Monash University – Dingley at the International Astronautical Congress (IAC)

From Monday 25th to Friday 29th September, Adelaide saw cosmonauts from Russia, science educators from America, space entrepreneurs from New Zealand, and a geeky kid from Perth come together to experience the 2017 International Astronautical Congress (IAC). It was truly one of the most inspiring events I’ve been to and the best thing I’ve seen Australia do since I attended the National Youth Science Forum (NYSF).

The congress was open to anyone who wanted to come, and had a nice 90% discount for Australian students which I was more than happy to take advantage of. Other students from places such as America or France were sponsored by their universities to attend. Many gave presentations at the Congress but I was just there to enjoy the show!

When the foundation of the Australian Space Agency was announced at the IAC’s opening ceremony I, along with the 3000 other attendees, was ecstatic. For me this became the theme of the Congress and I made sure to talk with as many people as possible (including some of the people actually designing the thing!) about what it might mean.

Mornings were spent trying to rapidly consume Weetbix in order to make it to the first 7AM presentations. Here we heard from Lockheed Martin about their “Deep Space Gateway” which would act as a stepping stone between Earth and the solar system; plans for a Moon Village made up of a patchwork of colonists; and discussions about creating a space congress … in space.

I spent most of the day attending technical sessions, where researchers discussed their work and the audience asked questions and provided advice or perspectives. One of my university lecturers gave a talk on how lunar dust behaves in zero gravity and the problems that this causes. In between these sessions I walked around the exhibition hall where private companies and government agencies would show off their latest tech. I was super excited to try out Boeing’s new to-scale simulated capsule as well as having a chance to talk to space entrepreneurs (some of who even agreed to be interviewed for the video I was working on – see link at end of article).

The afternoon and evening talks was where ‘space celebrities’ took the stage. Bill Nye told us about the Planetary Society’s Light Sail which would make chemical rockets obsolete; and Elon Musk concluded the conference with an update on his BFR (Big Falcon Rocket) which he wants to use to take crews of 100 to Mars in 2024 and revolutionise air travel with 30-minute flights to anywhere in the world. Both speakers were amazing to listen to and hear about their vision.

Attending the IAC was an amazing experience, giving me an opportunity to talk to students and professionals from across Australia and around the world. I’ve made some great friends whom I look forward to exploring the final frontier with.

I made two videos while there; one on Australia’s history in space  ( and the other on where we’re headed ( If you’ve got any questions about my experiences or where we’re headed in space I’m very happy to discuss in the comment section of either video!

You can also like the Atomic Frontier Facebook page

Monash – What’s happening at Monash University

Monash Open Day

What a fantastic day we had!  Plenty of hands-on demonstrations, informative talks and explosions. If you missed out – there’s another opportunity to visit us, just book a tour of the Science precinct during the upcoming school holidays at

In the meantime, please take a moment to watch some of the highlights from this year.



How to Survive on Mars: The Science Behind the Human Exploration of Mars

Could you survive on Mars? Mars has always captivated the human imagination, and it’s the most explored planet in the solar system. Getting to Mars is relatively easy – but surviving once you get there is the real challenge. In this four-week course, you’ll learn the basic science to help you solve the problems Martian explorers will face around water, oxygen, food, energy and communications. The course is open to all students and will be particularly relevant for students interested in science, engineering and technology.

Course commences 7 August.

Monash short, online courses are offered for free through the FutureLearn platform. For more information and to register, visit

News from Monash University

Monash University has invested more than $200 million in the last few years to transform the Clayton-based Science Faculty into one of the leading science precincts in the southern hemisphere.

Spanning the disciplines of Physics and Astronomy, Biology, Chemistry, Earth Atmosphere and Environment, and Mathematics, the Science Precinct at Monash University has recently been transformed into a research powerhouse and provides state-of-the-art research, teaching and learning environments.

From the new Chemistry laboratories to the science student only lounge, the spaces provide an excellent on-campus experience. Monash’s approach to teaching is ground breaking and includes world-class and unique outdoor classrooms such as the Earth Sciences Garden and the Jock Marshal Reserve facility.

The new 360 virtual reality video offers the opportunity to experience these facilities.

To see this please visit

(Note mobile users: best results please view in the YouTube App.)

NYSF 2017 Session A: Partners’ Day Expo

After the Partners’ Day presentations the students gathered for the Partners’ Day Expo , where they were able to meet, chat and network with representatives of the NYSF partners.

The students were able to meet reps (and the presenters) from Lockheed Martin, IP Australia, UNSW Australia, Monash University, Melbourne University, Australian National University, University of Queensland, CSIRO, CSL, Resmed, and Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC).

The one-on-one conversations with the representatives proved to be valuable for the students – they got their questions answered and expanded their horizons in terms of career choices and opportunities.

All of the students were obsessively engaged in conversation that evening, but I managed to pull two aside for a quick chat about their thoughts on the expo.

“It encourages people to think and create change, and I’m a big advocate for creating change.”

“IP Australia really stood out for me” said Sharon Nguyen. “People are coming up with new ideas all the time, and so the work that they do at IP Australia is important because they can protect it. It encourages people to think and create change, and I’m a big advocate for creating change.”

