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


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.


IP Australia: What Students Need to Know

The NYSF welcomes IP Australia as our newest funding partner for the NYSF 2017 program. NYSF participants in the upcoming January Session will be able to learn more about this organisation first hand during Partners’ Day and through a site visit.

But as a bit of background reading, IP Australia has provided the following information:

ip-australia-logo-with-booksIP Australia

“IP Australia is the national body that administers intellectual property (IP) rights and legislation, and provides educational material on patentstrademarksdesigns, plant breeder’s rights, copyright and trade secrets to the general public.

Inventions, brands and designs can grow to become financially significant personal or commercial assets and should be protected so ownership can be established and proven.

IP is everywhere and simply refers to an expression of an idea in some form. Everyone interacts with products that have protected intellectual property status on a daily basis: from the brands of technology we use, to the logos on our sneakers, to the bikes we ride, to the videos we watch online.

As a workplace, IP Australia attracts highly intelligent individuals who embrace an inventive spirit and appreciate considering the value of ideas, brands and designs. By becoming a Patent Examiner or Trademark Examiner you could see the latest cutting edge technologies and developments before they hit the market. For example, companies such as Google or Apple apply directly to IP Australia to seek protection for their new inventions and brands.

NYSF participants who plan to undertake tertiary studies in engineering or science are encouraged to consider career opportunities with IP Australia upon completion of their degree. To explore these opportunities please visit or connect via Facebook or Twitter.”


A passion for all things science and engineering – Claire Oakley, NYSF 2011 Alumna

Claire Oakley attended the NYSF in 2011. She is in her final year of studying Chemical Engineering, at Monash University.

“Five years on from my participation in NYSF, it’s an interesting exercise to try and identify all of the ways attending the National Youth Science Forum (NYSF) has affected where I am now, and to predict how it will affect me in the future. Currently, I’m a 5th year engineering-commerce student at Monash University, with my engineering major being chemical engineering.

Firstly, NYSF showed me the benefits of attending a Group of Eight university: the ground breaking research opportunities, the benefits to my resume, and the high calibre of both staff and students

claire-oakley-1One of the strongest impacts the NYSF has had on my journey from there to here is my choice in university. I’d known long before NYSF that engineering was what I wanted to do, so the question at that stage was how, not what. Firstly, NYSF showed me the benefits of attending a Group of Eight university: the ground breaking research opportunities, the benefits to my resume from attending a university that is internationally renowned, and the high calibre of both staff and students

Additionally, through connections made at the NYSF, I was able to visit Monash early in year 12, and talk to current students honestly about what life was like in engineering at Monash. But from there, I was sold! The common first year, where I could take a few units from each engineering discipline before deciding what discipline I wanted to major in, the leadership programs available, and the on-campus lifestyle that I’d had a taste of on NYSF were all things that contributed to my decision to apply for Monash.

It was definitely the right choice for me. There have been good moments and bad moments of course, but overall, it’s been a good experience. Starting university, I was convinced that civil engineering was my dream career, but the common first year was enough to convince me that chemical engineering was really what I enjoyed and am good at. I have been fortunate enough to be involved with a fantastic engineering leadership program, which was notable for attracting a curiously high proportion of NYSF alumni in the cohort! I’ve just begun the chemical engineering final year project, where as the leader of a team of seven of my classmates, we have been asked to create a conceptual design for a factory to make methanol from carbon dioxide and waste methane: a sustainable, carbon negative source. This promises to be incredibly challenging and equally rewarding.

Overall, reflecting on how far I’ve come in the last five years is a positive experience, and NYSF has definitely been part of that.


Claire Oakley (right) on an internship at a winery

Along the way, I’ve also had some fantastic internships and work experience opportunities. After year 12, I was able to set up a position as a lab technologist in a local winery. The work wasn’t exactly glamorous, but it was experience, it was paid, and it was science. After doing that for two summers, I had a unique resume, particularly compared to my fellow engineering students. With opportunities provided through the leadership program, I was able to leverage this experience into an ongoing relationship and industry sponsorship with one of Australia’s largest food manufacturers, Simplot Australia. With them, I’ve worked at several sites across Australia, helping make everything from French Fries to Lean Cuisine frozen meals! Most recently, they became involved with the Monash University Industry Based Learning program, and so I was able to complete the research component of my degree in their company, writing standards for all of their engineering teams across Australia. It was the first time this company had participated in an Industry Based Learning scheme, but the relationship grew to be beneficial for all. I’ve also taken up other opportunities that I’ve come across, most recently working at a bioplastics manufacturing firm.

