Let’s Hear it for the Communications Interns at NYSF 2017!

Every year, the NYSF offers places for alumni to return as volunteer Communications Interns. The role is fairly wide-ranging – to attend various program activities, and report on what occurs during the NYSF, filing stories for the NYSF Outlook blog.

Our NYSF 2017 interns provided an overview of their experience in January:

Jackson Nexhip

Returning to the NYSF triggered some strange emotions; something akin to returning home.

On the surface it seemed as though it should have been an entirely different experience; I was a few years older, I was in Canberra this time rather than Perth, and was returning somewhat as staff rather than student. But despite the differences, the NYSF spirit was alive and well.

You learn so much at the NYSF that you can almost feel your mind expanding. Just like in 2013, the presentations and institution visits were of an extremely high calibre – it was humbling and inspiring to be so out of my depth in so many different fields.

The intellectual side was great, but I think the best part was the opportunity to hang around with and get to know the NYSF 2017 students. I think that as the years go on you lose sense of the impact the NYSF can have, and having the chance to chat and get to know the students brought back all kinds of nostalgia.

I really admired the energy, curiosity, and sheer determination of some of the students, and it left me feeling somewhat inspired to go and do bigger things in my own life. It’s a huge privilege to meet these young scientists and future leaders, and I look forward to seeing them do all kinds of crazy things as the years roll on.

The media intern position is a sweet gig, and I’d highly recommend it for any students with an interest in writing and/or science communication (I don’t think I need mention the longing to return to the NYSF). The media team are very supportive, you’ll have a lot of fun, and you’ll learn a lot.

Daniel Lawson

“Writing about the NYSF experience was an amazing opportunity and I’d definitely recommend it to any NYSF alumni interested in science communication and science education. Most of all, attending the NYSF 2017 as a communications intern confirmed my confidence in the future of Australian science. To see 200 young scientists build lifelong friendships reminded me of my own session, and I realised that although the names and faces had changed, the students’ attitudes and passion for science had remained just as strong.

Being a communications intern also gave me a unique perspective on the NYSF, as I was able to chat with students and academics about their interests and goals in science, I was also able to observe how being there changed the students. When you attend the NYSF, the experiences and moments you share with 200 other passionate science students changes you. Personally, I didn’t realise this until my local Rotary club of Murgon mentioned how much more confident I was after attending the NYSF. It was an amazing opportunity to be able to witness these transformations in students at the NYSF 2017 as they grew into (more) confident young scientists.

Megan Stegeman

The NYSF science communications internship was an amazing two weeks. Being back at the NYSF was exciting enough, but witnessing how it is organised, and the amazing work that went on behind the scenes, gave a real appreciation for my own session.

My own NYSF experience meant that I understood and knew what to expect in the program, which I think is an advantage when trying to work in such an exciting and (as all alumni remember) unique environment. The work was fun, going to lab sessions and lectures and writing them up, and the environment was supportive and friendly. I was encouraged to take lots of photos, and especially to develop my own style of writing, which I’m sure is not common across all internships.

Watching the participants learn new things, and witnessing some of them in their first professional labs was rewarding in itself. I saw students in a pathology lab use the mechanical pipette for the first time, and it occurred to me that that participant could go on to be a great scientist, and it was here that they got their first lessons.

I would recommend this internship to anyone and everyone, I think it’s an amazing opportunity, that I hope others will realise and take advantage of as well.

Veronica O’Mara

Coming back to the NYSF as a Communications Intern in January 2017 was a wonderful experience. It was incredibly useful hearing similar things to what I heard three years ago but without the HSC looming over my head. Coming back reaffirmed my decision to study science and major in genetics and molecular biology and made me much more sure of my choices and of myself.

My favourite event on session was the Science Dinner with Professor Emma Johnston’s address. It was incredibly encouraging as a woman studying in STEM and definitely demonstrated to me that many people such as Professor Johnston who have achieved incredible things and are doing so well in their chosen field still have doubted their ability in themselves. I think this was definitely something that also resonated with the participants, leaving them with an important message, “To believe in those who believe in you,” when you are doubting yourself.

Being an NYSF Communications Intern provided us with a unique opportunity to experience the NYSF again as well as to gain some valuable skills in science communication. It was wonderful to be given a lot of freedom in our writing styles and what and how we wanted to record the session.

It gave me a chance to develop my communication skills which is extremely important in any career in STEM. Without good communication skills, there is little point in research. You have to be able to effectively communicate your ideas to others in an accessible way.

My experience at the NYSF this year has definitely shown me that studying a science degree was the right path and reaffirmed my goal of completing a PhD in medical research, but has also opened up more possibilities in science communication and outreach.

If you are an NYSF alumni and would like to register your interest in returning to the NYSF in 2018, where there will be six positions on offer, email communications@nysf.edu.au

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.

