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

 

 

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

NYSF 2017 Session A: Partners’ Day Expo

After the Partners’ Day presentations the students gathered for the Partners’ Day Expo , where they were able to meet, chat and network with representatives of the NYSF partners.

The students were able to meet reps (and the presenters) from Lockheed Martin, IP Australia, UNSW Australia, Monash University, Melbourne University, Australian National University, University of Queensland, CSIRO, CSL, Resmed, and Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC).

The one-on-one conversations with the representatives proved to be valuable for the students – they got their questions answered and expanded their horizons in terms of career choices and opportunities.

All of the students were obsessively engaged in conversation that evening, but I managed to pull two aside for a quick chat about their thoughts on the expo.

“It encourages people to think and create change, and I’m a big advocate for creating change.”

“IP Australia really stood out for me” said Sharon Nguyen. “People are coming up with new ideas all the time, and so the work that they do at IP Australia is important because they can protect it. It encourages people to think and create change, and I’m a big advocate for creating change.”

“Before NYSF I wanted to do occupational therapy, then through talking to NYSF friends and the presenters I realized there was a whole world of opportunity and options out there that I hadn’t thought of.”

Sharon Nguyen with Matt Lee (Assistant Director of Strategic Communication, IP Australia)

As well as career choices, the conversation with the university reps in particular also illuminated life as a tertiary student. It seems as though it not only helped inform the students, but also sparked some excitement.

“Talking to all the presenters and other professionals has got me really excited to start university and the next stage of my career.”

“[Partners’ Day] made me realise how many options are out there, and it got me thinking about and considering many different universities” said Danyon Farrell.

“I’ve always wanted to do a double degree but I wasn’t sure, but after hearing the talks today it really made it obvious how valuable they are and the opportunity that they open.”

“Talking to all the presenters and other professionals has got me really excited to start university and the next stage of my career.”

One happy Danyon Farrell

By Jackson Nexhip, NYSF 2017 Session A Communications Intern and NYSF 2013 Alumnus

Paleoanthropologist Dr Rachel Wood speaks about human development research

This year, NYSF 2017 participants were able to attend one of three specialist lectures which catered to their personal interests in STEM. Students with an interest in anthropology and biology attended a lecture presented by Dr Rachel Wood. Dr Wood completed her master’s degree in archaeological science at the University of Oxford, she then worked at the Salisbury Museum before returning to Oxford to complete a PhD in radiocarbon dating. In 2011 Dr Wood moved to the ANU as part of a research offer, before joining the ANU as a post-doctoral fellow in 2015.

Dr Rachel Wood is a paleoanthropologist, which is the study of the formation and development of characteristics possessed by modern humans. “It’s time to solve old mysteries,” said Dr Wood. She is dedicated to studying the dispersal of humans and the last Neanderthals. Palaeoanthropology is a mixing pot that combines nuclear physics, engineering, anthropology, chemistry and biology into one discipline, which means that palaeoanthropology projects require a team of scientists with a diverse range of skills.

“It’s time to solve old mysteries.”

Homo Neanderthalensis (Neanderthals) originated in Eurasia approximately 300,000 years ago, Dr Wood explained, and Homo Sapiens originated in Africa approximately 200,000 years ago. “Neanderthals aren’t brutes, they weren’t savages,” Dr Wood said in regards to the common portrayal of Neanderthals. Dr Wood explained that genetic research showed that modern humans and Neanderthals interbreeded, and that approximately 2% of the DNA of modern humans comes directly from Neanderthals.

Dr Rachel Wood speaking about biological samples from Neanderthals

There are many methods of dating archaeological samples, but radiocarbon dating is the most accepted. Carbon isotopes with six (12C) or seven (13C) neutrons are stable, that is, they don’t decay into any other atom. The carbon isotope with eight neutrons (14C) decays slowly, at a rate such that after 5,730 years, half of the carbon would have turned into nitrogen. Therefore, by measuring the amount of 14C in bone samples, paleoanthropologists can accurately determine the age of the samples. Due to the timescale of 14C decay, radiocarbon dating only works reliably for samples that are less than 50,000 years old.

Dr Wood focuses on cleaning and pretreating samples before they are dated. “Contamination often causes older samples to appear erroneously young,” Dr Wood explained, which is why effective management of samples prior to radiocarbon dating is imperative.

Spain is an area of interest for Dr Wood, because it is a region where modern humans and Neanderthals appeared to live next door to each other approximately forty to fifty thousand years ago. Detailed investigations have determined that there was likely an overlap period of 2500 to 4600 years where modern humans and Neanderthals coexisted in the region.

To find out more about Dr Rachel Wood and her research, click here.

By Daniel Lawson, NYSF 2017 Session A Communications Intern and NYSF 2015 Alumnus.

Professor Brian Schmidt on a life in science … and the future of the universe: NYSF2017

NYSF 2017 Session A students were treated to a lecture presented by Professor Brian Schmidt, Nobel Laureate and now Vice-Chancellor of The Australian National University.

Along with Adam Riess and Saul Perlmutter, Professor Schmidt was awarded the 2011 Nobel Prize in Physics for his role in the discovery of the accelerating expansion of the universe.

Nobel Laureate Professor Brian Schmidt (Source: http://theconversation.com/australian-astrophysicist-wins-nobel-prize-3707)

Professor Schmidt’s work has revolutionised the way we think about our universe, but the building blocks for his research were established over a hundred years ago when Einstein watched a man fall from a roof. From this, Einstein postulated the theory of general relativity, which brought him into the public eye.

