From the CEO

The National Youth Science Forum (NYSF) 2017 January Sessions are now behind us and the 400 Australian and international students who participated have returned home to commence their final year in high school, full of new knowledge, inspiration and friendships to carry them forward during this pivotal time in their lives.

Both Session A and C were extremely successful and a testament to the extensive dedication and support we received from so many people who support our programs.  In particular, I would like to thank our Chiefs of Staff, Meg Lowry (Session A) and Martin de Rooy (Session C), and our teams of student staff leaders, whose efforts were instrumental to the success of program this year.

I would also like to recognise contributions by the NYSF Corporate staff, our volunteer Rotary parents, aunts and uncles, members of Rotary Clubs across Australia, Burgmann College, The Australian National University (ANU), our communications and teacher program interns, our many distinguished guest speakers and particularly our lab visit hosts, who provided access to leading research and industrial facilities. I encourage you to read back through the NYSF Outlook site to learn about some of the highlights from session.

Finally, the NYSF program could not exist without the financial and logistical support of our Partners and Sponsors. I thank them for their contributions during January and their continued support of the organisation and its programs.

Running in conjunction with the year 12 program in January was the NYSF National Science Teachers Summer School (NSTSS) – aimed at supporting teachers and their commitment to STEM education in their local communities. A group of 40 teachers from around Australia participated in this long-running professional development program. Teachers were exposed to cutting edge science via lab visits, workshops, and lectures as well as engaging and networking with their peers.

Exciting times are ahead for the NYSF as we continue to develop and grow the organisation. In January, our Chair, Andrew Metcalfe AO, announced the addition of a third January session (Session B) for NYSF 2018 hosted at The University of Queensland (UQ), providing an extra 200 places – 600 students in total at the ANU and UQ.  This is made possible through funding from the National Innovation and Science Agenda (NISA). The extra places will give more students across Australia the opportunity to explore their study and career options in the STEM fields. This is evidence of the value of our year 12 program and its positive effect on students studying STEM subjects.

Although January is over, the NYSF engine room is still running hot with much planned for the remainder of 2017 and beyond. Applications for NSYF International Programs have opened with overwhelming interest.  March is looking busy – applications for NYSF 2018 will open on 1 March and will be accepted until 31 May. The Rotary District Chairs Conference will be held in Canberra, and our alumni will be out and about promoting STEM study and the NYSF at the World Science Festival in Brisbane. Our Next Step Programs for NYSF 2017 students will run throughout April to July in Melbourne, Brisbane and Sydney, with alumni events co-hosted by IP Australia. The Student Staff Leadership Program kicks off in July and another first for the NYSF is our exciting pilot program, STEM Explorer, which will run for the in Adelaide in July 2017.  The STEM Explorer Program is a collaborative initiative between the South Australian Department of Education (DED) and the NYSF, targeting science engagement for school students in years 7 and 8. We also acknowledge the seed funding we received to develop this program from the Department of Industry, Innovation and Science.

In other news, we also announced in January that Professor Tanya Monro, Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Research and Innovation at the University of South Australia, has taken on the role of NYSF Science Patron.  Professor Monro, a NYSF alumna (1990), was Chair of the NSSS Board from 2014-2016.  We are delighted that Professor Monro will continue her involvement with the organisation. We have also welcomed Professor Sally-Ann Poulsen and Loren Atkins to the NSSS Board. Professor Poulsen is also a NYSF alumna (1986) and will bring with her a wealth of knowledge and experience in industry and academica.  Loren Atkins (NYSF alumna 2005), the new NYSF alumni representative, holds a Bachelor of Law (Hons), and a Bachelor of Science in Geography and Environmental Science, and currently works for the World Bank as an Associate Counsel.

By now, our NYSF 2016 alumni will have made decisions about the next stage of their education.  Whatever field of study or institution you have decided upon I would like to wish you all the best for your future studies and hope that in some small way the NYSF has helped steer you on your path.

Dr Damien Pearce

CEO

The Right Chemistry — Professor Richard Payne at NYSF 2017 Session A Science Dinner

Richard Payne’s story of his journey from small-town New Zealand, via the Universities of Canterbury, Cambridge and Sydney, to receiving the Australian Prime Minister’s 2016 The Malcolm McIntosh Prize for Physical Scientist of the Year, resonated with the NYSF 2017 Session A audience where he was the guest speaker at the Science Dinner.

