NYSF Rotary District Chair, Stephen Lovison talks about student selections

Rotary, NYSF,

“I honestly had no idea the depth and breadth of the program”

From our larger cities to small regional towns in outback Australia, Rotarians have been super busy over the past few months promoting the National Youth Science Forum (NYSF) and conducting student selections for the NYSF 2018 Year 12 Program.

We spoke to NYSF Rotary District Chair (DC), Stephen Lovison from Sydney (D9675), about his involvement with Rotary and the NYSF Student Selection process.

Stephen first joined Rotary in 1999 as a Rotaractor and has been president of his Rotary Club, Como-Jannali, twice and served on numerous district boards.

“(I joined Rotary) primarily to give back to my local community and to assist overseas causes championed by Rotary International.  I like the fact that club members are local community leaders, but the beneficiaries of our volunteer work could be anywhere on the planet,” Stephen said.

“When the opportunity for NYSF District Chair became available I decided to try something different. I honestly had no idea the depth and breadth of the program until I got working on it – it’s been challenging and rewarding all the same.”

Rotary Liaison Officer on the NYSF Board, Rob Woolley, estimated that last year Rotarians volunteered more than 20,000 hours to the NYSF in promoting the program and conducting student selections.  Rotary has over 30,000 members, 1,100 clubs in 21 Districts throughout Australia, giving students from all corners of the country the opportunity to attend the NYSF.

“Rotary provides a massive logistic service when it comes to student identification, interview and selection. We rely on our network of business and community leaders to ensure the most suitable candidates are put forward (to district selection),” Stephen said.

This year the NYSF Year 12 Program will be expanding, allowing 600 students to attend in either Canberra or Brisbane.  Stephen added that the program provided a great opportunity for students who were interested in the STEM fields of study.

“Experience and exposure to the top minds and resources in STEM at the level NYSF provides is unrivalled. If you can get access to this as a young person and springboard your career in STEM because of this opportunity, go for it.”

Rotary, NYSF

This year the NYSF is offering 40 Equity Scholarships of $1000 each to students who may need assistance to attend the Year 12 Program.  Stephen believes this will encourage a more diverse range of students to apply.

“There are a number of schools and districts where, for various reasons, a program such as this may be deemed “out of reach”.  In keeping with Rotary and NYSF’s commitment to making the program viable to all students, the Equity Scholarship should hopefully open more doors for these students.”

And Stephen’s advice to students thinking of applying to the NYSF …

“Jump on the NYSF website and do some research, then make contact with your local Rotary Club. We are here to guide you through the process and answer any questions you may have.”

“In our district, we look for any student with a keen interest in the STEM fields, who is community and culturally open minded, and is willing to share and collaborate with their peers and mentors.”

Stephen said feedback from students who have participated in the NYSF Year 12 Program is a testament to its success and value.

“We have not had anything but praise for the NYSF team and the program itself from every returning student! The phrases “changed my life” “wonderful and challenging two weeks” “would recommend to anyone” feature heavily in the post-program reports sent to DCs.”

“In broad terms, alumni have gone on to various university courses and careers in science, healthcare, astronomy, and engineering. Several have joined Rotaract and/or Rotary and we’re glad to see that investment coming full circle.”

For more information about the NYSF Year 12 Program go to https://www.nysf.edu.au

Adult volunteer roles for NYSF 2017 January Sessions

The NYSF is seeking expressions of interest from volunteers keen to participate in the NYSF 2017 January Sessions  – filling the pastoral care roles of Mum/Dad or Aunt/Uncle. This would be a great opportunity for alumni who have finished their tertiary studies, have been working for a while, and would like to return to NYSF and give back to the program, or for Rotarians who are keen to learn more about how the NYSF works. However, you don’t have to be a current or former member of Rotary to apply.


See the full position description below (including dates for 2017). If you’re interested in applying, also in the document is an application form, which is due by 31 October. Further information contact madeline.cooper@nysf.edu.au


Please feel free to share this with any friends or family who you think might make a great Mum/Dad or Aunt/Uncle!

