Session C’s first workshop has them thinking

Interactive, relaxed, entertaining; all excellent descriptors of the ‘Critical Thinking Skills’ Workshop the NYSF 2017 participants attended this afternoon.

The workshop was presented by Dr Will Grant, a University of Queensland graduate with a PhD in Political Science. Dr Grant currently works at ANU as a researcher, lecturer, and graduate studies convener at the Australian National Centre for the Public Awareness of Science.

Critical Thinking is important for everyday life and future careers, and participants were engaged from the start, questioning and delving deeper and deeper into the topic. And developing a thorough understanding of these skills was about to immediately come in handy for the participants, as the practical section of the workshop began.

The opportunity to practice Critical Thinking Skills in a supportive environment encouraged a lively debate. Example scenarios with five possible solutions were shown, with Dr Grant prompting participants to discuss their answer with those around them, before taking a group consensus.  Constructive arguments were presented and rebutted as the scenarios became more difficult, and many differing opinions emerged from the group.

Dr Grant wrapped the workshop up with a discussion on Critical Thinking in everyday life, and as the group exited the lecture hall, the excited chatter confirmed the afternoon was a great start to the many activities and discussions yet to come in Session C.

 

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

 

 

NYSF 2017 Session A: Speed Date A Scientist

Speed Date A Scientist is an annual event at the NYSF that allows small groups of students sit and chat with many a variety of scientists from various disciplines and backgrounds. The turnout of scientists willing to be interrogated by the NYSF 2017 Session A cohort was phenomenal, resulting in an average of one scientist per group of four students.

The students have the opportunity to ask these scientists about their field, their career path, and their life in general. This article is a collection of quotes (including some bombs of wisdom) from some of incredible scientists who made the event possible.

Dr A J Mitchell – Nuclear Physics, RSPE ANU

“If you’re passionate about what you do, it makes going to work a whole lot easier.”

“At the heart of every atom you have a collection of protons and neutrons that really shouldn’t be held together – there is a whole lot of positive charge very close together so they should repel apart. The work we do is study that nuclei.”

“We collide them together, see what radiation comes off, and use that as a fingerprint to determine properties such as shape. This gives us a fundamental understanding of nuclear forces.”

“I always enjoyed mathematics and physics, and just always pursued what I enjoyed and now people pay me to do it.”

“If you’re passionate about what you do, it makes going to work a whole lot easier.”

 

Matt Lee – Assistant Director of Strategic Communication, IP Australia

“Doing a double degree you meet a whole bunch of different people, and you can demonstrate to employers that you have skills in many different fields.”

“Doing a double degree you meet a whole bunch of different people, and you can demonstrate to employers that you have skills in many different fields. For me I’m able to quickly read documents and give a sharp overview. It also gave me a strong understanding of global politics.”

“I go around to a lot of startup companies in IT, ag-tech, drone-tech, fin-tech and see a lot of amazing things.”

“One discipline in huge demand at the moment is data science. Everything involves data, but how do you make sense of it? People are needed to take the data, figure out how to interpret it, and make decisions.”

 

Gerard Dwyer – Teacher (Canberra Institute of Technology) and Education Officer (National Zoo and Aquarium)

“I used to like picking up and playing with lizards, but never realised it could be a job.”

“I used to like picking up and playing with lizards, but never realised it could be a job. Then I went to Questacon and got a job feeding the spiders – I love spiders so it was the easiest job I’ve ever had.”

“If you want to work in environmental areas, it pays to be interested in everything. ACT is good, because we have really strong legislation when it comes to the environment.”

“I realised that I can’t fix everything, but at least I can teach a lot of people.”

Gerard’s lizard friend, Sally

 

Claire Howell (Manager at National Forest Inventory)

“Do what you’re passionate about, and if you’re not sure what that is then do what you’re good at because that’s also motivating.”

“When I was in year 11 and 12 I knew I loved being outdoors, and I wanted to do Forest Science at university but I didn’t get in. So I did really well in my first year in another degree and then made my case with the Dean of the faculty and was transferred into second year Forestry.”

“Don’t think that your career will always be your career, because it will change.”

“Do what you’re passionate about, and if you’re not sure what that is then do what you’re good at because that’s also motivating.”

