In keeping with Rotary and NYSF’s commitment to making the program viable to all students, the Equity Scholarship should hopefully open more doors for these students.”

And Stephen’s advice to students thinking of applying to the NYSF …

“Jump on the NYSF website and do some research, then make contact with your local Rotary Club. We are here to guide you through the process and answer any questions you may have.”

“In our district, we look for any student with a keen interest in the STEM fields, who is community and culturally open minded, and is willing to share and collaborate with their peers and mentors.”

Stephen said feedback from students who have participated in the NYSF Year 12 Program is a testament to its success and value.

“We have not had anything but praise for the NYSF team and the program itself from every returning student! The phrases “changed my life” “wonderful and challenging two weeks” “would recommend to anyone” feature heavily in the post-program reports sent to DCs.”

“In broad terms, alumni have gone on to various university courses and careers in science, healthcare, astronomy, and engineering. Several have joined Rotaract and/or Rotary and we’re glad to see that investment coming full circle.”

For more information about the NYSF Year 12 Program go to https://www.nysf.edu.au

Superstars of STEM – become a voice for female scientists

STEM, women in science, Science

Superstars of STEM is a fantastic opportunity for female NYSF alumni who are interested in developing their communication, presentation and media engagement skills.

Science & Technology Australia is now accepting applications for the inaugural Superstars of STEM. The professional development program aims to smash society’s gender assumptions about scientists and increase the public visibility of women in STEM.

Superstars of STEM will support 30 of the nation’s most dynamic female scientists and technologists to become role models for young women and girls, and work towards equal representation in the media of men and women in STEM.

Science & Technology Australia’s, Chief Executive Officer, Kylie Walker, said the program provides a great career development opportunity for female scientists.

“The opportunities that will come from this program will propel these women’s careers, shaping them to become influencers and leaders in their sector.”

Successful applicants will participate in workshops, networking, mentoring, media and public speaking throughout the program

Women from all STEM disciplines are encouraged to apply, in fields including but not restricted to mathematics, technology, biology, medical research, geology, marine science, microbiology, engineering, physics, astronomy, and more.

Applications close 5pm, 23 May 2017.  To find out more or to apply go to  https://scienceandtechnologyaustralia.org.au/what-we-do/superstars-of-stem/

For further enquiries about the program contact Brodie Steel, Project Officer – Superstars of STEM, Ph 02 6257 2891 or email brodie.steel@sta.org.au