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.

Volunteer Opportunities for Alumni with NYSF STEM Explorer – July 2017

2017 is set to be a big year for the NYSF with the launch of a new pilot program, NYSF STEM Explorer. The program is a collaborative initiative between the South Australian Department of Education and Child Development (DECD) and the NYSF, with additional seed funding provided by the Commonwealth Department of Industry, Innovation and Science.

The Adelaide based program, running from 17-21 July 2017, is targeting science engagement for school students in years 7 and 8, with spaces for 120 students from across South Australia. In line with the vision of NYSF, the program aims to inspire young people to value science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) and its importance in our communities. Planning is well underway for this exciting new program with visits to leading research facilities and industry sites.

Are you an NYSF Alumni looking for a professional development opportunity? Would you be interested to take on a role to help to facilitate the program? Have you missed the NYSF and want an opportunity to re-engage?

Calling all NYSF Alumni

Following a similar model to that of the NYSF Year 12 Program, STEM Explorer will be staffed by NYSF alumni volunteers, and applications are now open. We are looking for one STEM Explorer Coordinator to act as a “Chief of Staff” (must be over 21) as well as several Youth Advisors (must be over 18) to supervise events and student participation in the program. You can read more about the positions and their selection criteria through the links below.

Apply here to be a Youth Advisor for the 2017 STEM Explorer program

https://www.nysf.edu.au/volunteer/stem-explorer-volunteering-opportunity/

Apply here to be the STEM Explorer Coordinator for the 2017 STEM Explorer Program

https://www.nysf.edu.au/volunteer/stem-explorer-volunteering-opportunity-2/

Applications close midnight Sunday 21 May 2017.

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

Superstars of STEM – become a voice for female scientists

STEM, women in science, Science

Superstars of STEM is a fantastic opportunity for female NYSF alumni who are interested in developing their communication, presentation and media engagement skills.

Science & Technology Australia is now accepting applications for the inaugural Superstars of STEM. The professional development program aims to smash society’s gender assumptions about scientists and increase the public visibility of women in STEM.

Superstars of STEM will support 30 of the nation’s most dynamic female scientists and technologists to become role models for young women and girls, and work towards equal representation in the media of men and women in STEM.

Science & Technology Australia’s, Chief Executive Officer, Kylie Walker, said the program provides a great career development opportunity for female scientists.

“The opportunities that will come from this program will propel these women’s careers, shaping them to become influencers and leaders in their sector.”

Successful applicants will participate in workshops, networking, mentoring, media and public speaking throughout the program

Women from all STEM disciplines are encouraged to apply, in fields including but not restricted to mathematics, technology, biology, medical research, geology, marine science, microbiology, engineering, physics, astronomy, and more.

Applications close 5pm, 23 May 2017.  To find out more or to apply go to  https://scienceandtechnologyaustralia.org.au/what-we-do/superstars-of-stem/

For further enquiries about the program contact Brodie Steel, Project Officer – Superstars of STEM, Ph 02 6257 2891 or email brodie.steel@sta.org.au

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.

Five Minutes with Your Future – NYSF at the World Science Festival Brisbane

On Friday 24 March the NYSF had the privilege to be a part of the World Science Festival Brisbane, hosting our very own event “Five Minutes with Your Future”.

The event ran three separate sessions in a speed-date-a-scientist format, with NYSF and University of Queensland alumni speaking to small groups of Year 9-12 high school students about their experiences pursuing a degree and career in a STEM field. It was a humid day in Brisbane, but this didn’t seem to bother the locals, with non-stop chatter and intent discussions throughout each hour. As is the goal of our NYSF Year 12 program, the aim was to give students a broader understanding of the diverse study and career options available in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).

The World Science Festival Brisbane, held from 22 to 26 March, was a huge success with a reported 182,000 attending the various events held throughout the festival. This was an increase of 60,000 compared to the inaugural event held in 2016. As an organisation that supports science in Australia, it is just brilliant to see such a great turn out for this science festival. Attendance at our own event was also excellent, with each session being sold out.

