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

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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

GSK inspiring the next generation of scientists

With much of the world’s future innovation to come from science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM), it is important that the innovators of tomorrow are supported and mentored.

The funding partners of the National Youth Science Forum (NYSF) play an important role in supporting the organisation and the programs it delivers.

GSK Australia has provided funding support for the NYSF over several years.

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GSK’s David Herd, Director of Healthcare Environment talks to NYSF participants

In 2015, GSK’s David Herd, Director of Healthcare Environment, presented to the NYSF participants as part of the Partners’ Day activities. His presentation made an impact on one of the students, Nikita Bungay from Victoria. Now studying at Monash University’s Science Advanced Global Challenges program, and as part of her studies, Nikita needed to interview someone who inspired her; she decided to reach out to David.

“One of the greatest experiences I had was at the NYSF Partners’ Day, where I heard David talk about what had inspired him, and how his company reaches out to the broader world through their work. His talk motivated me to do something which would also make a difference, and that is why I chose my course, which I am confident will help me to achieve this goal,” Nikita said.

NYSF CEO, Dr Damien Pearce highlights this as an example of the ways that the NYSF’s funding partners go that extra mile in supporting the organisation and its programs. “Organisations such as GSK really understand the kind of support that our young people need, and are willing to provide.”

GSK Australia is proud to regularly host tours for NYSF students during the Melbourne Next Step program. They visit its Boronia manufacturing facility in Victoria and see how life-saving medications are made; in 2016, they will see GSK Australia’s new and innovative blow-fill-seal vaccine technology.

Since 2012, over 150 school students have toured GSK Australia’s facilities.

“These site tours contribute to what makes the NYSF unique for Australian STEM students,” said Dr Pearce, “and our corporate partners are key to our and the program’s success. Having access to view the kinds of innovations made in industry all of the time contribute to inspiring our young people.”

GSK Award for Research Excellence 2015

Applications are now open for the GSK Award for Research Excellence 2015, a longstanding and prestigious award which supports outstanding Australian research in the area of human medical health.

As an innovation-focussed company, GSK places high value on medical research. The award, with its accompanying grant of $80,000, has played a part in assisting some of Australia’s most important leaders and innovators in the medical research sphere. Its focus is on helping support career development with an emphasis on human health and Australian research.

The winner of the 2014 award was Professor David Craik, a biological chemist from The University of Queensland’s Institute for Molecular Bioscience and a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Science. Professor Craik’s research has discovered the largest known family of circular proteins, called cyclotides, which he is using to develop drug design approaches to treat pain and disease, and insecticides to protect Australian food and fibre crops.

Plants with peptide-based drugs in their seeds and leaves, and pain relief from cone snail venom are two of the innovative applications from his research. Professor Craik’s groundbreaking research was originally inspired by a Norwegian doctor’s discovery of an African tea for childbirth. “The tea shortened labour,” Professor Craik says, “but at the time they didn’t know why the plant-based medicine worked.”

Twenty years later Professor Craik made his discovery. “It was the unusual circular structure of the molecules. We knew peptides had great potential, but were previously unable to be taken orally as the digestive system would break them down. Our circular peptides are joined from head to tail, which makes them much stronger,” he says. “I did extensive fieldwork in Africa and elsewhere searching for plants with similar circular peptides to understand their structure.”

Professor Craik went on to develop the chemistry for making ‘designer’ cyclotides, which can be used to develop new drugs with improved oral availability with few side effects. “My team has been working on using cone snail venom as a pain relief drug 100 times more potent than morphine,” he says. “We are also producing peptide-based drug leads for chronic diseases in edible plant seeds, which we hope will give developing countries access to produce vital medicines at relatively low cost.”

“Human trials are still a few years off, but winning a prestigious award such as this helps us raise awareness of the exciting developments happening in our lab and brings us closer to our goals.”

Further information about the awards – https://www.gsk.com.au/research-development_awards-grants_gskaawardforresearchexcellence.aspx

NYSF’s Next Step Melbourne program very popular

The NYSF Next Step programs for 2015 kicked off in Melbourne in April, with visits to NYSF Partners CSL, GSK, Monash University, The University of Melbourne, as well as the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute (WEHI), and the Victorian Space Science Education Centre (VSSEC).