Professor Payne’s talk was well received not just because his work is world-leading and significant, but mainly because his story was one of perseverance, being in the right-place, right-time, hard work, and a commitment to excellence. From his days working as a trolley pusher while at university, to managing his own research lab and commercialising new drug candidates, Professor Payne entertained the audience, while also providing sound advice about being focused on where you want to go, and being pragmatic when it comes to funding research.

Isabel from Canberra said, “Professor Richard Payne was my personal favourite speaker at the NYSF.  He spoke about his research into antimicrobial resistant superbugs (in particular tuberculosis) which I found really interesting. Having lived in South Korea for two years, where I first learnt about TB, Professor Payne’s talk really resonated with me personally.”

Louis from Sydney also enjoyed Professor Payne’s address. “He enlightened us all on his life journey into scientific research and his ground-breaking research in biochemistry; he has really inspired me to study this field.”

Marilee from South Australia, said, “The most memorable speech at the NYSF was from Professor Richard Payne at the Science Dinner. His achievements at such a young age really inspire and amaze me, with his focus on tuberculosis and superbugs was extremely engaging and educational.”

The generosity of keynote speakers who share their insights and knowledge is a valuable element of the NYSF Science Dinners, and the participants at NYSF 2017 Session A were not disappointed.

Learn more about Professor Payne’s work — sydney.edu.au/science/people/richard.payne.phpwww.scienceinpublic.com.au/prime-ministers-prize/2016physical

Summer Science Satisfaction for Teachers at NYSF NSTSS

Forty teachers of high school science from around Australia made the most of their own week-long excursion to Canberra in January to re-connect with their inner “nerd” and work out why they were inspired to teach science in the first place.

Participating in the NYSF National Science Teachers Summer School (NSTSS) offered science teachers with an exciting opportunity to visit a wide range of science and education destinations in and around the Canberra region over the five-day program held each January. Visits included the Canberra Deep Space Complex at Tidbinbilla, the Australian National University’s Mount Stromlo Observatory, CSIRO Black Mountain, Geoscience Australia and other ANU Science facilities. They took part in a variety of hands-on activities that helped them to connect with science in a meaningful way, and also reviewed and shared resources that they could be applied in the classroom.

The NYSF’s NSTSS focuses on scientific engagement rather than exploring pedagogical practice – although no-one can stop teachers talking shop!

NYSF CEO, Dr Damien Pearce explains, “The purpose of the NYSF’s NSTSS is to maintain the spark, or in some cases re-spark, that passion for science that science teachers have when they start their careers. In contrast to other professional development opportunities for teachers, we come from the position that all those who come to the program are great teachers. What we aim to do is show them the latest technologies and discoveries, so they can return to the classroom and share their excitement with their students.”

Another key part of the NYSF NSTSS program is networking. While teachers are able to meet a variety of scientists and researchers during their time in Canberra, they also make meaningful connections with one other.


Long after everyone has gone home, the teachers are continuing to share ideas, experiences and resources. Cornelia Cefai, from Victoria says, “I met almost 40 other teachers searching for something similar at the NSTSS. We learned so much that was awe-inspiring from the researchers involved in the program, but we also gained a wealth of information from each other, such as how to run a fun science class on a budget, or novel ways to deliver the curriculum. Attending definitely reinvigorated my love for and faith in science.”

From practising synthesis and titration skills at the ANU Research School of Chemistry, to feeling the earth move at the Research School of Earth Science, and understanding how – at Geoscience Australia (including the intricacies of the SHRIMP!), the NYSF’s NSTSS continues to meet its goal of engaging teachers of science in the equation of STEM engagement.

NYSF’s NSTSS will run in two locations in 2018 — at The Australian National University and at The University of Queensland. To register your interest for the 2018 program, email nysf@nysf.edu.au

Ecolinc Victoria’s Emerging STEM for Women — Speed-Daters Needed

The Ecolinc Science and Technology Centre is running another Emerging STEM for Women event on Wednesday 14 June, at their centre in Bacchus Marsh in Melbourne.

The event is already fully booked with ca 90 year 9 and 10 students coming to hear about a range of study and employment opportunities in STEM. A key element of the day is the speed-date event, which runs from 1-2pm. You will meet with a small group of students for about 10 minutes at a time, talking about your study and work experiences before the group rotates off to the “next speed-dater”.

The key-note speaker on this occasion is Colleen Filippa, one of two Victorian women who are involved in the Homeward Bound expedition to Antarctica. Homeward Bound is a women’s leadership and climate change research project, in which NYSF alumna Sandra Kerbler is also a participant.

