NYSF International Program helps direct career plans

Sydney NYSF student Jonathan Li attended the Research Science Institute (RSI) in Boston as part of the National Youth Science Forum’s International Program in July this year.

Selected from 112 competitive applicants for the International Program drawn from NYSF’s January Sessions in 2013, Jonathan says, “I couldn’t believe my luck when I was offered the chance to go to Boston.”

Jonathan conducted a research project in computational biophysics, researching RecA, a recombinase protein that assists in DNA repair.  His work at Harvard was supervised by Professor Mara Prentiss and Dr Claudia Danilowicz.

Jonathan Li (r) with fellow student, Stephen Ban (l) from Utah in the US

“I was applying force across DNA strands and observing the binding/unbinding rates of RecA from the DNA in different conditions. During this research, I discovered that the homology search for DNA repair sequences occurred faster in adenosine diphosphate due to a structural change provided in ATP hydrolysis. This information helps us to understand how DNA repair and meiosis occurs on a basic level in the human body. From these results, I was able to put together a scientific paper and present it to scientists from nineteen different countries.”

“I didn’t think I would be able to top the NYSF January experience as it allowed me to form incredible bonds with the other students.  Attending RSI in Boston just extended the opportunity for me.

Being involved in both programs confirmed my interest in pursuing physics and biology

“Being involved in both programs confirmed my interest in pursuing physics and biology studies, and I hope my career will continue in these fields. I have also realised the importance of skills in computational science and mathematics in this area, and I will be pursuing these subjects in college.”

Jonathan’s attendance at the Research Science Institute in Boston was supported by NYSF Partner, the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO).

From the Director

Geoff BurchfieldMid-winter here in Canberra is generally a quiet time for the National Youth Science Forum. But this year the place is buzzing with significant developments, some perhaps surprising.

First up, I have decided to step down from my role as Director of the NYSF, effective from the end of August. It’s a been a wonderful nine years for me but it’s time to move on and pursue other interests. My succession program is already in place and I feel I’m leaving the NYSF in very good hands.

The interim director, Damien Pearce, is already on board. He is a Fulbright scholar with a strong background in education. And he is no stranger to the organisation. In his former role as NYSF Assistant Director, he will be known to many who have attended the Canberra sessions over the past two years. Additionally, Damien has been closely involved in the student-staff training program.

the place is buzzing with significant developments

Recently he has been an architect of major office re-structures that have not only streamlined portfolios and brought operations under one roof but made possible some new staff changes. In particular we are delighted to welcome Amanda Caldwell as our Manager, Communications & Partnerships. Also there are now three part-time positions in our office, specifically for former NYSF students. This is an important way of maintaining connections with the student body while also providing training opportunities.

As I write, the Next Step Program is in full swing around the country and the International Program is underway too. Currently we have students at programs in Boston and Pretoria with others soon to leave for Heidelberg and London.

The re-vamped Outback Leadership Treks are also about to get underway. This year our young student staff leaders are trekking in Southern Queensland under the guidance of Adventure Out.

While I am leaving to explore new personal opportunities, I am keeping options open for the possibility of continuing my involvement in some way, so strong is my belief in NYSF, its future and the organisation’s ability to achieve change in the lives of the young people we support.

Geoff Burchfield