Involving alumni in NYSF Next Step events

Nate Byrne, NYSF alumnus (NYSF 2001) and newly-minted TV breakfast meteorologist – yes, the weather guy – from ABC News Breakfast, was the keynote speaker at the NYSF Next Step Melbourne alumni event in March.

In the first of two alumni events supported by IP Australia in 2017, and hosted by The University of Melbourne, this was an opportunity for the NYSF 2017 cohort to mix with previous years’ alumni and share stories about their study and career choices. It was exciting that all of our guest speakers were NYSF alumni; the first  was Dr Melanie O’Byrne, (NYSF (NSSS) 1994), who is Assistant Director, Governance Secretariat at IP Australia.

Mel explained how her own science research and science communication study gave her a variety of opportunities leading to her role today managing IP Australia’s key governance committees. Mel identified advice from Marie Curie’s grand-daughter, and the opportunity to work as a science journalism intern for New Scientist in the UK as key turning points in her career to date. Her story was one of following passions and saying yes – a great lesson for the other NYSF alumni. Mel also talked about her role as a physics patent examiner at IP Australia, and the organisation’s importance in administering IP rights and legislation relating to patents, trade marks, designs and plant breeder’s rights, and the need for scientists and engineers to be involved in those services to industry and the community.

Mel said she jumped at the opportunity to speak to the NYSF alumni. “It was a wonderful chance to highlight the many doors that tertiary studies in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) can open for young, talented Australians,” Mel said. “When I came to Canberra as a high-school student in 1994, intellectual property was not on my radar. I didn’t understand its importance to our economy, the role it plays in securing Australia’s future as a global leader in science and technology, or the career opportunities at IP Australia.  To continue to have a world leading IP system our workforce needs people who are passionate about the business of innovation and the commercialisation of Australia’s research.”

Nate Byrne didn’t run away to join the circus, but without doubt, the skills he developed as a Science Circus presenter through the Australian National University’s Master of Science Communication Outreach built on his undergrad physics degree and meteorologist qualifications to support his new role as the breakfast TV news weather presenter on the ABC. Nate’s weather reports are full of interesting explanations about the weather patterns around the country, illustrating his love for explaining the science. And he brought that passion along, as well as his bag of science tricks – but the NYSF audience needed little convincing of the fun and importance of science in their daily lives.

“It never takes much to get an NYSF crowd engaged,” said Nate, “and the students are great communicators themselves.”

“Add in the need to be flexible and courageous in career choices, and NYSF-ers are better positioned than many for the careers of the future.”

“Those skills are becoming more and more important in STEM – not just being able to do great science, but also being an advocate and a rational voice in a quickly changing world.”

“Keeping in mind that we are naturally curious and that even simple science can be full of surprises, engaging people isn’t as hard as some might think.”

Dr Catherine Wheller (NYSF 2008) was special guest MC of the event, and along with Tayla McKechnie (NYSF 2010) and Amelia Wales (NYSF 2010), offered some briefer insights into their key decisions about study and careers since attending the NYSF, and finishing studies.

The event was regarded highly by the NYSF 2017 cohort, with positive feedback.

“I could see the pathways that other students have taken, and ask advice about their uni experience … Nate’s advice was to learn where a science degree can take you.”

“All of the speakers were very informative and engaging as they told us of their lives after NYSF, or within and leading up to their current career.”

Previous years’ alumni reported that they valued the opportunity to mix with other years’ NYSF participants.

“It was fantastic to hear from a number of diverse alumni who have taken different career paths but all share a common opinion that it is vital to keep your options open and be willing to change paths. I loved the presentation from IP Australia as this was one career path I hadn’t heard of but seems extremely interesting.”

“(hearing) the individual stories was most useful.”

“I am about to finish uni, so it was great to hear about the journeys that others have taken. The presentations were very good, and the time allocated was perfect.”

NYSF will be running a similar alumni event in conjunction with the Sydney Next Step program in July.

Our thanks to IP Australia for its partnership in 2017, and The University of Melbourne for its ongoing support as a partner of the National Youth Science Forum.

NYSF 2017 students visit LMA’s STELaRLaB

Lockheed Martin Australia’s STELaRLaB hosted 15 NYSF 2017 participants as part of the Melbourne Next Step program in March.

This was a unique opportunity to see what a world-leading R&D facility is like and learn about the kinds of work being undertaken by the researchers there.

The STELaRLaB is the first such facility to be established by LMA outside of the United States. The research being conducted there is in projects of interest to LMA, as well as R&D funded by the Australian Government through grants, PhD funding, advanced R&D contracts and other programs, such as the New Technology Fund. Established in 2016, it aims to hire more than 20 researchers in the first three years, to work on projects in hypersonics, autonomous systems, robotics and command, control, communications, computer, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (C4ISR).