Overall, reflecting on how far I’ve come in the last five years is a positive experience, and NYSF has definitely been part of that. Not only through the choice of university, but also through providing long lasting friendships and passion for all things science and engineering.”

News from The Australian National University

ANU is coming to a city near you

If you’re the type of student who wants to push your academic boundaries we have a range of undergraduate research degrees that will help you get the most out of your university degree.

Come along to one of our information sessions, kicking off in Melbourne on 9 May, and talk to ANU staff, current students and academic advisors about our range of research based undergraduate degrees.

For more information and to register visit our event page.

Get Set – Girls in Engineering and Technology Program

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

ANU Girls in Engineering and Technology

ANU Girls in Engineering and Technology

It is a free, fun-filled day of non-competitive activities including design, test and build tasks, lectures and demonstrations.

Date – Friday 13 May 2016

Time – 8.30am – 4.00pm

Where – ANU College of Engineering and Computer Science, Ian Ross Building 31, North Road, The Australian National University.

Lunch and snacks provided.

For more information visit, ANU College of Engineering and Computer Science.

Say yes to opportunity

If you’d told young Liesl Folks at the 1984 inaugural NSSS (National Science Summer School) that one day she’d be the Dean of Engineering and Applied Sciences at a major American university she wouldn’t have believed you. It certainly wasn’t part of the plan. There wasn’t one. “I’ve never had plans or expectations. I live in the moment. I have this mantra. You have to remember to say ‘yes’ to opportunity.”

Before I went to the Summer School I’d been thinking about doing chemistry but seeing the accelerator changed my mind. 

Portrait of Engineering Dean Liesl Folks Photograph: Douglas Levere

  Liesl Folks
Photograph: Douglas Levere


When Liesl was headhunted for the top job in engineering at the University at Buffalo (UB) it was a real surprise. “I kept saying you’re crazy. Why would they even want me?”

There were many good reasons. It wasn’t just her international reputation in the fields of nanotech and magnetism that elevated her above nearly 60 other candidates from around the world. Over time Liesl has acquired a diverse mix of industry and academic experience and built wide-ranging connections through government agencies, advisory panels and educational initiatives.

Her present trajectory actually began years before at the NSSS when the Perth native came to Canberra and visited the nuclear accelerator at the Australian National University (ANU). “Before I went to the Summer School I’d been thinking about doing chemistry but seeing the accelerator changed my mind.” She was staggered not only by the raw power of the machine but also by the possibility of experimenting with sub-atomic forces.

Liesl went on to study physics (with honours) at the University of Western Australia and then completed a PhD there on permanent magnetic materials because “she had no other plans”. She credits her supervisor, Prof Robert Street AO, with providing tremendous guidance at this time that still resonates for her decades later. When she was invited to work on nanoparticle arrays at IBM’s Almaden Research Center in California in 1998 she thought it would be just a two-year stint. She ended up staying in Silicon Valley for 15 years working in the hard disc drive business with both giants of the industry, IBM and Hitachi.

The industry is marked by being incredibly multi-disciplinary. You can’t make a hard disc drive unless you’ve got physics, chemistry, mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, computer science, and computer engineering all lined up

“The industry is marked by being incredibly multi-disciplinary. You can’t make a hard disc drive unless you’ve got physics, chemistry, mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, computer science, and computer engineering all lined up. The complexity of the technology is keeping other players from entering the game. It’s a very thrilling industry in terms of how fast the technology evolves and the many different disciplines that have to be at the table to make products that work.”

After six highly productive years as a researcher with IBM, in 2008 Liesl moved to Hitachi and led the development and delivery to the marketplace of advanced new media technologies. Today she holds 14 US patents and is the frequently cited author of dozens of peer-reviewed research papers.