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

Meet our Communications Interns for the NYSF 2017 January Sessions

Four National Youth Science Forum (NYSF) alumni have been selected as this year’s Communications Interns, given the task of capturing the experiences of 400 students during the January Sessions.

As alumni of the NYSF program, the four interns will have a great insight into what students will experience during their time at the NYSF. Covering Session A is Jackson Nexhip and Daniel Lawson, and in Session C are Megan Stegeman and Veronica O’Mara .

 

Jackson Nexhip

Jackson Nexhip (NYSF 2013 alumnus) will be commencing his third year of a Bachelor of Advanced Science in Chemistry at the University of New South Wales (UNSW) in 2017. He also recently completed a year-long research project for a biomolecular design competition called BIOMOD.

BIOMOD is an annual undergraduate research competition in biomolecular design founded by The Wyss Institute at Harvard University. This year the competition was held at The University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) and capped at 24 entrants from universities from various countries including the United States, Canada, Germany, India, China, Korea and Japan.

In early 2016 Jackson set up the UNSW team, which was the only team from Australia and the southern hemisphere to compete this year.`

“Our project involved using a technique called DNA origami to build a nanoscale box which can capture specific molecular cargo – kind of like a nanoscale mousetrap. The box can capture cargo such as potent pharmaceuticals used in chemotherapy and can be modified to specifically deliver that cargo to diseased parts of the body, reducing non-specific interactions with healthy cells and minimising side effects”. nexhip

The five students on the UNSW team had to juggle the BIOMOD commitment with their university assignments and full-time course loads, while the other teams had the luxury of working on their projects over their summer break. In late October the UNSW team flew to UCSF for the final conference (a few weeks before exams), and took out the grand prize!

“Regardless of where we came in the official rankings of the competition, we had already won in our minds. The real experience of BIOMOD, and any other competition for that matter, isn’t the prize you get at the end but rather the things you learn and the person you become along the way.

With that said though, the win was a nice cherry on top.”

You can view a 3-minute YouTube video summarising the teams entry Here, or visit the website with all of the teams work in detail Here.

Jackson said he was really looking forward to coming to the NYSF in January.

“It was extremely exciting and motivating to meet so many like-minded people at the NYSF, who were so incredibly passionate about what they do. Post-NYSF I found myself much more determined to become the best I could be in science and with science communication. And of course I also scored a heap of amazing new friends and an invaluable insight into university life and careers in science.”

“The NYSF is what you make of it. Turn up keen and ready to go hard and you will have one of the greatest times of your life.”

Daniel Lawson

 NYSF 2015 alumnus, Daniel Lawson, recently completed his first year of study at the Australian National University (ANU), majoring in physics and applied mathematics. He is focusing on undergraduate research and aims to make one quarter of his course load related to research for the next two years of his undergraduate degree. Daniel is also preparing to begin his second year as an undergraduate resident of Burgmann College while looking for more opportunities to inform students about STEM possibilities in the Canberra region.nysf-2017-launch_0018

Daniel believes that the NYSF is best enjoyed with an open mind-set.

“Before I attended the NYSF I wanted to study engineering in Queensland. This changed when at the NYSF I was exposed to research opportunities which greatly influenced my study and career goals. The NYSF showed me the possibilities of scientific research, particularly during my undergraduate education. It was through an NYSF alumni that I discovered research focused degrees at ANU, in particular the PhD science program. Through the PhD program I’ve contributed to the SABRE experiment jointly run by the University of Melbourne and the ANU, with the goal of detecting dark matter through WIMP (weakly interacting massive particles) interactions.”  To find out more about the SABRE experiment click HERE.

Megan Stegeman

Megan (Meg) Stegeman (NYSF 2014 alumna), is currently at The University of Queensland, studying a dual degree in Science and Arts, Majoring in Genetics, Psychology (and possibly journalism) and plans to complete a PhD after her Bachelor.  She hopes to combine travel with her career. megan-steggeman

Meg said she is looking forward being a Communications Intern at the coming NYSF January Sessions.

 So excited to not only have a part in the program that helped shape my future, but to work behind the scenes and to get an idea of how much work and commitment is put in to achieve great outcomes.”

Veronica O’Mara

Veronica O’Mara (NYSF 2014 alumna), is about to start her second year studying Advanced Science and Law at the University of New South Wales (UNSW) following a gap year in England and Europe.  Her long term goal is to complete a PhD in genetics and work in medical research.1655856_723943020957353_1634706806_n

The NYSF experience helped Veronica shape her career goals and increase her confidence in public speaking.  And her advice to this year’s NYSF cohort?

“Make the most of it! It might seem daunting at first, meeting with hundreds of new people but as clichéd as it sounds, I met some of my best friends through NYSF. Also get involved in the lab visits, it really is a unique experience and gives you a taste of many fields. It’s a great opportunity to think about what you like and are interested in.”

NYSF 2017 participants are encouraged to say hello to the Communications Interns and talk with them about their NYSF experience.