Tales of diving, dark times and discovery from Professor Emma Johnston, UNSW Sydney

NYSF 2017 Session C’s Science Dinner provided a great opportunity for participants to network, talking to researchers, partners and NYSF alumni. However the highlight of the evening was Professor Emma Johnston’s address which inspired, motivated and encouraged the participants to pursue their dreams and passions. She also provided some useful advice for the audience, young and old alike, for when things don’t seem to be working out.

Professor Emma Johnston completed a Bachelor of Science and PhD studies at the University of Melbourne. She is the Pro-Vice Chancellor (Research) at UNSW Sydney, head of the Applied Marine and Estuarine Ecology Lab (AMEE), host of a BBC/Foxtel television series and Vice-President of Science and Technology Australia. Her research focuses on how human behaviour has impacts on marine ecosystems all over the world from the Great Barrier Reef to Antarctica.

Professor Johnston emphasised the opportunities that a career in science can bring and encouraged the participants to continue their scientific pursuits. “Science is the most rewarding career you can have,” and offered some advice when choosing which path to follow. “You want a career that is changing, that is challenging and you are finding out what is happening all the time.”

One theme evident throughout her address was the importance of being brave enough to challenge what is already accepted; only then will you be at “the frontier of scientific discovery.”

Professor Johnston offered the audience some sage advice, applicable to both life and scientific research. “When you are challenged and doubt your abilities, it is important to have a role model, someone you can look up to, who is only a few years ahead of yourself.  They will be an invaluable resource to guide you and inspire you.” Professor Johnston said she had often struggled with a lack of self-confidence, stressing that everyone feels this way. But when things are difficult, she said, “… believe in the people who believe in you,” and “… let their belief in you carry you forward.” Professor Johnston emphasised that this was especially important for women in STEMM who are often under-represented and lack role models.

Thank you to Professor Johnston for your compelling advice to us all, your career has shown us the importance of working hard and challenging ourselves as well as making sure we surround ourselves with a diverse and supportive group of people.

For more information on Professor Johnston’s work,click here.

Veronica O’Mara, NYSF 2017 Session C Communications Intern and NYSF 2014 alumna.

NYSF 2017 visits Canberra firm Seeing Machines

Seeing Machines is a company started out of a robotics lab at ANU. The company develops technology which tracks the movement of eyes. This has a series of applications in the mining, automotive, aviation and medical industries. During the visit, the participants were able to try the ‘fovio’ system which is used in mining vehicles to detect drivers’ micro sleeps and when they need to stop and have a break. If a driver was to fall asleep loud noises and vibrations would wake him/her and alert supervisors.

Trying out the system

In addition to learning about the company and the technology they develop, the participants had the opportunity to hear from nine of their employees and their own journey through science. This was a unique opportunity to see where particular degrees could take the participants in the future but at the same time revealed that the skills a STEM degree gives you can be applicable in a wide range of areas.

revealed that the skills a STEM degree gives you can be applicable in a wide range of areas

The participants heard from software engineers, mechanical engineers and research scientists. One theme that was common throughout the presentations was the importance of having the right attitude, mastering maths, and the need to “always be learning, your whole career” (Seeing Machines software engineer, Andrew Medlin).

Kate Robinson, a NYSF 2017 partcipant said that she, “found it really interesting seeing how the different engineers went from one place to another and how they have been able to travel with their jobs, not just staying in Australia but travelling overseas. The lab was interesting being in the workplace, seeing how everyone works together and what they do on a day to day basis”.

The participants really enjoyed the opportunity to talk to the engineers and discover what path could lie ahead for them.

Veronica O’Mara, NYSF 2017 Session C Communications Intern and NYSF 2014 alumnus.

 

NYSF 2017 has fun with physics at ANU

NYSF 2017 physics interest group, Wu was treated to a visit to the Physics Education Centre at the Australian National University. The visit was well received by all the students as they performed experiments about the physics of light and asked thoughtful questions of the physicists.

Led by Mr Andrew Papworth (a long-term and committed NYSF supporter) with a team of postgraduate students, the participants were guided through first and second year university experiments. The participants used a spectrophotometer to investigate the wavelength of light emitted by different elements, using several known sources to find the composition of an unknown lamp. Next was a series of experiments with lasers to learn about the Michelson interferometer and then one to learn about the detection and absorption of gamma rays.

Next was a series of ‘magic tricks’ were the students learnt about resonance tubes, magnetic breaking and the polarisation of light.  A visit to the ANU gravitational wave lab gave the students an inside view of the discovery of gravitational waves, how gravity has been calculated to 19 decimal places and the implications of this research in the real world, in particular in regards to gravity mapping. The participants also asked some meaningful questions about general and special relativity which they found particularly fascinating.

we were shown a variety of actual things which could be implemented into the world

The group left the visit inspired with one participant, Wade Clark, saying that he “really enjoyed that we were shown a variety of actual things which could be implemented into the world rather than just theoretical physics which we find at school. Things that actually will create a difference in the world rather than just sit on a shelf somewhere.”