Next Step programs aim to promote our Partner organisations through laboratory and site visits in capital cities across Australia. They give the NYSF students a better understanding of the facilities available at different universities, and the kinds of jobs to which they can aspire.

“Having our industry partners open up their facilities to the students is an extremely valuable ‘add-on’,” says NYSF Director, Damien Pearce. “And our university partners love to show the students their teaching and learning facilities, residences and the other benefits of their institutions.”

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Christina from Wagga Wagga in NSW, says, “I am now seriously considering attending Melbourne University to do my Bachelor of Science and would love to gain experience working with CSL.The Next Step Program was a really good opportunity to see facilities and the universities and get a feel for the atmosphere, as well as catch up with NYSFer’s. Really well organised.”

Mahi from Melbourne, says “It was really nice talking to the scientists and seeing the different pathways they took to get where they are. The tour was really fun and the person who gave it went to NYSF ages ago!”

“I definitely like the range of topics covered because it has made me realise that there is so much more out there than what I thought. The sessions covering the specific degrees in the interest fields was extremely helpful because it gave me a clearer idea of majors and pre-requisites. Going to WEHI definitely made me want to work there and I actually have made it one of my future goals.It was so good!!!! I wish it was longer than just the four days though!!”

Oshini, also from Melbourne, says, “Each of the partners involved in the Melbourne Next Step provided valuable insight to study and life after high school, which is valuable as school sometimes doesn’t cover this content entirely.”

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Melbourne Next Step

The NYSF Next Step programs for 2014 kicked off in Melbourne in March, with visits to NYSF Partners CSL Ltd, GSK and The University of Melbourne.

“The purpose of the Next Step visits is to provide exposure for students who might be interested in studying at specific universities that provide us with funding, or in careers such as those provided by our partner organisations,” says NYSF Director, Damien Pearce. “Being able to provide the students with these opportunities adds real value to the program.”

Students toured the two industrial labs and facilities, and gained valuable insights into the complexities of the processes associated with the development of commercial products.

Outside CSL

Students’ comments included:

“I was surprised to hear about the breadth of jobs available in the pharmaceutical industry. I also did not expect that the flu vaccine encompassed so many eggs to produce.”

“(I learned about …) the size of the biomedical industry in Australia.”

“… the strong engineering side to the company.”

“The tour was brilliant, to be able to suit up and go around to all the different stations and seeing the whole production run was fantastic.”

“I really enjoyed how much of the facility we were able to tour as well as finding out how the products worked. It was nice being able to see the science behind products I use everyday as an asthmatic.”

The visit to partner The University of Melbourne offered students a full day of lectures, lab visits and opportunities to inspect specific areas of the university, such as the genetics and microbiology labs.  There was also opportunity to do some hands-on activities, such as gram staining.

After the visit, students commented:

“I have always wanted to go to Melbourne Uni and this cemented this even further.”

“As a student that does not study physics I was astounded about how I found the presentation ‘From the Higgs Boson to the Bionic Eye’ so interesting, entertaining and engaging. I would attribute this to the absolute passion of the speaker and his excellence in communicating this, and I wish to thank Melbourne University for this experience. All of the seminars were incredibly interesting and certainly were the highlight of Next Step. Furthermore, I am now considering applying for Melbourne as my primary choice.”

UniMelb Next Step 2014 Alistair Chandler

“It was really good to see the facilities up close, Melbourne has always been where I wanted to study but it was good to see up close where I may want to study and also to see up close the job opportunities that come from it, it was all so interesting and pretty cool to get these opportunities that most people don’t have access to.”

“I would like to thank these financial partners and encourage them to continue to support such an amazing program. The allowing of us to tour their facilities and learn about their companies is just another generous thing they have done. This forum as well as the subsequent programs nurtures the future of science in Australia and allows us insight into field of science which we may not have considered before. Thank you so much for contributing as a financial partner, personally NYSF has been life changing and I would like future generations of scientists to experience it.”