Her academic position in Engineering and Applied Sciences at UB does mean leaving all those bright, shiny machines behind, but it sounds as if Buffalo has plenty to offer. The historic city is going through something of a boom with millions invested and generous tax benefits for new start-up companies within a mile of the university. And with Niagara Falls hydro just up the road energy is cheap. The University has had a huge uptake in students wanting a place in its Engineering program. Liesl has a new set of goals and top of the list is increasing the percentage of women studying engineering. It’s currently hovering around the 20 per cent mark.

“It’s infuriating,” she says, “because every employer I talk to is desperate to improve their diversity statistics but they can’t actually get their claws into enough people to hire. There’s no issue with aptitude. It’s all about culture. Somehow, culturally within the US it’s just not acceptable for women who are bright and otherwise talented to do engineering. It’s the same in Australia.”

But Liesl has a plan to market engineering differentially. She’s currently trialling two streams of promotional information at a Buffalo high school and is hopeful that one of these will create more interest among females. She’s also a strong advocate of girls-only schools such as Penrhos Ladies College in Perth that she attended. “I think they offer girls a huge advantage,” she says “No one’s going to dissuade them from doing physics, chemistry, and maths because somebody has to be in those classes with those teachers.”

She also sees the role of programs like the NYSF where students get to see an engineering operation or meet a scientist in the laboratory as absolutely critical. “I think it’s almost a universal truth that no one ends up in engineering without having one of those experiences. If you don’t open those labs up, and get those students in there to see what you’re doing you won’t get them to follow that trajectory”

As for this latest twist in her own life Liesl now seems right in her element.

“It’s been quite the change but in a good way. I love the fact that I go from working with a fantastic faculty, dealing with marvellous students, and hearing from alumni who all have these interesting stories and have grown great businesses. And just being back in a university community is fabulous too. You know you’re interacting all the time with humanities, social sciences, medical sciences, whatever… just the diversity of things I get to do every day is very stimulating. I’m very happy.”

Story by Geoff Burchfield

Liesl Folks

Liesl Folks

“The NYSF is crucial”

Steven Tingay grew up in country Victoria where there were not that many outlets for kids who were mad about science and astronomy from the age of six, even as he progressed through high school. He knew no-ne else as passionate about science as he.

He received his first book about the Universe from his uncle when he was five. A telescope was acquired soon after. “I still remember my first look at the moon through that telescope. My mum also told me that my great-grandmother used to walk me up and down the street at night as a baby, pointing out the constellations. I can’t verify that. Good story if true, however”.

Going to the NYSF in 1987, he was suddenly surrounded by others with the same passion. It made for lots of late nights during the two-week session.

“I remember a lot about the visits to science facilities – the highlight for me was going to Mt Stromlo Observatory. And I remember going to Honeysuckle Creek, where the young guy who gave us a tour opened up his telescope and started burning a hole in his dome via the reflection of the sun off his mirror”.

(Uni of) Melbourne was the natural choice

Steven was the first in his family to study at university. He chose the University of Melbourne for its reputation as one of the best physics departments in the country and it was close to home. “I wanted to do maths and physics as the precursor to a PhD in astrophysics,” says Steven. “So, Melbourne was the natural choice. I chose the Australian National University (ANU) for my PhD because astrophysics was what I wanted to do. Full stop. I did a summer vacation scholarship at Mt Stromlo at the end of second year and loved it. When I got PhD scholarship offers at Melbourne and ANU, I chose ANU. In general, I think it is best to change institutions between undergraduate and postgraduate, to gain some diversity, aside from any other considerations”.

Steven’s career highlights are many but he says the best and most recent is leading the development of a new $50m radio telescope, the Murchison Widefield Array (MWA). The MWA project is a consortium of 15 institutions from four countries (Australia, USA, New Zealand, India) and has taken many years to develop and build in remote Western Australia. The telescope has been operating for two years and has collected 3 petabytes of data.

Almost every week the MWA team is uncovering something new about our Universe. “Our ultimate goal is to look back 13 billion years to only 1 billion years after the Big Bang, to watch the first stars and galaxies form in the universe. Leading the MWA has been a highlight because going back six years this was a project in big trouble. I took over and applied my astrophysics and engineering knowledge, as well as personnel and project management skills, to lead the project to success”.

