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

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

Summer Science Satisfaction for Teachers at NYSF NSTSS

Forty teachers of high school science from around Australia made the most of their own week-long excursion to Canberra in January to re-connect with their inner “nerd” and work out why they were inspired to teach science in the first place.

Participating in the NYSF National Science Teachers Summer School (NSTSS) offered science teachers with an exciting opportunity to visit a wide range of science and education destinations in and around the Canberra region over the five-day program held each January. Visits included the Canberra Deep Space Complex at Tidbinbilla, the Australian National University’s Mount Stromlo Observatory, CSIRO Black Mountain, Geoscience Australia and other ANU Science facilities. They took part in a variety of hands-on activities that helped them to connect with science in a meaningful way, and also reviewed and shared resources that they could be applied in the classroom.

The NYSF’s NSTSS focuses on scientific engagement rather than exploring pedagogical practice – although no-one can stop teachers talking shop!

NYSF CEO, Dr Damien Pearce explains, “The purpose of the NYSF’s NSTSS is to maintain the spark, or in some cases re-spark, that passion for science that science teachers have when they start their careers. In contrast to other professional development opportunities for teachers, we come from the position that all those who come to the program are great teachers. What we aim to do is show them the latest technologies and discoveries, so they can return to the classroom and share their excitement with their students.”

Another key part of the NYSF NSTSS program is networking. While teachers are able to meet a variety of scientists and researchers during their time in Canberra, they also make meaningful connections with one other.


Long after everyone has gone home, the teachers are continuing to share ideas, experiences and resources. Cornelia Cefai, from Victoria says, “I met almost 40 other teachers searching for something similar at the NSTSS. We learned so much that was awe-inspiring from the researchers involved in the program, but we also gained a wealth of information from each other, such as how to run a fun science class on a budget, or novel ways to deliver the curriculum. Attending definitely reinvigorated my love for and faith in science.”

From practising synthesis and titration skills at the ANU Research School of Chemistry, to feeling the earth move at the Research School of Earth Science, and understanding how – at Geoscience Australia (including the intricacies of the SHRIMP!), the NYSF’s NSTSS continues to meet its goal of engaging teachers of science in the equation of STEM engagement.

NYSF’s NSTSS will run in two locations in 2018 — at The Australian National University and at The University of Queensland. To register your interest for the 2018 program, email nysf@nysf.edu.au

Australian Academy of Science: Upcoming Events

Polymers in a Material World

Take a journey with the Australian Academy of Science and see how science has twisted and warped what was once the stuff of make-believe to give us the polymers and plastics that now shape our world.

The first in our two part series is all about polymers. This talk explores the use of plastics and polymer materials to build everyday products, engineer innovative solutions, and create emerging technologies. From solar cells to shatter proof mirrors, to water purification or inherently conducting polymers equivalent to metal, plastic is propelling us into the future at an astounding pace.

Our scholars will begin at the beginning, to tell you the tale of how polymers were developed, how they’ve helped us in the past, and what’s yet in store.

Tuesday 28th February 2017 — Melbourne — Click here for tickets
Time: 6:00 to 7:45pm
Venue: Melbourne Museum
Promotional Code: NYSF_MELB — for a free ticket!

Thursday 2nd March 2017 — Sydney — Click here for tickets
Time: 6:00 to 7:45pm
Venue: Garvan Institute of Medical Research
Promotional Code: NYSF_SYD — for a free ticket!

Further events will be held in Wollongong, Brisbane and Adelaide later in the year.

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

ANU’s Zoology labs opens up a world of animal life

Session C’s food, agriculture, and animal and plant biology group “Hill” paid a visit to the Gould Building at ANU to get a tour of the zoology labs and facilities.

The group was greeted by Liam Bailey, a PhD student who has been researching changes in shore birds’ behaviour  in response to extreme climates. After completing his Bachelor of Environmental Science, his PhD has taken him to Schiemonnikoog in the Netherlands to study the Eurasian oystercatcher. He gave the group an overview of other research being conducted in the labs – from work on brood parasites and hosts, fiddler crabs’ mating systems, and climate change and its impact on alpine plants.  The following presentations from the PhD students really emphasised how varied zoology research is. The group was particularly interested in the work of Jochen Ziel, who has created a virtual reality system for jumper jack ants, to research how their sense of direction can be applied to robotics and navigational systems.

The Skeleton Museum, talking to a researcher who was working on geckos

The first stop on the lab tour was at the skeleton museum, which also houses preserved creatures. Collections such as these are excellent learning resources for students of the ANU, and during the tour, researchers were working on characterising a new species of gecko that had just been brought in from the field.

In the possum lab,  researchers were measuring the metabolism requirements of marsupials, and the participants got to say hi to some of the animals in their care. From here, it was a short walk to the fish labs, where PhD students were focusing on the mosquito fish, an invasive species, and the effects of inbreeding. Finally, PhD student Ian Brennan talked to the group on why biology is worth studying, before the participants were able to hang out with blue tongue lizards and pat a python.