“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.


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.


“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,

“Engineers … use technology to provide tangible benefits”

Alumna Holstein Wong attended the NYSF in 2008 and is a Graduate Processing Engineer for BHP Billiton Mitsubishi Alliance (BMA) and also a Rotaract volunteer.

Holstein studied Materials Science and Engineering at UNSW and was awarded the University Medal and 1st Class Honours in Materials Science Engineering. She now works on a mine site for BHP Billiton Mitsubishi Alliance in Central Queensland, a 1.5-hour flight (or 10 hour drive) from Brisbane. “Living residentially in a remote mining town has its challenges, and I never would have pictured this lifestyle even three years ago. Despite the distance, I’m an active volunteer for Rotaract Australia as the Public Relations and Marketing Director, and try to attend as many folk music festivals as I can in my time off!”

“Living residentially in a remote mining town has its challenges, and I never would have pictured this lifestyle even three years ago

Rotaract D9685

Rotaract D9685

Holstein recalls her time at the NYSF in 2008. “I had a fantastic time at NYSF mainly because of the energetic and inspiring people I met there. This impressed the importance of picking a university and course where I could continue to be surrounded by intelligent and enthusiastic peers and teachers.”

“I had a fantastic time at NYSF mainly because of the energetic and inspiring people I met there. This impressed the importance of picking a university and course where I could continue to be surrounded by intelligent and enthusiastic peers and teachers.”

“During Year 12 when I was choosing my university preferences, I looked at two main criteria – applicability to industry and the options to go on exchange.” She had thought about taking a gap year, but after attending the NYSF, realised there were ample opportunities to travel through university exchange and potential research internships overseas.

“UNSW was an attractive choice after looking at the university rankings for Engineering, as well as their strong industry links. I was drawn to Materials because the academics and alumni in this interdisciplinary field use technology to provide tangible benefits to society like biocompatible implants and recycling by-products from power generation. The close-knit community at Materials Science Engineering was another plus, although the school has grown significantly since my first year. In third year, I had the opportunity to go on exchange to Swansea University in Wales, and was one of the highlights of time at university.”

Holstein and UNSW Alumna Claire at Kara Mine, Tasmania

Holstein and UNSW Alumna Claire at Kara Mine, Tasmania

Holstein’s role as a Processing Engineer for BHP Billiton involves providing in-house consultation to production crews who operate the coal processing plant on a 24 hour, seven day roster, investigating opportunities to improve plant throughput, yield and utilisation, and identifying the investments to improve productivity in the long term.

“It’s a tough environment and I often draw on non-technical skills I developed at university. A valuable lesson I learnt is to always understand your work (whether it be research or implementation) in the context of what others around you are doing. The one constant across all my workplaces is that people can get really focused in their own bubble, and may not immediately see the benefit of collaboration. Complex problems need solutions resulting from partnerships across multiple disciplines, so being an effective communicator is key.

“Through experiences in frantic production environments, I’ve learnt how to engage people in our work and show how it will add value over the life of the mine.”

“Why I joined Rotaract” – Jake Weragoda, NYSF Alumnus, 2006

Like many, I found NYSF in 2006 to be a life changing experience. The opportunity opened my perspective to challenge the status quo, and in turn, I moved from Bendigo in regional Victoria to Sydney for university. Following NYSF, I was selected to travel to Africa with the NYSF for the South African National Youth Science Week – a trip where I met my wife. I was also offered the opportunity to return as a staffie in 2007.

At the University of New South Wales, I studied a Bachelor of Science (Biotechnology) and a Diploma in Innovation Management. These qualifications saw me start as a Graduate at Campbell Arnotts in their R&D Program, and became a Product Development Technologist developing flavours and biscuits for the Shapes range. I have recently moved on to a Project Manager role at Cerebos, a food and beverage company known for brands such as Gravox, Fountain and Saxa.