The MWA is the only precursor for the low frequency Square Kilometre Array and the first of three SKA precursors to be fully operational. “That turn around over the last five years has been cause for considerable satisfaction, watching a big international team now exploiting the facility for science (and getting my hands on a bit of data myself!).”

For Steven, the NYSF is not just important, it’s more like crucial. “Over my career, I keep coming back to the same set of considerations for success. Having smart people. Occupying a stimulating environment. Taking on big challenges. Physically bringing people together and developing networks.”

“NYSF was, and is still as far as I know, the only national activity doing this for people at a crucial point in forming their thoughts about careers. It was the first step for me in considering science as a human endeavour, rather than a collection of facts, theories, and measurements. This is a crucial realisation that scientists should have early in their careers”.

NYSF … was the first step for me in considering science as a human endeavour

The networking aspect was fantastic. “I’m in my forties now and old NYSF colleagues from 1987 Session B keep popping up in positions of importance and influence. We have quite a club going now.”

Steven also remembers meeting a young lady at the NYSF interested in molecular biology. “We ended up going to The University of Melbourne together. We were married in 1992, have been married for 22 years now, and have two sons. So, aside from the science impact of the NYSF, it has had a fundamental impact on my overall life!”

Professor Steven Tingay attended the NSYF in 1987 (Photo credit to James Campbell)

Professor Steven Tingay attended the NYSF in 1987 (Launch of the Murchison Widefield Array Telescope – Photo credit to James Campbell)


National Youth Science Forum announces new funding partner

The National Youth Science Forum (NYSF) held a launch event today at Parliament House officially announcing Lockheed Martin Australia as their major sponsor for the next three years.

“This investment by Lockheed Martin is significant and reflects an understanding of the important role of outreach and extension programs in encouraging young Australians to continue their studies in the science, technology and engineering spheres,” said Damien Pearce, Director of the NYSF.

“The NYSF is a mature and unique program that mixes science related activities with personal development and early career professional networking. After thirty years we know that coming to the NYSF does make a difference to the participants and their understanding of what might be possible after year 12, and how furthering their studies in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields can lead to an interesting and fulfilling career. We welcome Lockheed Martin’s vision in joining with us to continue our support for young people.”

Joining the various distinguished guests at the launch today were Raydon Gates AO CSM, Chief Executive, Lockheed Martin Australia and Professor Ian Chubb AC, Chief Scientist for Australia and Science Patron of the NYSF.


Professor Ian Chubb AC addresses NYSF 2015 Session C students at the Opening Ceremony 22 January 2015


Mr Raydon Gates, Chief Executive, Lockheed Martin Australia & New Zealand with students from Session C of NYSF 2015

“Lockheed Martin is committed to the future success of Australia’s technical talent by supporting STEM education initiatives, like the NYSF. We believe that this commitment to our youth is critical to keep Australia competitive for generations to come,” said Lockheed Martin’s Raydon Gates.

In his inspiring address to more than 200 NYSF students, Australia’s Chief Scientist, Professor Ian Chubb highlighted the importance of supporting students in their pursuit of future careers in STEM fields.

“The young scientists who come through the NYSF are impressive. They represent the best traditions of the scientific method being curious, logical, analytical and always considering the evidence. Supporting their development is an investment in the future and I look forward to seeing where their journey takes them…and us,” said Professor Chubb.

Professor Ian Chubb speaks to students at NYSF 2015 Session C Opening Ceremony

Professor Ian Chubb speaks to students at NYSF 2015 Session C Opening Ceremony


The NYSF began operating more than 30 years ago to help students moving into Year 12, who wish to follow careers in science, engineering and technology by introducing them to research and researchers, by encouraging the achievement of excellence in all their undertakings, and by helping to develop their communication and interpersonal skills.


More information: Chris Newman, +61 421 477 297;

UNSW Women in Engineering Camp opens girls’ eyes to possibilities

For girls who love maths and science, the second week in January is shaping up to be fun and inspirational. UNSW runs an annual Women in Engineering Camp for girls in year 11 and 12 who want to get a taste of what it means to be an engineer. Hands-on activities, problem solving and field trips are all on the agenda for the young women who attend. They also get to stay on campus for the week and experience what uni life is really like. During all of this, the participants make new friends who have similar interests and even mingle with current students and successful engineers working at the uni and in industry.