 

Veronica O’Mara, NYSF 2017 Session C Communications Intern and NYSF 2014 alumnus.

NYSF 2017 tries paramedicine!

NYSF 2017 participants visited the Australian Catholic University’s smallest campus here in Canberra to learn about its paramedicine and nursing courses that are on offer here. As part of their visit, the students had the opportunity to learn more about the human body as well as some practical techniques used by paramedics and nurses.

Using the stethoscopes

The visit started with a tour of the university, visiting the science labs as well as their practical nursing laboratory which was set up like a hospital ward. Here the participants learnt about the structures of the brain and which area was responsible for which function. The students theorised how different brain injuries such as a stroke or a head trauma can affect patient functioning depending on which area of the brain was injured.

Next was a race to name the muscles of the body, the bones of the skull and the pulse points of the body. They used their new knowledge to find their own pulses and to listen to each other’s hearts using stethoscopes, then listened to the breathing, hearts and bowel sounds of a computerised mannequin.

Finding pulses

The participants heard from a current nursing and paramedicine student about her university experience as they explored an ACU ambulance used by the students to practice, managing to fit 16 people in the tiny van!

The visit concluded with the participants practicing how nurses and paramedics would transfer patients between beds, learning the correct technique then practicing on each other using the hospital beds and a pat slide.

Learning how to move patients.

The participants loved the hands on nature of the visit and being able to practice skills on each other with one student especially excited about learning to take a patient’s blood pressure.

Thanks to ACU for an informative and practical visit!

Veronica O’Mara, NYSF 2017 Session C Communications Intern and NYSF 2014 alumnus.

NYSF 2017 visits University of Canberra Health Sciences

The NYSF 2017 Health and Medical Science groups Blackburn and Doherty visited the University of Canberra learning what it would be like studying nursing, pharmacy, or radiology.

First was a visit to the Nursing Laboratory. Here the workshop focused on the heart. The participants tested each other’s heart rates, learned how to use a stethoscope and measured the oxygen saturation of the blood using a pulse oximeter. After learning the basics, the participants devised a care plan for patients who had tachycardia, brachycardia, a fatal cardiac arrhythmia or asystole after looking at their ECG results.

Yes, you are alive!

Next – to the radiology department where the participants learned about X-rays including how they are produced, how they differ from other forms of radiation, and how the image is taken. Then they looked at a series of patient X-rays that included images of coins, sharp objects and broken bones, learning that multiple images need to be taken to know the positioning of an object inside the body as only 2D images are produced. They then tried to identify everyday objects which proved much more difficult than expected!

Participants try to identify 25 everyday objects hidden in a shoebox

The next workshop was very hands on with the participants exploring the pharmacy lab. Here they tested the dissolution rates of various analgesics and learned how this relates to how quickly the drugs are absorbed in the body as well as preparing a menthol cream to take home.

Participants test the dissolution times of paracetamol and aspirin

The visit was thoroughly enjoyed by all the participants, Hugh Churchill said he “really enjoyed the hands on experience in the pharmaceuticals lab. It gave us an insight into the different areas of pharmacy.”

Participants make a menthol cream

Veronica O’Mara, NYSF 2017 Communications Intern and NYSF 2014 alumna.

Advocacy, Activism, Academia.

In an intriguing and captivating lecture to the NYSF 2017, Associate Professor David Caldicott explored the politics of science, the rise of anti-science and some of the challenges that the world faces. Dr Caldicott is an Emergency Consultant at Calvary Hospital in Canberra, an Associate Professor at the University of Canberra, and a Clinical Senior Lecturer at the ANU Faculty of Medicine.

Dr Caldicott speaks to students

The presentation was enjoyed by all

Dr Caldicott is well known for his stance on the legalisation of medicinal cannabis and combating drug use through education and pill testing. He stressed to the participants his view that drug use should be treated as a health issue rather than a criminal issue. His research has shown that people are less likely to use drugs if they know the actual composition, reinforcing the evidence which routinely shows the best way to change behaviours is through science rather than morality.

Using his experience and knowledge, Dr Caldicott used this to emphasise the importance in being involved in politics as an advocate for the accurate representation of science, giving the participants advice for surviving in a world where even the truth is present. He concluded his presentation with a few important reminders for the participants as they finish their high school studies and head out into the world.

Be true to yourselves, your beliefs and what you stand for

“Be true to yourselves, your beliefs and what you stand for. Live in the intersections, talking to people in other disciplines.” He emphasised the importance of being a good communicator.

The presentation was thoroughly enjoyed by the participants with Dr Caldicott’s advice and humour engaging the students well. One participant, Adele enjoyed the lecture as it appealed to everyone no matter their interest area.