Several NYSF alumna helped out at the Ecolinc event in October last year. Ideally, you will have  tertiary study and work experiences to share.

Ecolinc director Linda Flynn says, “The success of the day is attributed to the many women who are prepared to share their stories with these girls and we truly appreciate the volunteers’ time on the day.  In appreciation, we always provide a yummy lunch prior to the ‘speed dating’ session!”

If you can help out as a speed-dater on 14 June, please contact Linda at ecolinc@edumail.vic.gov.au, and let her know you are an NYSF alumna!

News from the University of Queensland

Here are two of the University of Queensland latest projects…

Food Lab by Ben Milbourne

UQ is working with 2012 MasterChef finalist Ben Milbourne to produce an online series of food science resources that align with Australia’s STEM Strategy 2025 initiative and the national science curriculum.

Each episode of Food Lab by Ben Milbourne will be accompanied by supporting material and resources for teachers and students including lesson plans, student activities, experiments, investigations, discussion topics and research tasks. You can register your interest in receiving these materials at www.uq.edu.au/bens-food-lab/eform/submit/uqform-learning-resources.

Food Lab by Ben Milbourne premiered on Channel 10 on Saturday 4 February 2017. With help from some of UQ’s most engaging teachers and researchers, Ben will explain and demonstrate common scientific principles in a way that’s fun and easy to understand — through cooking! You can catch up on all episodes at www.uq.edu.au/bens-food-lab/watch-episodes

QUERY101x Question Everything: Scientific Thinking in Real Life

This is the first MOOC of its kind in Australia, designed for high school students by high school teachers, working in partnership with UQ. Do you want to know how you can apply math and science skills to real life? This course will advance your knowledge and spark enthusiasm for further study of STEM subjects. Find out more and enrol.

Session C’s Specialist Lectures

With such a large and diverse group, catering to individuals’ interests is a key component of the success of NYSF, a philosophy further demonstrated in the specialist lecture program. Split up into similar interest groups, the participants were divided heard from three lecturers, Dr Dennis McNevin, Dr Damith Herath, and Dr Colin Jackson.

Dr Colin Jackson is an Associate Professor, researcher, and senior lecturer at the Research School of Chemistry at ANU. His research focuses on understanding the fundamental chemistry that underlies biological functions, and spoke to the group about insecticide resistance. He talked about the Australian sheep blowfly, a longstanding introduced pest that has formed some insecticide resistance. After explaining the science behind organophosphate insecticides; the group discussed the resistance crisis that threatens agriculture, and how it happens on a molecular and evolutionary level.

Dr Damith Herath is an Assistant Professor in Software Engineering at the University of Canberra, as well as CEO and co-founder of Robological. His research on robots in society was the focus of his lecture, where after discussing his long and varied career, he led the group in a discussion of the concept of robot-human interaction.

Dr Damith Herath’s lecture

Dr Dennis McNevin is an Assistant Professor of Forensic Studies at the University of Canberra, based at the National Centre for Forensic Studies. He first discussed with the group what he described as his ‘non-typical’ career path, before talking about his current role as a forensic geneticist. He described the field as revolutionary to forensics, giving the ability to use DNA to determine individual’s identity, which can also be applied to other fields, such as disaster victim identification. The group then were shown real life examples of how DNA profiling is applied.

All three of the lectures were interesting and engaging,allowing the participants another opportunity to access knowledge through the NYSF program.

Meg Stegeman, Communications Intern NYSF 2017 Session C and NYSF Alumna 2014

Extra 200 places for NYSF 2018 at The University of Queensland

Another 200 places will be available for year 12 students to attend the National Youth Science Forum (NYSF) next January due to the NYSF’s new in-principle agreement with The University of Queensland  (UQ) announced today.

“We are very pleased to welcome The University of Queensland as our second host university next year,” said Mr Andrew Metcalfe AO, chair of the National Youth Science Forum. “This commitment from UQ will allow the NYSF to offer a wider range of experiences to all of our student participants, both in January and through our follow up programs.”

The addition of the 200 places at UQ will bring the total number of participants at the NYSF 2018 program to 600; this increase in numbers is supported through funding from the Commonwealth’s National Science and Innovation Agenda (NISA). The complete 600 student cohort will be able to access information about all of the NYSF corporate supporters and their employment opportunities along with our university hosts and supporters, through our Partners’ Days and follow up Next Step programs.