On the Saturday and Sunday (25-26 March), NYSF teamed up with the Young Scientists of Australia Brisbane Chapter, to run a stall at the street science fair. Aimed at younger children, this stall included a magic mud pit and a photo booth with props to dress up as a scientist. The stall was a huge success with hundreds of people coming through to have their photo taken.

A big thanks is owed to all of the NYSF and University of Queensland alumni who volunteered their time and enthusiasm for the event, coming to share their STEM journey with the next generation. Feedback from the volunteers was very positive, with them seeing great value in the events. A big thank you to the team at World Science Festival Brisbane for inviting us to run an event and for all their support along the way. Another big thank you is owed to Jason from YSA Brisbane for his work coordinating the science stall. And finally thanks to all the students, their teachers and for members of the public for participating in the events. We hope you all had as much fun as we did!

Scientists + Chocolate = Disaster Relief

“ShelterBox is made up of people who believe in shelter as a human right – that shelter from the chaos of disaster and conflict is vital. No ifs. No buts.”

During the NYSF 2017 January Sessions students turned their love of chocolate into a fundraising event. Through the sale of chocolates during session, NYSF students raised $1000, and elected to sponsor a ShelterBox.

What is a ShelterBox you may ask?  ShelterBox is an international disaster relief charity that delivers emergency shelter and vital aid to people affected by disaster worldwide. Working closely with Rotary (90% of ShelterBox deployments involve local Rotary clubs), aid supplied comes in the form of ShelterBoxes and ShelterKits. Sturdy green ShelterBoxes contain family-sized tents specially designed to withstand the elements and provide people with temporary shelter until they can start the process of rebuilding a home. ShelterKits contain essential tools people need to start repairing and rebuilding homes straight away. Kits and boxes also contain the items that help transform shelter into a home – like cooking sets, solar lights and activity sets for children.

Shelterbox, Rotary, NYSF, National Youth Science Forum

Chief Executive Officer of Shelterbox Australia, Mike Greenslade, said the Shelterbox would provide much needed relief to a family suffering after a disaster.

“ShelterBox is made up of people who believe in shelter as a human right – that shelter from the chaos of disaster and conflict is vital. No ifs. No buts. This drives us to transform the support of Rotary, our donors, fundraisers and volunteers into the hope and power of families all over the world – the power to rebuild homes, lives and communities.”

Most recently ShelterBox has provided aid to people affected by the conflict in Syria, flooding in Peru and the Columbian landslides.

Mr Greenslade highlighted the important role science plays in providing a high quality ShelterBox that meets the needs of those affected.

“I’m thrilled that January’s National Youth Science Forum students chose to support disaster relief by sponsoring a ShelterBox. There is plenty of science contained in our green boxes, from the water filters capable of removing microbiological hazards and heavy metals to the compact, inflatable solar lights. Then there’s our relief tent, capable of withstanding 90 kilometre per hour winds, tropical rains, UV protected and vector proof.

The box sponsored by the NYSF will make a world of difference to a family who has lost everything to disaster and help them get back on their feet. My heartfelt thanks to all those that contributed.”

Where will our ShelterBox be going?  We will have to wait and see, each box bears its own unique number so we can track it online all the way to its recipient country following deployment.  We’ll keep you posted about its final destination!

To find out more about ShelterBox or to donate go to http://www.shelterboxaustralia.com.au

NYSF Alumna Nana Liu, Scientist by day, Opera Singer by night

STEM, Science, Alumna, Alumni, NYSF, National Youth Science Forum

Invited to Israel by Prof. Jacob Bekenstein (one of my heroes as a teenager, known for the Bekenstein-Hawking radiation in black holes) at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Here is me enjoying the Old City in Jerusalem

“I’ve always liked what Winston Churchill said, that no failure is fatal and no success is final.”

Twelve years has passed since I was fortunate enough to attend the National Youth Science Forum, and what a ride it has been so far! Looking back, I feel so lucky to have interacted with so many amazing people and to have been inspired by each one of them to better reach my own goals. Interacting with my new friends at NYSF has certainly helped me to learn from interesting and diverse groups of people. I’m looking forward to the next twelve years! Bring it on!