Students meet Claire Howell (Manager at National Forest Inventory) and Stuart Davey (Forest Ecology, Institute of Foresters Australia)

By Jackson Nexhip, NYSF 2017 Session A Communications Intern and NYSF 2013 Alumnus

NYSF 2017 Session A: Human Centred Computing

Nikola Poli (left) and Declan Rixon (right) in the lab

In Session A, NYSF 2017 participants ventured over to the Research School of Computer Science at ANU for a workshop and presentation on Human Centred Computing.

Human Centred Computing (HCC) is based around optimizing computing for people. It is concerned with the function of the computer just as much as it is concerned with ergonomics and the understanding of humans.

After a short introduction to the basics of HCC, students were free to roam around and the lab and look at some of the devices that the PhD students there had been working on.

Human Centered Computing

They had some pretty cool stuff on display, one being an eye tracking exercise through which you can navigate a computer by eye movements alone.

This technology could have an application for people who are unable to use their hands to navigate, but can also be used to learn what kind of information attracts attention on screen, and what doesn’t.

The eye gazing data can also be combined with measurements of heart rate and endodermal activity, then analysed using deep learning or neural network technology to paint a picture of how the content on the screen is making the user feel.

Eye gazing technology

This is the project of PhD student Chris from the Research School of Computer Science at ANU, who had a bit to say about career paths and life in computer science and software engineering:

“Everybody uses technology. Our graduates go off everywhere to big banks, startups and so on. There are always new ways to apply the way of thinking, and there are a wide range of things that IT can apply to.”

“My work is to research into how people use websites, read emails and so on, but the way you configure it could make it good for many things such as self-driving cars or finding a cancer tumour. The basis is the same – neural networks are able to iterate and learn by themselves.”

There are always new ways to apply the way of thinking, and there are a wide range of things that IT can apply to.

Another cool device they had was the Myo PowerPoint arm band, which when strapped to your forearm can monitor the electrical activity of your nerves and allow you to navigate a slideshow using hand gestures.

Double tap your thumb and index finger to go to the next slide, flick your wrist to go back, clench your fist and turn to zoom it. A built in gyroscope even allows you to use your fingertip as a laser pointer!

A very stoked Tom Wright (NYSF student) learning to navigate a PowerPoint presentation with hand gestures

The students left the lab today feeling pretty blown away I think. Myself included. The work that they’re doing here is super cutting edge and exciting, and I can’t wait for the day that I can write these articles with my eyeballs.

By Jackson Nexhip, NYSF 2017 Session A Communications Intern and NYSF 2013 Alumnus

NYSF 2017: Chemistry at ANU

Did you know that the level of vitamin C legally defines the difference between a fruit drink and a fruit juice? Well you do now. The purpose of this definition is to prevent manufactures from watering down their juices, and that’s what some of our students investigated first NYSF lab visit at the Research School of Chemistry at ANU.

The students used a technique called a titration to experimentally determine the concentration of vitamin C in a particular orange juice (to keep those sneaky juice manufacturers in check).

The students added an indicator to their sample of orange juice, then very carefully, drop by drop, added another liquid which consumes the vitamin C and causes a colour change. By monitoring how much liquid they add, they can accurately calculate the vitamin C content.

Maths, maths, maths.

Measuring vitamin C is cool, but you can’t have a chemistry lab without some Frankenstein-style experiments. So next our students synthesized some fluorescein – a substance which gives off an eerie green glow when struck with ultraviolet light.

Here the students learned how to use several new pieces of lab equipment, including analytical scales and oil baths used to heat samples to over 200oC. After several involved steps they added the final ingredient and produced a gooey green substance, which after much poking and prodding on the benches and inside the ultraviolet cabinet, they managed to produce several masterpieces:

The “Curie” interest group and their marvelous creation.

Fluorescent NYSF goo under an ultraviolet light.

The students had a blast on the benches and all learned a thing or two about chemistry and skills in the lab. Knowing the concepts and calculations on paper is one thing, but as they found, performing the experiments and learning the ins and out of the laboratory environment is a whole other can of worms.

The demonstrators at the Research School of Chemistry did an incredible job exposing the students to real bench work in a real lab environment, and each of the students came away not only with huge smiles on their faces, but with a new bag of tricks in the lab and some important bricks to add to their wall of knowledge.

But that’s not the end – they even left with buckets of liquid nitrogen ice-cream. How cool is that?

The faster you stir, the better it tastes.