STELaRLaB is headed up by Dr Tony Lindsay, who welcomed the NYSF students to the facility, before they headed off to tour the labs and talk with the researchers about their work.

“We’re really excited about this opportunity to show the NYSF students some real world, really cool and complex things here at STELaRLab. What they will experience here is real research, applying all those equations we learn, all those hours of sitting in a lecture – this is what it’s all about.”

“Lockheed Martin Australia is very proud of being a major sponsor of the National Youth Science Forum; working to get the next generation understanding and appreciating the excitement of a career in science and technology, the fact that you can do it here in Australia and have a global influence. That’s important.”

Feedback on the visit from the students was very positive:

“It was an incredible experience, being able to interact with engineers in the field, doing their job. It was great.”

“It was really good to see R&D in action. It was also good that university students talked to us about their work throughout their studies.”

“The STELaRLab visit is the kind of career path I wish to follow, and getting some insight into that was an incredible experience.”

Further information on STELaRLab.

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

Next Step kicks off in Brisbane and Canberra

The National Youth Science Forum (NYSF) Next Step programs kicked off in Brisbane and Canberra in April.

“Our Next Step program aims to promote our partner organisations through laboratory and site visits in capital cities across Australia. They give the NYSF students a better understanding of the facilities available at the universities who partner with the NYSF. We also aim to show the students the kinds of jobs they can aspire to by visiting our corporate partner sites,” says NYSF Chief Executive Officer Dr Damien Pearce.

The Brisbane program visited The University of Queensland (UQ), The Edge at the State Library of Queensland, the Pharmacy Australia Centre for Excellence (PACE) at UQ, Queensland Museum and UQ Engineering.

Next Step Brisbane - Lachie Dowling

Next Step Brisbane – Lachie Dowling

Social activities allowed students to catch up with friends from the January Sessions as well as an opportunity to meet with the Brisbane chapter of the Young Scientists Australia for dinner and a trivia night.

Next Step Brisbane - Olivia Jones and Jessica Heazlett

Next Step Brisbane – Olivia Jones and Jessica Heazlett

Canberra Next Steppers visited the CSIRO Black Mountain Discovery Centre, followed by a picnic lunch in the Parliamentary Triangle before visiting the Ian Potter Foundation Technology Learning Centre. The Australian National University’s (ANU) Mount Stromlo Observatory hosted dinner with an opportunity for stargazing. Students spent their final day in lab and site visits presented at the ANU.

Next Step Canberra - L-R - Montana Coombes, Emma Croker, Adam Ehrke, Morgan Kikkawa, Sanna Wei, Kate Swann

Next Step Canberra – L-R – Montana Coombes, Emma Croker, Adam Ehrke, Morgan Kikkawa, Sanna Wei and Kate Swann

Manager of NYSF Programs Madeline Cooper says, “The NYSF experience doesn’t finish at the end of January. Next Step gives students the opportunity to continue the friendships they made on session while seeing cutting-edge research and facilities outside of Canberra. We’re so thankful to the organisations who give their time to host students during these visits. We were able to put together fantastic experiences in Brisbane and Canberra due to the generosity of these hosts, and there’s still Melbourne and Sydney to come!”

Visit to Lockheed Martin NCITE Centre an eye-opening experience

Jakub Marosz is a second year student at UNSW, studying mechanical engineering and commerce. He attended the NYSF in 2013, and in July visited the Lockheed Martin Australia NexGen Cyber Information and Technology (NCITE) Centre in Canberra with a group of NYSF students and alumni.

Lockheed Martin is one of the world’s largest defense contractors; its operations span from aeronautics and information systems to outer space operations.

Jake reports:  “During our visit to the Canberra office as part of NYSF Next Step 2015 program we were taken through a range of technologies that the company is involved with that would have been dismissed as impossible 10 years ago. We learned about robotic exo-skeletons that allow soldiers to run for hours carrying insane loads, the new generation of F-35s that make Australia’s previous aircraft seem antique, and digital intelligence software capable of finding a needle in a thousand terabytes.

Needless to say, I’d found a new dream job.

Lockheed Martin Australia NexGen Cyber Information and Technology (NCITE) Centre Canberra

Lockheed Martin Australia NexGen Cyber Information and Technology (NCITE) Centre Canberra

Lockheed Martin Australia NexGen Cyber Information and Technology (NCITE) Centre Canberra

Lockheed Martin Australia NexGen Cyber Information and Technology (NCITE) Centre Canberra

Lockheed Martin Australia NexGen Cyber Information and Technology (NCITE) Centre Canberra

Lockheed Martin Australia NexGen Cyber Information and Technology (NCITE) Centre Canberra

We had the opportunity to sample some of the latest technology like, the Oculus Rift, which is being explored as a training tool for fighter pilots, a role that may not even exist for humans for much longer. Lockheed Martin is also at the forefront of developing drone technology in both civilian and military applications, such as the unmanned cargo helicopter K-MAX, which is capable of filing its own flight plans with local air authorities, freeing up valuable pilots.