Around the time of attending the NYSF, I became a member of a research group at the University of Melbourne studying the behaviour of granular materials. This dynamic area of research exposed me to the importance of the cross-pollination of ideas coming from different fields, which is still influencing the way I’m viewing research now. During the time I was in this group, I majored in pure mathematics at the University of Melbourne before completing a master’s degree focusing on theoretical physics. My thirst for more physics and the `outside world’ led me to pursue a PhD in theoretical physics at the University of Oxford, where I was fortunate enough to be offered a full scholarship as a Clarendon scholar. This was a very exciting and also a very difficult time, where I was given a great deal of freedom to pursue my own research interests. I began work on finding out how quantum mechanics (the physics governing atomic scale phenomena) can enhance the processing of information. This required a lot of cross-disciplinary research, which my experience in earlier years in granular materials had prepared me for. This led me to study how quantum mechanics can improve the power of computation and also precision measurement, like imaging. After completing my PhD, I began work as a full-time researcher at two research institutions in Singapore, continuing research on how quantum mechanics can make computers so much more powerful than any computer existing today.

I feel blessed everyday that I am living my dream of being a scientist, something I’ve wanted since I was eight or nine. There is no feeling quite like finally being able to feed yourself (to buy as much ice-cream as you want!), house yourself and to buy gifts for your family and friends from what you earn doing what you always dreamed of doing.

One of the best things about scientific research is working with fantastic fellow scientists who also become your friends. Bouncing back sometimes crazy ideas and trying them out with colleagues often feels just like building a treehouse, digging into a new ant’s nest or acting in imaginary worlds with your friends in the playground.

My colleagues live all over the world and I travel all around the world to work with them and share my research with them at international conferences. I have visited colleagues throughout England, Ireland, France, Switzerland, Israel, China, Singapore, United States and of course Australia. From each scientist I meet, I always learn an important lesson. Sometimes it is about how to better clarify ideas, how to be more rigorous in demonstrating an idea or learning different habits to enhance creative moments. Other times, it is being inspired by their enthusiasm, their optimism, their love of learning and most of all their kindness. I have also had the privilege to meet and work with many world-class researchers, some of whom I’ve wanted to meet since I was at NYSF. So sometimes dreams do come true!

STEM, Science, Alumni, Alumna, NYSF, National Youth Science Forum, Oxford University

Left: This is the first ever banquet dinner for the first Women in Physics Society in Oxford, which I helped to organise. We are standing outside the hall of Merton college, one of the oldest colleges in Oxford. Right: Invited to Jiao Tong University in Shanghai. I was born in Shanghai before moving to Australia when I was six, so physics has taken me back to my earliest roots.

Social activities outside my own research have also kept me quite busy and I have found these vital to keep life balanced and in perspective. Oxford has been the perfect place for me to learn from people dedicating themselves to different areas. Every other evening, I would be dining and engaged in discussions with a biologist, a chemist, an archaeologist, a linguist, an anthropologist, a mathematician, an historian, a free-lance adventurer, an economist, a roboticist, a musician, a writer, an engineer, a philosopher, a neuroscientist, an environmental scientist, or the occasional politician and ambassador. It is always super interesting and helpful to learn about the struggles of different people trying to overcome different obstacles in different fields of endeavour. These conversations are always an endless source of inspiration.

I also became the first social events coordinator for the first Women in Physics Society in Oxford and this provided an excellent opportunity to learn from amazing women physicists. I was also very lucky to belong to one of the oldest colleges in Oxford (Merton) and sang in the college choir for many years and performed regularly. One of the highlights is performing in the 750th anniversary celebration of the college and singing with world-class performers. Since coming to Singapore, I have been fortunate enough to join the chorus of the Singapore Lyric Opera Company and am due to perform in my first major opera production. Working with a fantastic team towards a thrilling goal is incredibly inspiring, whether it is in science or not!

