Professor Tanya Monro new Science Patron for NYSF

Professor Tanya Monro, Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Research and Innovation at the University of South Australia has agreed to become the Science Patron of the National Youth Science Forum (NYSF).

“I am delighted to be able to continue to support the NYSF as its Science Patron,” Professor Monro said. “This amazing program makes a real impact on the lives of many of Australia’s future leaders and scientists.”

When speaking to the NYSF 2017 cohort last week, Professor Monro encouraged the students to stick to the three Ps as a guide – passion, persistence, and patience, and to keep an open mind to “choose your own adventure” in science.

Andrew Metcalfe AO, Chair of the NYSF Board, said it was exciting that Professor Monro had agreed to continue her advocacy for and involvement in the NYSF at a strategic level.

“Tanya’s insights and experience were invaluable when she was Chair of the Board and we acknowledge and thank her for her contribution in that role. As our Science Patron, I am sure she will continue to provide context and connections for our future direction.

Professor Monro is an alumna of the NYSF (or the National Science Summer School as it was), attending in 1990. She was Chair of the NSSS Board from 2014-2016.

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.

Launch for NYSF 2017

The National Youth Science Forum (NYSF) launched its 2017 January programs earlier this month at the Australian National University (ANU).

Andrew Metcalfe, AO, Chair of the NYSF Board said the January program would be better than ever due to the ongoing support of our funding partners and organisations that facilitated the program.  Mr Metcalfe made special mention of the recent funding announcement by Minister Greg Hunt of funding for the NYSF’s activities through the National Innovation Science Agenda (NISA).

NYSF Chair Andrew Metcalfe speaking at the NYSF 2017 launch

NYSF Chair Andrew Metcalfe speaking at the NYSF 2017 launch

Mr Metcalfe also welcomed our newest Funding Partner, IP Australia, who’s Deputy Director General, Ms Deb Anton, also addressed the group underlining the value of supporting the NYSF as a program that attracts Australia’s next generation of leading innovators. “This aligns with IP Australia’s position,“ she said, “as we are at the forefront of innovation in Australia.”

“Supporting new talent will result in a strong, positive impact in securing Australia’s future as a global leader in science and technology.”

Attendees at the launch included representatives from NYSF funding partners, ANU academics and researchers who assist with the delivery of the NYSF program in the form of the lab visits and guest lectures; other facility lab visit and site tour providers; alumni of the NYSF Program, many of whom are students or graduates of the ANU; NYSF Board and Council members; and the NYSF corporate team.

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Dr. Chris Hatherly, Anne MacKay, Daniel Lawson, Emily Rose Rees, Ellen Lynch

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Prof. Jenny Graves, Deb Anton, Dr. Alison Shield

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Alumni Sam Backwell, Laura Wey,                Mitchell de Vries

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Andrew Metcalfe AO and Deb Anton

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Andrew Metcalfe AO and Deb Anton

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Mitchell de Vries, Natalie Williams,                Merryn Fraser

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Rowley Tompsett, Madeline Cooper,             Melanie Tacey

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Ken Maxwell, Dr. Damien Pearce, Jo Hart

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Tony Trumble, Prof. Jenny Graves, Deb Anton, Adrian Hearne, Brody Hannan

All images:  Emma Robertson

Science Teachers – hold the date for NSTSS2017

Science teachers considering applying for the NYSF’s National Science Teachers Summer School (NSTSS) 2017 should pencil in Monday 9 January – Friday 13 January 2017.

The NYSF has run the NSTSS for over ten years, and will again be collaborating with the ANU to deliver another quality program for teachers of science from across Australia.

The NSTSS is part of the NYSF’s suite of programs and coincides with the second week of Session A of the NYSF January Sessions. The synergies between the youth and teacher programs are obvious.