It’s important to understand the past to know our future. If the gravitational forces in the universe became more powerful than its expansion, the universe would contract into an event that Professor Schmidt referred to as the ‘gnaB giB’, which is the Big Bang backwards. Professor Schmidt was determined to figure out the fate of our universe, so in 1994 he formed the High-Z team.

Picture of the High-Z team, who discovered the accelerating expansion of the universe (Source: https://www.cfa.harvard.edu/supernova/highz/members.html)

The search then began. “I had two things, unbridled enthusiasm and 100% of my time. That’s something you all have, it’s how the world goes round,” Professor Schmidt said to the Session A cohort. The High-Z team discovered that distant supernova were moving away from us more slowly than closer supernova. This was the opposite of what the High-Z team was expecting to find, so they started to doubt their method.

“I had two things, unbridled enthusiasm and 100% of my time. That’s something you all have, it’s how the world goes round.”

“Sometimes in science, the accepted idea of what the universe or world is doing is wrong. Proving this idea wrong is how science advances,” Professor Schmidt says. The team’s results were indeed correct, and were corroborated by the results of Saul Perlmutter’s team at the University of California, Berkeley.

Professor Schmidt’s presentation to the NYSF then transitioned into a discussion of the unknown, in particular the fate and composition of our universe. Only 4.9% of the universe consists of matter made from atoms, the other 95.1% is a composition of dark matter and dark energy. We know that dark matter has to exist, but we don’t know what it is, “I fear I may die, not knowing what’s there,” Professor Schmidt said in reference to dark matter. “The universe is approximately 25% dark matter and 70% dark energy. These numbers have predicted, in advance, every single calculation we’ve made on our universe,” Professor Schmidt said.

As the universe expands, the density of conventional matter decreases, whereas the pushing force of dark energy only grows stronger over time. “Dark energy has won the battle for the universe,” Professor Schmidt explained. That is, the universe is likely to continue expanding at an accelerating rate until the eventual heat death of the universe.

Students of the session A cohort were captivated by Professor Schmidt’s presentation (image Jackson Nexhip)

Professor Schmidt concluded his presentation by providing some pertinent advice for the Session A cohort. “Ask yourself, after every year, is this where I want to be?” Professor Schmidt said, emphasising the importance of being happy with your work, career, and life.

“It’s not the really big things that matter the most. It’s the little things that add up which make you happy.”

To also succeed as a scientist, Professor Schmidt emphasised that it is more important that you are happy. In response to a question regarding how he felt receiving his Nobel Prize, Professor Schmidt said, “It was a day, but it was just that, a day. It’s not the really big things that matter the most in life. It’s the little things that add up which make you happy.”

By Daniel Lawson, NYSF 2017 Session A Communications Intern and NYSF 2015 Alumnus.

NYSF 2017 Session A: This is CERN calling – come in Canberra

One of the unique experiences of the NYSF program is a live video conference with Dr Rolf Landua, the head of the CERN education outreach group. The European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN), is a research organisation that employs 13,000 scientists, engineers and IT specialists. They also operate the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) in Geneva, Switzerland. Students were able to ask Dr Landua questions about CERN, particle physics, and his general advice for those interested in pursuing STEM careers.

Live Video Conference with Dr Rolf Landua

The Session A conference  began with a presentation from Aqeel Akber, a PhD candidate at the Australian National University’s department of nuclear science. Aqeel’s PhD research focuses on nuclear structures, in particular the structure of heavy ions. He has always looked at the world with a scientific eye, pondering the underlying physics. “Physics is absolutely a part of my identity,” he says.

Aqeel’s presentation personified particles, making particle physics more accessible for students who had limited background knowledge on the subject. “Particles are the fundamental requisite for [understanding] the greater,” he says, but he emphasised that it’s important to remember that particle physics is “not yet a theory of everything,” and that more research is required.

“Particles are the fundamental requisite for the greater.”

This is where CERN excels, with their 27 kilometre long circuit of superconductive magnets, they are able to accelerate protons to 99.9999991% the speed of light. You may have heard of the LHC through CERN’s observation of the Higgs boson in 2013. A beam in the LHC consists of around 300 trillion protons, which may sound like a lot, but if these protons were stationary they’d only weigh a billionth of a gram. Due to their immense velocity, a beam of protons in the LHC is more energetic than a million speeding bullets. When two beams collide, scientists are given a brief opportunity to gaze upon the fundamental building blocks of our universe.

At 8:00PM in Canberra, or 10:00AM in Geneva, two hundred excited students were met by Dr Rolf Landua through Skype. Dr Landua has been working at CERN for 35 years, initially working on antimatter but more recently focusing on education outreach.

“We all work together in a constructive way, it’s a really nice place to be. It’s what the world should be like in a hundred years.”

When asked about what it’s like to be part of such a dynamic organisation, Dr Landua said he was “really impressed by the diversity. For every question relevant to your research, you find someone who is an expert in it. We all work together in a constructive way, it’s a really nice place to be. It’s what the world should be like in a hundred years.”

Students and teachers lining up to ask Dr Landua a question, while the rest of the Session A cohort watches on

Dr Landua believes that effective communication of science to taxpayers is of paramount importance. “They pay for our research, they’re basically our employers,” he stated.  A common question, Dr Landua says, is “what is particle physics good for?” Dr Landua and a large number of scientists are committed to researching particle physics to satisfy their innate curiosity, but the technological advances that have been made possible by their research are immense. The World Wide Web, Wi-Fi, and digital photography are all physical manifestations of man’s endeavour to satisfy our curiosity.

Find out more about Dr Rolf Landua’s previous research here

By Daniel Lawson, NYSF 2017 Session A Communications Intern and NYSF 2015 Alumnus.