The 2015 camp runs from Monday 12 to Friday 16 January 2015. Applications open on Tuesday 5 August 2014.

For more

UNSW Women in Engineering camp runs in January

UNSW Women in Engineering camp runs in January

To sleep is to dream

When University of Queensland academic and researcher Philip Terrill attended the NYSF in 2000, it’s likely that sleep (or not enough of it) wasn’t an over-riding concern for him.

These days, however, he is very concerned with it. In fact, he approaches sleep from a scientific perspective. Phil is now a biomedical engineer interested in developing novel medical diagnostic and treatment systems, and his work is currently focusing on sleep disorders, such as sleep apnoea.

A report released in 2012 indicated that sleep disorders cost the Australian economy $5 billion a year. Phil says, “Sleep related conditions have long been unacknowledged in our community. We all recognise a poor night’s sleep can leave us cranky and unproductive the next day, but we now know that sleep disorders can have some more insidious consequences. In particular they can increase the risk of traffic and occupational accidents; and while the cause-effect relationship is complicated, they appear to lead to high blood pressure, heart disease and a range of mental health disorders. The main objective of our research is to develop more patient-friendly and cost effective ways of diagnosing and treating sleep disorders to improve the health of Australians. This is particularly important for rural Australians, to whom existing sleep medicine service delivery may be completely inaccessible.

Phil’s background is in electrical and biomedical engineering, having completed a Bachelor of Engineering (Electrical) in 2004 at The University of Queensland (UQ), followed by a PhD in Biomedical Engineering in 2008.

“When I attended NYSF, I knew that I wanted to combine my interests in biology and medical science with my skills in mathematics, physics, and … building stuff. Universities don’t really market a degree for that! NYSF gave me a new perspective on the flexibility of university studies, leading me to enroll in a general Bachelor of Engineering (building stuff … tick!). I drifted to the electrical program where I was able to complete advanced courses in biomedical engineering, and electives in mathematical physiology and mathematical biology.” 

NYSF gave me a new perspective on the flexibility of university studies

Professor Phil Terrill is developing novel tools to treat patients with sleep disturbance such as sleep apnoea. He attended NYSF in 2000.

Dr Phil Terrill is developing novel tools to treat patients with sleep disturbance such as sleep apnoea. He attended NYSF in 2000.

He is currently a lecturer and researcher in Electrical Engineering and Medical Electronics in the School of Information Technology and Electrical Engineering at UQ where he gets to combine his research interests with his passion for Engineering and Science Education and Communication.

“It was traditionally believed that obstructive sleep apnoea was simply a problem with the upper airway anatomy. However, it turns out that other physiological factors — particularly the control of breathing during sleep – are important contributors to disease severity. We are working on an approach that combines the development of electronic instrumentation and mathematical modeling to non-invasively quantify these key physiological features during sleep. This information can be used by clinicians to improve diagnosis, to personalise treatment to the individual, and provides insight to help develop the new generation of treatments.”

“Our work involves extensive collaboration with a multidisciplinary team which includes engineers, physiologists, clinical scientists, and health professionals across UQ, the Harvard Medical School, The Mater Children’s Hospital and The Prince Charles Hospital in Brisbane.”

Phil says the work is fascinating and rewarding because of the unique intersection of engineering, mathematics and the medical sciences to solve an important problem, which has the ability to make a positive impact on the health of the broader community.

Of his time on session at NYSF, Phil comments, “I have fond and enduring memories of NYSF, including the (often heated!) forum discussions and debates, which brought together a diverse range of points of view about some of the most important (and at the time, topical) applications of science to society.

The intense social atmosphere that comes from being immersed with hundreds of like-minded people from all over Australia forged lasting friendships and professional relationships

 “The intense social atmosphere that comes from being immersed with hundreds of like-minded people from all over Australia forged lasting friendships and professional relationships,” he says.

“For me, this was very much an ‘I’m not the only one’ moment in my life, that really shaped the direction I took in my further studies. Many of these people are still my closest friends and professional collaborators.”

pterrill_graduation1 C

Phil Terrill (l) graduated with his Electrical Engineering degree from the University of Queensland, pictured here with another former NYSF student, Robert Persello, who is now Project Commissioning Manager, at Powerlink Queensland