The visit was a very eye opening experience and I had a great time seeing the incredible things a career in science and engineering can lead to. We live in an exciting time where technology is advancing exponentially and we’re just scratching the surface!”

Jakub Marosz, Second year Mechanical Engineering/Commerce student at UNSW, NYSF alumnus 2013

Shivani Shah, NYSF Alumna, 2014 at UNSW Australia

Shivani Shah is an NYSF alumna (2014) from Sydney who is studying Advanced Science at UNSW Australia.

“The degree’s scope is excellent, it allows you to tailor your degree to what your interests are, especially as they keep changing as you learn more.

Going to uni is a lot different to high school; there is no one looking out for you

Going to uni is a lot different to high school; there is no one looking out for you, you choose when you want to go to class and if you want to go to class. It lets you become more mature and organised and you start to learn about who you are as a person.

A lot of NYSF friends joined me at UNSW, which has made the transition much easier. Since not many people from my school came with me, having people that I knew in my classes made it easier to adjust to uni.

Shivani Shah NYSF Alumna 2014 at UNSW

Shivani Shah                                       NYSF Alumna 2014 at UNSW

The way of life at UNSW is great, there is always something to do, whether it is involving yourself in all the clubs and societies – and yes, there is an NYSF Association at UNSW – playing in the sport teams, or even attending events held by the university. The student life at UNSW is very good, there is so many different options based on what interests you have. It’s a great way to meet friends and get involved.

It’s fair to say that UNSW wasn’t always where I had thought I wanted to go, but after attending the NYSF Sydney Next Step program, I started considering UNSW much more, which led me to my final decision of studying here. And I am so happy with my choice.”

National Youth Science Forum visits IBM in Canberra

Students who have attended the National Youth Science Forum were very fortunate to be treated to a visit to IBM’s Linux Development labs in Canberra in July.

They learned about the history of the company, and its leading role in some of the key milestones in the development of modern information management systems. They also heard about the work the company is doing in Canberra and across the country today in servicing clients from a very broad spectrum of business and government operations.

The visit to IBM reignited my interest in the field of computer science. As a result, I am currently investigating the possibility of applying for an internship there. Max Jones 

The students chatted with staff working in the lab to gain insights into the kinds of career paths that are possible should they decide to seek jobs in the IT sector. The varied backgrounds of the team members illustrated well that sometimes it’s a passion along with study that combine to direct our career paths.

Next Step Canberra - IBM’s Linux Development labs in Canberra

Next Step Canberra – IBM’s Linux Development labs in Canberra

Next Step Canberra - IBM’s Linux Development

Next Step Canberra – IBM’s Linux Development labs in Canberra

Max Jones from Mackay in Queensland is now studying at the Australian National University. “The visit to IBM reignited my interest in the field of computer science. As a result, I am currently investigating the possibility of applying for an internship there.”

A couple of hands-on activities put the students to the test, offering a fun spin to the visit and showing what can be achieved with team work and clear communication.

Thanks to the IBM team for sharing their experiences with the NSYF.

 

NYSF’s Next Step Melbourne program very popular

The NYSF Next Step programs for 2015 kicked off in Melbourne in April, with visits to NYSF Partners CSL, GSK, Monash University, The University of Melbourne, as well as the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute (WEHI), and the Victorian Space Science Education Centre (VSSEC).

Next Step programs aim to promote our Partner organisations through laboratory and site visits in capital cities across Australia. They give the NYSF students a better understanding of the facilities available at different universities, and the kinds of jobs to which they can aspire.

“Having our industry partners open up their facilities to the students is an extremely valuable ‘add-on’,” says NYSF Director, Damien Pearce. “And our university partners love to show the students their teaching and learning facilities, residences and the other benefits of their institutions.”

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Christina from Wagga Wagga in NSW, says, “I am now seriously considering attending Melbourne University to do my Bachelor of Science and would love to gain experience working with CSL.The Next Step Program was a really good opportunity to see facilities and the universities and get a feel for the atmosphere, as well as catch up with NYSFer’s. Really well organised.”

Mahi from Melbourne, says “It was really nice talking to the scientists and seeing the different pathways they took to get where they are. The tour was really fun and the person who gave it went to NYSF ages ago!”

“I definitely like the range of topics covered because it has made me realise that there is so much more out there than what I thought. The sessions covering the specific degrees in the interest fields was extremely helpful because it gave me a clearer idea of majors and pre-requisites. Going to WEHI definitely made me want to work there and I actually have made it one of my future goals.It was so good!!!! I wish it was longer than just the four days though!!”