“The lecture was good whether you were coming from a health, physics or chemistry background as it was really relevant to everyone. This coupled with David’s presentation skills really got you interested and excited not only about the specific issue of drugs but the wider themes he was talking about like politics in science.”

Thankyou David for sharing your experience and for making an advocate out of all of us!

 

Veronica O’Mara, NYSF 2017 Session C Communications Intern and NYSF 2014 Alumna

NYSF 2017 Session C: Welcome lecture

NYSF 2017 Session C started off with a visit to the Australian Academy of Science at the Shine Dome. In this iconic building, the participants were intrigued by the words of the Chief Executive of the Australian Academy of Science, Dr Anna-Maria Arabia and Deputy Vice-Chancellor Research and Innovation, at the University of South Australia, Professor Tanya Monro.

A common theme in both Dr Arabia and Professor Monro’s presentations were the importance of gender equity in STEM careers and the role that all of the participants have in ensuring equal opportunity for men and women.

Dr Arabia’s welcome emphasised the importance of thinking about science in a broad sense and not to limit your options by being fixated on one particular career path.

“Think about your passion for science and technology in the broadest way possible, and be open to the many career paths that may be open to you … be driven by your curiosity of the world.”

Furthermore, she highlighted the importance of being a ‘thinker’ stressing that scientific enquiry has “little to do with what you think, but how you think”.

Dr Anna-Maria Arabia

Following Dr Arabia’s welcome, the participants were addressed by Professor Tanya Monro. Throughout her presentation she focussed on her area of specialisation, photonics, as well as explaining the pathways she took in achieving her goals.

Professor Tanya Monro addressing participants

Professor Monro was a NYSF alumna, attending the National Science Summer School as it was, in January 1990. She credits the program as her “first chance to absorb science beyond the classroom”.

She told the NYSF 2017 cohort that while at school, she planned on studying astrophysics, however as she was exposed to new fields in science she found that her interest was elsewhere. Throughout her career she has completed a PhD at the University of Sydney, undertook a fellowship at the Optoelectronics Research Centre at the University of South Hampton and was the Director of the Institute for Photonics and Advanced Sensing (IPAS) from 2008 to 2014 and was also the inaugural Director for the ARC Centre of Excellence for Nanoscale BioPhotonics (CNBP), both at the University of Adelaide. Further information about her career can be found here.

Professor Monro concluded her talk with some advice for the participants to use throughout their studies, career and life underlining the importance of having “passion, persistence and patience”.

 

By Veronica O’Mara, NYSF 2017 Session C Communications Intern and NYSF 2014 Alumna

Welcome to the Family: NYSF 2017 Session C Volunteers

At each session of the NYSF, we welcome a series of amazing volunteers who are there for participant and student staff wellbeing and support. For 2017 Session C we welcome our Rotary Aunts and Uncles, Sandra Quintemeyer, Stephen Porter, Sue Neale, Brendan Stevenson and Vera Liondas. Furthermore, their sharing of their experiences about involvement in the program provides an opportunity for Rotary to learn more about the NYSF, with their support critical to the program’s success.

L to R: Rotary Volunteers: Sue, Vera, Stephen, Brendan and Sandra.

Sandra comes from Townsville, Queensland and has previously been on the Rotary selection panel for the NYSF in her area. She is now retired but has worked in teaching vocational training and hospitality. For Sandra, this is a great opportunity to report back to her club on the work that the NYSF does and encourage continued involvement and support for students wanting to attend the NYSF in the future.

Stephen is from Hobart in Tasmania and is a long-time member of Rotary, with his club supporting the NYSF for a number of years. He is looking forward to learning more about the program and is particularly interested in seeing science in action through the lab visits and lectures.

Sue is from Echuca in Victoria and works as a Chemistry and Mathematics high school teacher. Her keen interest in science and a desire to further promote the program in her own school prompted her to volunteer. She is looking forward to learning more about the NYSF and what students who have attended in the past have experienced.

Brendan has just finished his Bachelor of Science at Monash University in Melbourne, majoring in Biochemistry and Pharmacology. Next year he will be at The University of Melbourne doing his Honours in Biochemistry and then plans to go onto further postgraduate study. He has been active in Rotary’s community work since he was 16. He is most looking forward to the science visits, experiencing ANU and says he is excited to see the change in the students at the end of the program as they come out of their shells.

Vera is from the Rotary club of Holtoid in Sydney and has been involved with the NYSF over the last 3 years, being on the interview panel for her district. She is now retired but has worked as a science teacher at TAFE and is looking forward to seeing “if science has changed in half a century!”

Thank you to Sandra, Stephen, Sue, Vera and Brendan for your assistance over the next 2 weeks and the role that Rotary plays in the ongoing support of the NYSF.

Now let’s begin NYSF 2017 Session C and let the science begin!

 

Written by NYSF 2017 Session C Communications Interns and NYSF 2014 alumni, Veronica O’Mara and Megan Stegeman.