By Jackson Nexhip, NYSF 2017 Session A Communications Intern and NYSF 2013 Alumnus

NYSF 2017 Session A: Welcome lecture

What better way to kick off the NYSF 2017 than with a visit to the Australian Academy of Science – in particular, the iconic Shine Dome itself. Students were off to an early start for the annual photoshoot outside of the Dome. We then ventured inside to be welcomed by the CEO of the Australian Academy of Science, Ms Anna-Maria Arabia.

Ms Arabia outlined the role of the Academy, its philosophy towards science, and learning in general, at the AAS:

“Here [at the Academy of Science] we raise science, we nurture it, from primary schools all the way through to research.”

“Being a scientist has very little to do with what you think, but everything to do with how you think.”

Being a scientist has very little to do with what you think, but everything to do with how you think.

That second thought in particular really struck a chord with the students. It’s good to be reminded that it isn’t which degree you choose or which courses you take that matters, but ultimately how you grow your skills as a thinker and a scientist.

To wrap up Ms Arabia left the students with some sound career advice, as well as an insight regarding the motivation for pushing scientific research:

“I encourage you to think about your passion for science and technology in the broadest of terms, and to be open to the many career paths that may be open to you.”

“There are endless discoveries to be made that can improve our health and bring about a better understanding of the world around us.”

Following Ms Arabia’s introduction we were given a presentation by Professor Linda Richards, Deputy Director of the Queensland Brain Institute.

Professor Richards graduated from Monash University with a Bachelor of Science and First Class Honours, then later went on to complete her PhD at The University of Melbourne. Her story seems uncommon, and is also quite powerful:

“When I was your age I didn’t think I would finish school. I left halfway through year 11 due to circumstances out of my control. But I knew I wanted to make a difference in the world, and so I needed to continue my education.”

Professor Richards acted on that thought, and now leads a lab group  of 14 people at the Queensland Brain Institute, and spends her time researching how the brain is wired during development. Through her words she displayed a burning passion for her work:

“Being a scientist is one of the most amazing career paths you could possibly aspire to. It is the ultimate way of intellectual curiosity. It isn’t just a job. It is a way of looking at the world. And of solving the big problems that face humanity.”

It isn’t just a job. It is a way of looking at the world. And of solving the big problems that face humanity.

Professor Richards also placed a huge emphasis on legacy, and encouraged the students to think early on about the mark they want to leave on the world:

Scientists around the world are building a pyramid of knowledge. If you can leave a legacy, which is what drives me, then you can make a difference in the world.”

It’s not every day that you come across scientists so passionate and engaged in their work, and so today was a real pleasure. I’m sure I don’t just speak for myself when I say I left feeling energized and inspired to go and do some hardcore science.

By Jackson Nexhip, NYSF 2017 Session A Communications Intern and NYSF 2013 Alumnus

Sense of community through the NYSF – Morgan Williams, NYSF 2009

I attended the NYSF in 2009 (Einstein), before completing a Bachelor of Global and Ocean Sciences (Hons.) at the Australian National University (ANU) – where I’ve since been working on my PhD at the Research School of Earth Sciences, which I hope to finish towards the end of next year.

SHRIMP Lab, Research School of Earth Sciences, ANU

SHRIMP Lab, Research School of Earth Sciences, ANU

The NYSF certainly opened my eyes to what was actually possible for those of us who wanted to pursue STEM careers. However, for me the most valuable aspects of NYSF were the emergent phenomena – those which simply arise once you assemble 140-odd budding science enthusiasts under the same roof and take them to the frontiers of modern research. A sense of community arose from mutual curiosity and sincere excitement towards understanding how the world works (and a healthy dose of chanting). Of the many things NYSF offered, this was the most encouraging. Indeed, my interactions with the scientific community at ANU and across the world remain the most enjoyable aspect of my research today.

For me the most valuable aspects of NYSF were the emergent phenomena – those which simply arise once you assemble 140-odd budding science enthusiasts under the same roof and take them to the frontiers of modern research.

For my PhD, I’m currently attempting to constrain some of the geochemical systematics of seafloor hydration and subduction dehydration processes within oceanic crust. On a broad scale, these processes enable the generation of arc magmas within subduction zones, which are key to the formation and growth of the modern continental crust.