Oshini, also from Melbourne, says, “Each of the partners involved in the Melbourne Next Step provided valuable insight to study and life after high school, which is valuable as school sometimes doesn’t cover this content entirely.”

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The last Next Step was Sydney

The 2014 Sydney Next Step program ran in early July this year and 74 students attended over the course of the three days of the program.  Visits were made to partner organisations Cochlear, Orica, ANSTO, the University of Western Sydney – Campbelltown and Richmond campuses, and the University of New South Wales.

True to its aim of showing students real-life experiences of science, technology and engineering study and careers, the Next Step Sydney visits provided insights and examples of what they could expect in the coming years if they chose to attend these universities and work in these kinds of fields.

At Orica’s Water Treatment Plant, students visited the various parts of the facility before doing a hands-on water filtration activity.  Student comments included:

A very interesting and fascinating presentation. Really enjoyed the tour and titration was great.

Engineers are quite different from scientists.

I learned about … the actual role of a chemical engineer, which was really helpful.

I absolutely loved the visit to the Cochlear factory

At the Cochlear factory and research facility on Sydney’s north shore, the students gowned up and were shown through the factory to learn about the very specific and detailed work that is involved in making the Cochlear products.

I absolutely loved the visit to the Cochlear factory. … I particularly loved hearing from the engineer who was one of the first to develop the cochlear implant; it was incredible to be able to see the continuous development that has been going on but also to be able to understand the origins of the project and to see the way that the concept was developed into a reality.

I learned … how many different types of scientists and engineers are involved in the development and production of bio-medical technologies.

Visiting the ANSTO Discovery Centre is always popular with NYSF students, and this year was no different.  The tour through the OPAL reactor was regarded a highlight, as was the opportunity to speak to the scientists working there.

It was wonderful to see the incredible work ANTSO is doing. Was very interesting to learn just how much of an impact this organisation has on our everyday lives, and how their work is extremely beneficial to Australians and those all over the world.

I was very excited to visit ANSTO as I had been there before with school, however the tour and presentation they gave us was definitely more interesting and engaging than the one I had heard before. I really enjoyed having tour guides who were so knowledgeable and were able to answer all of our detailed questions about the reactor and what they do there. I especially loved how much passion all the staff had and their friendly nature as it made the experience personal and therefore more enjoyable.

The visit to the University of Western Sydney was divided into two sections.  In the morning, students visited the Campbelltown campus and toured the anatomy, physiotherapy and nanotechnology departments.

There is some wonderful work going on at UWS

There is some wonderful work going on at UWS; especially in the nanotechnolgy and imaging laboratory. I was astounded as to how numbers and figures can translate into knowledge expansion and, in turn, result in a more informed scientific generation. Witnessing first hand how they image particle movement is something I would never dream of having clearance to back in rural Queensland. The anatomy lab visit took me to a whole new world, one that I could never experience in my own biology class. We learnt from scientists that were specialists in that area specifically how the body is structured to function perfectly. We found the intense passion they held is what we all desire, which really relit a spark of inspiration within all of us.

 It was an incredible opportunity to be exposed to an anatomy lab so early on. It was an experience that would definitely never have been open to us if we had not attended NYSF, which makes me even more grateful for all that the NYSF has done for me and all of us year 12 students.

In the afternoon of the second day of the program, the students travelled to the Richmond campus, visiting the Hawkesbury Institute for the Environmental Sciences, organised on behalf of NYSF Partner, the Grains R&D Corporation.

It takes a lot of work to monitor and learn more about the environment! You have to be so careful of so many factors that can influence the environment.

I found a lot of the experiments and projects extremely interesting and discovered that while it may not be the area of science I want to be in, I am really interested by the research that is going on in this area.

I learnt a lot about environmental research being undertaken. I never knew it was so comprehensive – the amount of research that is going into climate change.

A full day at the University of New South Wales rounded off the Sydney Next Step, with visits to a wide range of science and engineering labs and facilities as well as talks from UNSW Student Ambassadors.

The students were really interesting and spoke eloquently and all the lab visits were awesome! Biomed was good because we had hands-on work rather than just talking. Medicine was good because the student speaker organised his information well so he was easy to listen to, but I found the whole process of medicine, even though I already knew lots about it, more daunting after listening to how difficult it is to get in the UNSW medicine. Psychology was absolutely amazing because the speaker made me thing about new concepts and got me even more interested in psychology.

 The lab visits like Chemistry and Civil engineering were extremely good and I loved how we were told a little about the department and careers in that area but also go to do some hands-on activities. It was much more engaging and interesting.