“We are excited about the possibilities for our science tour program and the access to industry that the south-east Queensland location offers the NYSF,” added Mr Metcalfe. “And more importantly, it allows us to meet the continuing and increasing demand for places at the NYSF January program from young people and their families, as they consider future options for study in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) fields.”

“This is a stand out program and a unique opportunity for students passionate about  science, engineering  and related disciplines,” said The University of Queensland’s Provost, Professor Aidan Byrne, who has been instrumental in securing the partnership between UQ and NYSF. “I have been involved in NYSF in some form since its inception and am confident that expanding the program into Queensland will provide valuable experiences and skills to those who participate.”

Applications to participate in the NYSF 2018 program open on 1 March 2017 and all documentation must be submitted by 31 May 2017. Applicants must be in year 11 in 2017 to attend the 2018 program.

 

Further information: Amanda Caldwell 0410 148 173

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 welcomed to Parliament House

NYSF 2017 Session C NYSF Participants found themselves in the heart of the nation on Wednesday at Parliament House as they attended the official opening of NYSF 2017 Session C. Dressed to the nines, the group were warmly greeted by an impressive array of speakers.

Dr Andrew Metcalfe AO, chair of the NSSS Board, opened the event. With a personal connection to the program through his son, who is an NYSF alumnus and currently completing a science PhD, Mr Metcalfe conveyed to the participants the unique opportunity to immerse themselves in science that they had been given. Next, Mr Steve Hill, the District 9710 Rotary Governor, addressed the group. He highlighted the importance of Rotary to support youth programs, and encouraged the students to take advantage of the wonderful opportunities and experiences that are to come.

The group also heard from Ms Glenys Beauchamp PSM, the current Secretary of the Department of Industry, Innovation and Science. Having a business and economic background, the way she spoke so highly of science emphasised to the participants the importance of science in a political setting. After all, as she made a point of saying, ‘you can’t look at innovation without science’.

Ms Beauchamp shared many of her own views on the science community, equating scientists with rock stars, and the need to celebrate science. She proudly outline the many scientific achievements of Australia, and also the need for more entrepreneurial endeavours from scientists. Being in an age where technology and science are reaching exciting new levels, she stressed the importance of finding ways to let science translate into commercial and economic benefits for the whole nation. She concluded with inspiring words, ‘hope to see some of you in business, academia, and government’,  – which is fitting as all are possibilities with the varied pathways science can lead to.

Finally, Dr Anna Cowan addressed the group, outlining the great community that the NYSF creates, with many colleagues and students being NYSF alumni. Being the Deputy Director of Education at ANU’s college for Medicine, Biology and Environment, as well as the ANU College of Physical and Mathematical Sciences, her inspirational words were especially significant to the group of future scientists.

Once the speeches concluded, the group was treated to an exclusive tour of Parliament House, including the opportunity enact the process of passing a bill in the House of Representatives through a mock proceeding. The growing confidence of the group was evident in this activity, and with lab visits looming on the horizon, things are only just getting started for the Session C participants.

 

Meg Stegeman, Communications Intern NYSF 2017 Session C and NYSF Alumna 2014

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

Session C’s first workshop has them thinking

Interactive, relaxed, entertaining; all excellent descriptors of the ‘Critical Thinking Skills’ Workshop the NYSF 2017 participants attended this afternoon.

The workshop was presented by Dr Will Grant, a University of Queensland graduate with a PhD in Political Science. Dr Grant currently works at ANU as a researcher, lecturer, and graduate studies convener at the Australian National Centre for the Public Awareness of Science.

Critical Thinking is important for everyday life and future careers, and participants were engaged from the start, questioning and delving deeper and deeper into the topic. And developing a thorough understanding of these skills was about to immediately come in handy for the participants, as the practical section of the workshop began.

The opportunity to practice Critical Thinking Skills in a supportive environment encouraged a lively debate. Example scenarios with five possible solutions were shown, with Dr Grant prompting participants to discuss their answer with those around them, before taking a group consensus.  Constructive arguments were presented and rebutted as the scenarios became more difficult, and many differing opinions emerged from the group.

Dr Grant wrapped the workshop up with a discussion on Critical Thinking in everyday life, and as the group exited the lecture hall, the excited chatter confirmed the afternoon was a great start to the many activities and discussions yet to come in Session C.

 

Meg Stegeman, NYSF alumna 2014 and Communications Intern NYSF 2017 Session C