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

Opening Soon: Applications for NYSF January Sessions 2018

On 1 March applications will open for next year’s NYSF January Program. Applications will remain open until 31 May. With up to an extra 200 places available thanks to a third session running in Brisbane in cooperation with the University of Queensland, we hope you will help to spread the word about our program.

As always, applications are open to students currently in year 11 in 2017, to attend the program in the summer holidays before entering year 12 in 2018.

Have you attended the program in the past? Then help us out by encouraging your friends and relatives who are interested in STEM to apply.

You can also ensure you receive all of our updates if you are a registered alumni through our database. Email communications@nysf.edu.au to make sure you are on the system.

NYSF 2017 January Session Group Photo

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

Generation Beyond — Lockheed Martin’s STEM Program on Display at Avalon Airshow, Victoria

The first person to visit Mars is in school today. Will it be you?

In an Australian first, NYSF’s major partner Lockheed Martin is bringing its Generation Beyond STEM display to the Avalon Airshow in Victoria next month.

Generation Beyond is an educational program designed to inspire the next generation of innovators, explorers, inventors and pioneers to pursue STEM careers.

With a number of fun and interesting interactive displays, Generation Beyond will take visitors on a journey from today, into the future and beyond and will feature the F-35, the Orion spacecraft and Mars exploration.

Generation Beyond will be open to the public on the weekend of March 4 and 5 at Avalon.

A Newcastle Tea Ceremony

Students from the Newcastle area who recently returned from the National Youth Science Forum (NYSF) 2017 Year 12 Program in January, were treated to an afternoon tea hosted by The Lord Mayor of Newcastle, Cr Nuatali Nelmes.

The Lord Mayor congratulated local students on their achievements and selection to the NYSF program.


“It was my pleasure to host this special afternoon tea recognising the National Youth Science Forum and the number of local alumni who demonstrated the up and coming science, engineering and technology talent in Newcastle’s high schools.”

Also in attendance were Rotarians from local clubs, representatives from The University of Newcastle, local school principals and NYSF alumni, including NYSF 2013 alumnus, Phill Johnson, who was recently awarded Newcastle’s Young Citizen of the Year, and Newcastle City Councillor, Declan Clausen, who attended the NYSF in 2010. Cr Clausen knows first-hand the benefits students can gain from the NYSF program.

“As an alumnus of the NYSF, I know the value it plays in opening doors for young people across Australia in engineering, science and innovation.”

Callaghan College (Jesmond Campus) Student, Meheret Dagemawe, said the afternoon tea with the Lord Mayor was a memorable experience.

“Having the opportunity of meeting the Lord Mayor has allowed me to have an in-depth conversation of my future aspirations, in which Lord Mayor, Nuatali Nelmes, took great interest and provided invaluable insight about my choices.”

“The NYSF, although science related, has given me life skills that I could apply regardless of what path I choose to follow. The connections created through laughter and healthy debates with the brilliant minds of like-minded students is what I cherish most. I was also able to take away the most valuable lesson of networking with awe-inspiring scientists and speakers. Going to NYSF has allowed me to widen my career and further study options, it’s enabled me to be able to see different perspectives from a wide variety of people,” she said.

Cr Clausen noted that an additional 200 places will be available for next year’s program and encouraged local students to apply.

“As a region we have been very fortunate to have been so well represented at NYSF in the past, and I strongly encourage young Novocastrians in Year 11 to apply to attend NYSF in 2018,” Cr Clausen said.

Applications for 2018 open on 1 March. Full details at: www.nysf.edu.au

The Australian National University: News Update

ANU Rated in the Top 10 International Universities

The Times Higher Education world university rankings judge world class universities across their teaching, research, knowledge transfer and international outlook. Being ranked seventh in the world reflects the universities commitment to conduct research on a global scale and to provide our students with global opportunities.

Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academic) Professor Marnie Hughes Warrington said, “At the heart of our mission is the commitment to ensure an ANU education gives our graduate’s qualifications that can help them with their careers anywhere in the world.”

Many of our science students also benefit from this global perspective, and high international ranking, by pursuing global opportunities either through one of our many exchange programs or by conducting study on one of our overseas fieldwork trips.

To find out more about our programs and global opportunities, click here.

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.

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.

Hands-on lab visit to RSB at ANU for Session C

With food security a global issue, investment in primary research into plant research has never been more important.

Session C’s food, agriculture, and animal and plant biology group “Fenner” headed to the Research School of Biology to look at some of the latest in plant science research at the ANU.

The entire session was spent in the lab, run by Alisha Duncan, the education and events officer, supported by a team of PhD students and researchers. They work on improving plant photosynthesis, which can improve the yield of staple food crops; the Fenner group’s activity was a simple photosynthesis experiment.

The participants started by making a red cabbage pH indicator. The chemical anthocyanin in the cabbage naturally changes colour, based on the acidity of its environment. After creating this, they used a variety of substances to create a scale, such as bi-carb soda and egg whites.

PH can be used to measure photosynthesis by the amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) present in a solution. In this particular cabbage solution, it is purple when neutral, which also equates to atmospheric CO2. The higher the CO2, the more acidic it becomes, and the solution turns pink. The lower the CO2, the more basic it becomes, and it turns blue-green, or even yellow. When CO2 is high in a plant, it indicates that respiration is happening at a faster rate than photosynthesis, therefore the solution will turn pink. When C02 is low, it indicates photosynthesis is at a faster rate than respiration, and the solution turns blue-green/ yellow.

The group were testing photosynthesis of algae, so next had to make algae balls. This is done by suspending many single-celled algae in a jelly-like substance, each with equal amounts of photosynthetic material. After measuring the algae, the participants discussed possible variables that would affect the photosynthesis rate. Each person was given a tube of algae balls and a tube of indicator to test this variable at home.

Participants with their take-home pH indicator and algae balls

 

Being able to have such a hands-on activity at their last lab visit for Session C was fun, and helped to ensure there’s more science to come!

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

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