As part of this, I’m involved in an International Ocean Discovery Program expedition (Expedition 357: Atlantis Massif Serpentinization and Life), which recovered samples from near the Mid-Atlantic Ridge using seafloor drilling. Through this expedition I’ve already had opportunities to travel to Germany, Switzerland, France and Texas and to discuss my research with leading researchers across the world. My continuing work on rock samples recovered from the seafloor aims to constrain the evolution of alteration and hydration processes as the rocks are brought to the seafloor with increasing crustal extension. To do this, I’m using a novel combination of in-situ oxygen isotope (using SHRIMP), trace element, noble gas and halogen measurements.

Onshore science party for IODP Expedition 357 (I’m second from the top-right). The science party for the expedition is led by Co-Chief Scientists Prof. Gretchen Früh-Green (ETH Zürich, Switzerland) and Dr. Beth Orcutt (Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences, Maine, USA), and is distinctly multinational and multidisciplinary. Notably, the expedition is the first to have a female-dominated science party and one of the first to have two female Co-Chiefs. The 31 scientists conducting research as part of the expedition are from 13 different countries and include PhD students, post-doctoral fellows and tenured professors. Photo credit: V. Diekamp, MARUM

Onshore science party for IODP Expedition 357 (I’m second from the top-right). The science party for the expedition is led by Co-Chief Scientists Prof. Gretchen Früh-Green (ETH Zürich, Switzerland) and Dr. Beth Orcutt (Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences, Maine, USA), and is distinctly multinational and multidisciplinary. Notably, the expedition is the first to have a female-dominated science party and one of the first to have two female Co-Chiefs. The 31 scientists conducting research as part of the expedition are from 13 different countries and include PhD students, post-doctoral fellows and tenured professors. Photo credit: V. Diekamp, MARUM

In addition to this, I’m working on relict oceanic rocks from Lago di Cignana (NW Italy), which have experienced the geological journey of a lifetime – from the Jurassic seafloor, through Alpine subduction (to ≈100km depth) before conveniently returning to the surface to be sampled by some keen geologists millions of years later. We’re using the relatively intact section of upper oceanic crust (consisting of altered seafloor sediments, altered basaltic rocks and underlying serpentinites) as a natural laboratory to investigate how, where and when hydrous fluids are ephemerally produced from metamorphic reactions as rocks are progressively subducted. By looking at chemical zonation of minerals growing as these fluids pass through, we can investigate changes in fluid composition (especially oxygen isotopes and trace metals) with successive pulses of fluids under different conditions. This gives us critical constraints on where fluids may have come from, which reactions might have generated them and the pathways they may have taken to get there – information we can put back into models and use to design new experiments to better understand how the system works.

Morgan (centre) at the NYSF 2017 launch event in October

Morgan (centre) at the NYSF 2017 launch event in October

Beyond the realms of the PhD, I’ll soon be chasing opportunities for post-doctoral research overseas. Ideally I’d like to continue research at the intersection between isotope geochemistry and oceanic geoscience, applying new techniques to better constrain fundamental processes to better understand how our planet works. There are many options for continuing research within academic, governmental and commercial spheres, and I look forward to exploring some new horizons in the years to come (while having a good deal of fun in the process).

ANU Graduates Ranked Australia’s Most Employable – 4th Year Running

The results are in again for the Times Higher Education annual global ranking of universities based on the employability of their graduates. For the fourth year running, the Australian National University has come out on top of all Australian universities.

A representative from ANU explains the foundation behind this positive result:

“Employers value ANU graduates for their well-rounded education that not only draws on academic excellence but also experience gained from fieldworkglobal travel and internship opportunities. Former NYSF student, Brody Hannan shares his experience here.”

To find out more about what you can study at ANU, click here.

 

Australian National University

Launch for NYSF 2017

The National Youth Science Forum (NYSF) launched its 2017 January programs earlier this month at the Australian National University (ANU).

Andrew Metcalfe, AO, Chair of the NYSF Board said the January program would be better than ever due to the ongoing support of our funding partners and organisations that facilitated the program.  Mr Metcalfe made special mention of the recent funding announcement by Minister Greg Hunt of funding for the NYSF’s activities through the National Innovation Science Agenda (NISA).