Holding blue-tongued lizards

To have a look at this research, and everything the Research School of Biology is up to, check out their website: http://biology.anu.edu.au/

 

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

NYSF 2017 visits Canberra firm Seeing Machines

Seeing Machines is a company started out of a robotics lab at ANU. The company develops technology which tracks the movement of eyes. This has a series of applications in the mining, automotive, aviation and medical industries. During the visit, the participants were able to try the ‘fovio’ system which is used in mining vehicles to detect drivers’ micro sleeps and when they need to stop and have a break. If a driver was to fall asleep loud noises and vibrations would wake him/her and alert supervisors.

Trying out the system

In addition to learning about the company and the technology they develop, the participants had the opportunity to hear from nine of their employees and their own journey through science. This was a unique opportunity to see where particular degrees could take the participants in the future but at the same time revealed that the skills a STEM degree gives you can be applicable in a wide range of areas.

revealed that the skills a STEM degree gives you can be applicable in a wide range of areas

The participants heard from software engineers, mechanical engineers and research scientists. One theme that was common throughout the presentations was the importance of having the right attitude, mastering maths, and the need to “always be learning, your whole career” (Seeing Machines software engineer, Andrew Medlin).

Kate Robinson, a NYSF 2017 partcipant said that she, “found it really interesting seeing how the different engineers went from one place to another and how they have been able to travel with their jobs, not just staying in Australia but travelling overseas. The lab was interesting being in the workplace, seeing how everyone works together and what they do on a day to day basis”.

The participants really enjoyed the opportunity to talk to the engineers and discover what path could lie ahead for them.

Veronica O’Mara, NYSF 2017 Session C Communications Intern and NYSF 2014 alumnus.

 

NYSF 2017 has fun with physics at ANU

NYSF 2017 physics interest group, Wu was treated to a visit to the Physics Education Centre at the Australian National University. The visit was well received by all the students as they performed experiments about the physics of light and asked thoughtful questions of the physicists.

Led by Mr Andrew Papworth (a long-term and committed NYSF supporter) with a team of postgraduate students, the participants were guided through first and second year university experiments. The participants used a spectrophotometer to investigate the wavelength of light emitted by different elements, using several known sources to find the composition of an unknown lamp. Next was a series of experiments with lasers to learn about the Michelson interferometer and then one to learn about the detection and absorption of gamma rays.

Next was a series of ‘magic tricks’ were the students learnt about resonance tubes, magnetic breaking and the polarisation of light.  A visit to the ANU gravitational wave lab gave the students an inside view of the discovery of gravitational waves, how gravity has been calculated to 19 decimal places and the implications of this research in the real world, in particular in regards to gravity mapping. The participants also asked some meaningful questions about general and special relativity which they found particularly fascinating.

we were shown a variety of actual things which could be implemented into the world

The group left the visit inspired with one participant, Wade Clark, saying that he “really enjoyed that we were shown a variety of actual things which could be implemented into the world rather than just theoretical physics which we find at school. Things that actually will create a difference in the world rather than just sit on a shelf somewhere.”

 

Veronica O’Mara, NYSF 2017 Session C Communications Intern and NYSF 2014 alumnus.

Session C earth science lab visit rocks!

An obvious pun, but it had to be done…

Earth and Environmental Science Group Darwin visited the ANU Research School of Earth Sciences, to get a good look at the many areas of research that the school covers. As an introduction, the group heard the 3-Minute-Thesis speeches of three different post-graduate students – their captivating talks demonstrated the how vast earth science research fields are.

Next the group visited the SHRIMP – the Sensitive High-Resolution Ion Microprobe – used to determine ion ratios in geologic materials. Liane Loiselle, a PhD candidate, talked to the group about the process of radiometric dating, showing the equipment and a range of samples, the oldest of which was a meteorite that predates the earth itself. Liane discussed at length the benefits of uranium-lead dating, including a dice experiment to demonstrate decay rate, before the group participated in a timeline activity. Using both real samples and props, participants placed dinosaurs, trilobite fossil, and the meteorite  (to name a few) along a roll of paper where each square equalled 10 million years.

Next was a tour of Professor Greg Yaxley’s lab, and the experiments he works on. Professor Yaxley’s field is experimental petrology, which focuses on the origin, structure, and composition of rocks. In his work, he recreates the conditions in the earth’s crust using complex machinery, to create samples similar to those found thousands of kilometres below our feet.

After leaving Professor Yaxley’s lab, the group received a brief presentation on seismology from Dr Michelle Salmon. The participants discussed the world seismic monitor, which looks at recent worldwide earthquake activity, before they used the seismograph installed in the room to simulate an earthquake with a group jump, showing the magnitude on the screen.

Professor Yaxley explaining how they create the conditions in the earth’s crust

Finally, the group visited the Geophysical Fluid Dynamics ‘Wet Lab’, which researches fluid flow problems on earth, including ocean circulation and ice melting due to climate change, among others. The group firstly conducted an experiment to show the effect of gravity currents, mixing salt into a portion of water and watching it interact with fresh water when released. This was repeated with different water sodium levels in a larger tank, before the group got a look at the new rotating table machine that models the currents of the southern ocean, and holds a lot of promise for future research.

In the Geophysical Fluid Dynamics ‘Wet Lab’

To have a look at that research, and everything the Research School of Earth Sciences is up to, have a look at their website: http://rses.anu.edu.au/

 

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