When I arrived for uni in Sydney, I took on a different challenge. Understanding the generous support of Rotary to NYSF, I wanted to give something back. With Rotaract being a program of Rotary for 18-30 year olds, I took the opportunity to join the Rotaract Club on campus.

Initially, I found Rotaract to be a great avenue for community service, getting involved in volunteering and fundraising projects. Our club partnered with the likes of Guide Dogs, Ronald McDonald House and Habitat for Humanity. I soon realised that Rotaract was much more – a chance to develop my own skills.

Jake Weragoda Rotoract

Jake Weragoda Rotoract

I took on the role of Rotaract Club President, and then District Rotaract Representative, a role in which I coordinated the 11 Rotaract Clubs in the southern Sydney and Wollongong region. In this role, I met a lot of great people and coordinated a regional team to run a Charity Harbour Cruise on Sydney Harbour, a fancy dress party that raised $6,600 for the Rotary Foundation and the End Polio campaign. In 2012, I was recognised as a Paul Harris Fellow for dedication to community service. This included a donation of $1000 to the Rotary Foundation in my name.

This inspired me to do even more. I ventured to Thailand to an international Rotaract convention and never looked back. I gained an appreciation for the global network of the organisation – 200,000 Rotaractors and 1.2M Rotarians worldwide in almost every country, and have built some amazing friendships along the way. I participated in a service project in rural Thailand, have travelled around Australia to Rotaract events and conferences, attended the International Rotary Youth Leadership Award (IRYLA), and was recently invited to speak at a Rotaract Training program in California.

The personal and professional development opportunities in Rotaract are endless. Local and international community service is a huge part of the organisation, but the skill building and social networks are profound and there for the taking. In the past few years, I have held positions on the Rotaract Australia board, including my current role as Chairperson.

For Rotaract Australia, I manage a team of six and oversee the committees for the annual Australian Rotaract Conference and Australian Rotaract Games. I started a national Rotaract magazine, created partnerships with ShelterBox – facilitating clubs to raise $9,000 for the Nepal earthquake disaster – and Movember, in which we’ve raised $18,000 in the last two years. I co-developed a national Rotaract Training program for Rotaract leaders, and have been a guest speaker at over 50 Rotary and Rotaract events. In 2013, I was named Australian Rotaractor of the Year.

The tie between Rotary, Rotaract and NYSF is strong and I encourage you to embrace the opportunities available to you by remaining involved in the organisation

Find out more about Rotaract www.rotaract.org.au or contact Jake directly chairperson@rotaract.org.au


You can join Rotaract NOW

The dirty little secret of serving the community are the benefits you get out of it. Whenever you spend chopping onions for barbecue, directing traffic in a car park, painting a community hall, sending mosquito nets overseas or any of the thousands of other things Rotaract and Rotary clubs do, you’re learning, growing and making friends.

The people alongside you as you do this work can become some of your best friends because of your shared interests. There’s also a good chance you’ll find amongst them someone you might want to be more than friends with. You’ll meet people who can open doors to great jobs and great experiences, and you’ll open your heart to the world.

Rotaract is a service club that offers all these opportunities and more, but just for people aged 18-30. It’s part of Rotary so you have the support of 1.2million Rotarians around the world. You’ll find Rotaract clubs based in universities and communities all around the world, filled with people who just want to make the world a better place.

If you join Rotaract, you get to decide what kind of difference you make. Rotaractors will help out anyone who has a good idea to serve. If you want to raise funds for your local youth service, support a children’s refuge in Cambodia, or run a fun event in your town, Rotaract will let you do that and help you find others who think the same way.

It’s no good thinking you need to wait until you’re ‘an adult’ or ‘in a real job’ to be part of your community, because we want you to be part of it now.

To find out more, visit www.rotaract.org.au or search for Rotaract in Australia on Facebook.

by Travis Holland, District Rotaract Representative, Rotary District D9710