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

Scientists + Chocolate = Disaster Relief

“ShelterBox is made up of people who believe in shelter as a human right – that shelter from the chaos of disaster and conflict is vital. No ifs. No buts.”

During the NYSF 2017 January Sessions students turned their love of chocolate into a fundraising event. Through the sale of chocolates during session, NYSF students raised $1000, and elected to sponsor a ShelterBox.

What is a ShelterBox you may ask?  ShelterBox is an international disaster relief charity that delivers emergency shelter and vital aid to people affected by disaster worldwide. Working closely with Rotary (90% of ShelterBox deployments involve local Rotary clubs), aid supplied comes in the form of ShelterBoxes and ShelterKits. Sturdy green ShelterBoxes contain family-sized tents specially designed to withstand the elements and provide people with temporary shelter until they can start the process of rebuilding a home. ShelterKits contain essential tools people need to start repairing and rebuilding homes straight away. Kits and boxes also contain the items that help transform shelter into a home – like cooking sets, solar lights and activity sets for children.

Shelterbox, Rotary, NYSF, National Youth Science Forum

Chief Executive Officer of Shelterbox Australia, Mike Greenslade, said the Shelterbox would provide much needed relief to a family suffering after a disaster.

“ShelterBox is made up of people who believe in shelter as a human right – that shelter from the chaos of disaster and conflict is vital. No ifs. No buts. This drives us to transform the support of Rotary, our donors, fundraisers and volunteers into the hope and power of families all over the world – the power to rebuild homes, lives and communities.”

Most recently ShelterBox has provided aid to people affected by the conflict in Syria, flooding in Peru and the Columbian landslides.

Mr Greenslade highlighted the important role science plays in providing a high quality ShelterBox that meets the needs of those affected.

“I’m thrilled that January’s National Youth Science Forum students chose to support disaster relief by sponsoring a ShelterBox. There is plenty of science contained in our green boxes, from the water filters capable of removing microbiological hazards and heavy metals to the compact, inflatable solar lights. Then there’s our relief tent, capable of withstanding 90 kilometre per hour winds, tropical rains, UV protected and vector proof.

The box sponsored by the NYSF will make a world of difference to a family who has lost everything to disaster and help them get back on their feet. My heartfelt thanks to all those that contributed.”

Where will our ShelterBox be going?  We will have to wait and see, each box bears its own unique number so we can track it online all the way to its recipient country following deployment.  We’ll keep you posted about its final destination!

To find out more about ShelterBox or to donate go to http://www.shelterboxaustralia.com.au

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