Teacher Mark O'Sullivan - NSTSS Program 2016 (Image: Geoff Burchfield)

Mark O’Sullivan – NSTSS Program 2016 (Image: Geoff Burchfield)

The program for NSTSS 2017 is still being developed, and will be released shortly. For a taste of what to expect, at NSTSS 2016 teacher participants:

  • Learned about the latest developments in science from world-leading researchers;
  • Visited first-class laboratories and teaching facilities at The Australian National University and other sites in Canberra and the region, including the CSIRO, the Tidbinbilla Deep Space Tracking Station and Geoscience Australia;
  • Toured the National Computational Infrastructure and saw up close the power and interactive nature of modern data manipulation methods and their applications;
  • Spent an evening looking at the stars at the ANU Mount Stromlo Observatory;
  • Learned how to bring science alive in the classroom with presentations and interactive workshops on a range of STEM topics;
  • Participated in a live cross to the CERN Large Hadron Collider and learned about the ground breaking research happening at that international facility;
  • Networked with like-minded peers; and
  • Interacted with 200 of Australia’s leading science students, participating in the National Youth Science Forum 2016.

Previous participants have reported:

“I (now) feel confident to inspire my students into the fields of science and engineering. There are so many opportunities out there and it is our role to ensure they are exposed to these fields.”

“I experienced the thrill of science and was exposed to cutting edge, real science and it was exciting. It enriched my teaching of science, giving me experiences to enrich my classroom teaching.”

The NSTSS 2016 program can be viewed here. To receive information about when applications open, please email nysf@nysf.edu.au

“Scientists need to listen more” – Heather Bray, NYSF Alumna 1987

The guest speaker at the NYSF 2016 Session A Rotary Dinner was Dr Heather Bray, a Senior Research Associate at the University of Adelaide, and an NYSF Alumna from 1987. In an engaging and enthusiastic talk, Dr Bray shared her experiences of the then National Science Summer School, and where her study path has taken her since then.

Dr Bray’s initial area of interest and research lay within the agriculture industry, looking at the effect of heat stroke in pigs. She discussed how her love of agriculture was largely due to the fact it combines science and humanities, two fields she finds particularly fascinating.

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Dr Heather Bray, NYSF Alumna 1987, at NYSF 2016 Session A Rotary Dinner

Dr Bray also discussed the issue of mental health in the academic world, reflecting on her personal journey dealing with grief and loss. “Sometimes life doesn’t go to plan, but it’s okay and vital to ask for help.” She reminded the audience that even if our immediate plan is not working, that does not mean we’ve failed, nor does it mean that we will fail to achieve our life goals.

In conjunction with agricultural research, Dr Bray has also worked in science communication for several years. She provided educational science programs for young children, CSIRO workshops for teenagers and educating the general public about genetically modified food – another area that she has pursued.

A key point of Dr Bray’s lecture was to remind the audience that science communication is not just about the science. “We’ve (scientists) been doing a lot of talking, but not a lot of listening.” She said that she had realised that just providing the scientific facts was not helpful in encouraging individuals to embrace change in a particular area – for example, GM foods – so in order to better understand why, Dr Bray began a Masters of Education. Dr Bray now works in the Department of History, School of Humanities at The University of Adelaide, researching the animal food industry as well as human behaviour.

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“Best audience ever!” Heather Bray on Instagram @heatherbray6

To find out more about Dr Heather Bray, please follow the link below. http://www.adelaide.edu.au/directory/heather.bray

Being the NYSF Rotary Dinner, Monica Garrett, Governor Rotary District 9710 spoke with the students about Rotary’s involvement in the NYSF; and Rotaract’s Rebecca Bamford encouraged the students to reach out to Rotary/Rotaract not only to pursue other opportunities through various youth programs, but also as a way of giving back to the community.

 

Story by Charlotte Brew,

Calling NYSF/NSSS alumni

Did you attend the National Youth Science Forum (NYSF) or the National Science Summer School?

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We are always keen to hear from our alumni and to learn what you have been up to. There are also opportunities for you to engage with each year’s cohort of students through a range of activities, starting with the flagship NYSF January Sessions held in Canberra, and then with our follow up programs in different cities through the year.

The best way to keep up to date is to log onto our database at www.nysf.edu.au and register as an alumni member – if you need any information to do this, please email nysf@nysf.edu.au