NYSF Chair Andrew Metcalfe speaking at the NYSF 2017 launch

NYSF Chair Andrew Metcalfe speaking at the NYSF 2017 launch

Mr Metcalfe also welcomed our newest Funding Partner, IP Australia, who’s Deputy Director General, Ms Deb Anton, also addressed the group underlining the value of supporting the NYSF as a program that attracts Australia’s next generation of leading innovators. “This aligns with IP Australia’s position,“ she said, “as we are at the forefront of innovation in Australia.”

“Supporting new talent will result in a strong, positive impact in securing Australia’s future as a global leader in science and technology.”

Attendees at the launch included representatives from NYSF funding partners, ANU academics and researchers who assist with the delivery of the NYSF program in the form of the lab visits and guest lectures; other facility lab visit and site tour providers; alumni of the NYSF Program, many of whom are students or graduates of the ANU; NYSF Board and Council members; and the NYSF corporate team.

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Dr. Chris Hatherly, Anne MacKay, Daniel Lawson, Emily Rose Rees, Ellen Lynch

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Prof. Jenny Graves, Deb Anton, Dr. Alison Shield

nysf-2017-launch_0051

Alumni Sam Backwell, Laura Wey,                Mitchell de Vries

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Andrew Metcalfe AO and Deb Anton

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Andrew Metcalfe AO and Deb Anton

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Mitchell de Vries, Natalie Williams,                Merryn Fraser

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Rowley Tompsett, Madeline Cooper,             Melanie Tacey

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Ken Maxwell, Dr. Damien Pearce, Jo Hart

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Tony Trumble, Prof. Jenny Graves, Deb Anton, Adrian Hearne, Brody Hannan

All images:  Emma Robertson

A few places left in NYSF’s National Science Teachers Summer School (NSTSS) 2017

NYSF has a few places left for teachers to attend the NYSF National Science Teachers Summer School (NSTSS) 2017 which is being held again with the support of our host university partner, The Australian National University, in Canberra from 9-13 January 2017.

Participants will visit world leading research labs and facilities at the ANU and around the region, hear from organisations developing resources that support class-room teaching, and network to learn from an engaged cohort of peers.

The NYSF is proud to be continuing its delivery of this program, developed over many years’ experience. We invite you to join us in January, for STEM fun in the sun!

Further information is at http://www.nysf.edu.au/other/teachers

 

Alex Schumann-Gillett, NYSF 2010 Alumna

Alex Schumann-Gillett attended NYSF in 2010.

“Growing up, I always had a keen interest in science and was extremely excited when I attended Session C of the NYSF 2010 in Canberra (I’m in the front row with the white t-shirt in the picture below). Attending NYSF really transformed my interest in science into a passion for it. After NYSF, I returned to my high school (Moreton Bay College in East Brisbane) so excited to start university that I wished I could fast forward through year 12 and start doing the science that NYSF had given me a taste of.

In 2011, I enrolled in a Bachelor of Science at the University of Queensland (UQ), and chose to major in biophysics. After completing my BSc in mid-2015 I enrolled in Honours at UQ. My project was at the interface of computational chemistry and structural biology. I used computer simulations to characterise the interactions between a protein on the surface of pneumonia-causing bacteria and a protein on the surface of human throat cells. After completing my honours project in mid-2015, I moved to Canberra to work as a research assistant at the Australian National University (ANU)—where I had attended NYSF five years earlier!

alex-schumann-gillett-at-nysf-2010

NYSF 2010

In January this year, I commenced PhD studies in computational chemistry at ANU. In my PhD project, I am using computer simulations to explore the effect that different types of molecules, like fats and proteins, have on the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease. Coincidentally, the supercomputer used to run my honours and PhD simulations is one that I visited during NYSF.

What my NYSF experience taught me is to get amongst it, put myself out there and to not be scared to ask questions. 

I loved the experience that I had at the NYSF, which opened my eyes to what really doing science was like. Consequently, it was a major driver in the path I’ve taken. Now I get to do science every day, and I love it!

Alex Schumann-Gillett in her office at ANU

Alex Schumann-Gillett in her office at ANU

What my NYSF experience taught me is to get amongst it, put myself out there and to not be scared to ask questions. Because of that, I have been fortunate enough to receive several awards and scholarships for my work. These include a Westpac Future Leaders Scholarship to support my PhD work and the UQ Biochemistry Alumni Prize 3 2016. These are humbling accolades, but they show that if you back yourself and can articulate your belief in what you’re doing, others are more likely to back you too. So I encourage you to get amongst it, learn about the world you live in and enjoy exploring!