In the twelve years since I attended NYSF, I have discovered that science is not a solitary island or an ivory castle in the clouds (you guys are smart and probably already know this, but I’m a bit slow). It is a vibrant marketplace, populated and run by people, with all the pluses and minuses that come with people. The direction of a field can be more often led by beliefs than by solid demonstrations. Therefore, to navigate better in science, I have found that it is important to better understand other people and how to interact with different kinds of people. Doing science is not a pure intellectual activity. It can be more often than not a heavily emotional activity. So it is important to take good care of yourself, to be kind to yourself and to keep the company of good friends. Resilience and enthusiasm counts for more than being clever. Success only happens perhaps 1% or less of the time (maybe you’ll be luckier than me), so it is important to keep yourself happy and motivated the rest of the time. I’ve always liked what Winston Churchill said, that no failure is fatal and no success is final. There’s no final destination and no real dead-ends, so it must be the ride that counts. You NYSFers are all amazing, resilient and unique, so just go for it and keep positive during the exciting ride that awaits you!

Meet Associate Professor Tara Murphy, 1995 National Youth Science Forum (NYSF) Alumna and Astrophysicist

STEM, Science, NYSF, National Youth Science Forum, astronomy

Tara giving an astronomy talk at Monivong High School in Battambang, Cambodia

“My time at NYSF was transformational. I am the first person in my family to attend university and I didn’t have ready access to anyone who could give me career advice. NYSF opened up a window to a whole new world.”

I’m an astrophysicist at the University of Sydney, working on transient radio sources: astronomical objects that vary on rapid timescales. These include extreme events like supernovae and gamma-ray bursts, as well as flaring stars and pulsars. My research is data-driven, I conduct surveys on telescopes like the Murchison Widefield Array, processing terabytes of data to find extremely rare objects in our Galaxy and beyond. I’m also the founder of an edtech start-up company, Grok Learning, https://groklearning.com with the mission of teaching kids to code. I think I have the best job(s) in the world!

When I finished high school I wasn’t sure what path I would follow, but I loved science (and literature, and lots of other things). I ended up choosing a Bachelor of Science (Advanced) at the University of Sydney. My decision was based on two things: advice from the veterinarian I did work experience with in Year 10, who said “if you really love science you should do a science degree” and the advice I got when I attended NYSF in 1995, where the advantages of general science degrees was explained. I really enjoyed my university experience, and I ended up majoring in physics and mathematics, and then went on to do Honours in astrophysics.

Science, STEM, NYSF

With colleagues from AT20G Survey team, arriving at Ayers Rock Airport to be the first CAASTRO Astronormer in Residence at Uluru, with 4 of Tara’s radio astronomy student at graduation last year.

After I graduated most of my friends decided to go overseas for postgraduate study, and so we scattered around the world. I went to Edinburgh with my boyfriend (a computer scientist) and did a PhD in astrophysics. I learned a lot about science, but I also got absorbed by the Edinburgh Festival, travelled around Europe, and went on some fun cycling trips. After a postdoctoral position at CSIRO I got a fellowship and then an academic position at Sydney.

“My time at NYSF was transformational. I am the first person in my family to attend university and I didn’t have ready access to anyone who could give me career advice. NYSF opened up a window to a whole new world.

It (NYSF) had such an impact on me that for 10 years I was Director of the National Computer Science School, a similar program that focuses on IT. The highlight was when a student from the country walked into the Google Sydney offices and said: “Wow, I didn’t realise that jobs like this existed”. That’s how I felt as a student at NYSF, and now I’m lucky enough to have one of those cool jobs I didn’t even know about when I was at high school!

Tara has just released lots of video lectures in a (free) MOOC that may be of interest to NYSF alumni https://www.coursera.org/learn/data-driven-astronomy/lecture/fA0EF/thinking-about-data

ANU Event – Girls in Engineering and Technology Program (GET Set)

The ANU has the following event on offer to young women interested in engineering and technology with registrations now open.

Girls in Engineering and Technology Program (GET Set) is designed for female students in years 11 and 12, who wish to explore an education and career in engineering or technology.

This year The Australian National University (ANU) is celebrating the 10th GET Set event with a very special program of activities. This free, fun-filled day of non-competitive activities includes design, test and build tasks, lectures, demonstrations and more.

To find out more and register, visit the ANU College of Engineering and Computer Science website.

Date: Wednesday 19 July 2017

Time: 8.30am-4pm

Location: Ian Ross Building 31, The Australian National University