“Before NYSF I wanted to do occupational therapy, then through talking to NYSF friends and the presenters I realized there was a whole world of opportunity and options out there that I hadn’t thought of.”

Sharon Nguyen with Matt Lee (Assistant Director of Strategic Communication, IP Australia)

As well as career choices, the conversation with the university reps in particular also illuminated life as a tertiary student. It seems as though it not only helped inform the students, but also sparked some excitement.

“Talking to all the presenters and other professionals has got me really excited to start university and the next stage of my career.”

“[Partners’ Day] made me realise how many options are out there, and it got me thinking about and considering many different universities” said Danyon Farrell.

“I’ve always wanted to do a double degree but I wasn’t sure, but after hearing the talks today it really made it obvious how valuable they are and the opportunity that they open.”

“Talking to all the presenters and other professionals has got me really excited to start university and the next stage of my career.”

One happy Danyon Farrell

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

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.


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


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


Alumni Sam Backwell, Laura Wey,                Mitchell de Vries


Andrew Metcalfe AO and Deb Anton


Andrew Metcalfe AO and Deb Anton


Mitchell de Vries, Natalie Williams,                Merryn Fraser


Rowley Tompsett, Madeline Cooper,             Melanie Tacey


Ken Maxwell, Dr. Damien Pearce, Jo Hart


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

All images:  Emma Robertson

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.”

Monash Science – where biology can take you

Monash University biology student, Lucy W, is in the second year of her studies, and has had some amazing opportunities during in her course. Read her story about volunteering in the Amazon:

“One late night I was looking up biological field research stations around the world and I came across Los Amigos which is a site run by the Amazonian Conservation Concession. I was fortunate to be offered a position with the United States Department of Agriculture whilst the long-term employees went home for Christmas.

Every day I would walk roughly 10km through the jungle collecting insect samples from fly traps to analyse when back in the lab.


Squirrel Monkey, Southern Peru

There were 50 waypoints with designated traps. I would cover 10 per day, with a two-day weekend. The traps were fitted with antifreeze and fly bait. The particular species of fruit fly was Anastrepha, which has a beautiful and distinctive wing pattern.

The count of this species per trap was recorded. The aim was to also complete the study at another Biological research station situated at a higher altitude and compare the niche spaces of Anastrepha to better understand their habitat requirements.

My second role was to collect fruits, which had fallen on the forest floor. I would assign a waypoint marking where I found them on the GPS, open them at the lab, collect the larvae which had been laid inside, rear them and record the life cycle from larvae – pupate – insect.

This highlighted the preferred fruit for laying and the time to maturity (or at least final stage of metamorphous). Anastrepha is a serious pest to American agriculture and improving our biological understanding of the species may improve pest-control methods.

The Amazon Jungle in Southern Peru is teeming with biotic activity. It’s great to wake up every morning to a family of Squirrel monkeys outside my room. Going to sleep every night with a cacophony of noise and insects crawling all over you can be a bit rough at first but eventually it just adds to the charm of being so deep in nature.

It was unfathomable how isolated the research station was until I arrived. Everything was so far from the familiar that saying I was ‘overwhelmed with excitement’ is an understatement.

Capybaras, coatis, peccaries and a wide variety of monkeys would casually traipse across my daily path. Aguaje, Carambola and other exotic fruits could be hit with a long stick straight from the tree and freshly eaten.

The station itself is completely self-sufficient (solar power, water being pumped from the mountain and in-situ waste management) with only a once a fortnight food drop-off.

This did mean cold showers however the tropical heat negated the need for warm water. I was the first Australian to have ever visited and was lucky that to have such a hospitable and welcoming team show me the ropes (even if I ‘no hablo español’).

They have a volunteering program (which is still in progress), which I would recommend. However this experience is surely not for the faint hearted. It will push you to your limits and it is world changing.”

 Further information about studying science at Monash University:

Tanzina Kazi, NYSF 2014 Alumna at Monash University

Tanzina Kazi attended the NYSF in 2014 and comes from Mildura in regional Victoria. In 2015, she started at Monash University, doing a Bachelor of Surgery/Bachelor of Medicine.

“Year 12 exams are done, results are out and you’ve left behind the high school world. All of a sudden everything you’ve grown to know and love has ended and it’s time for something new: university.

When you’ve been to the NYSF, you’re never without friends and university life has been eased by the fact that there are a bunch of lovely familiar faces at my residential college.

For me, this was such a scary thought; it had been a distant idea for so many years, something that had been coming, but never seemed to happen. However, after what seemed like both the longest and shortest year of my life had come to a close, I found myself packing up my gear and moving off to Melbourne to study a Bachelor of Surgery/Bachelor of Medicine at Monash University.

The word “new” seems to become a buzzword throughout the transition from high school student to a first year university student; new city, new environment, new people. Well, almost. When you’ve been to the NYSF, you’re never without friends and university life has been eased by the fact that there are a bunch of lovely familiar faces at my residential college, my university and in my course who I can always reminisce with about the good old NYSF experiences. Also, NYSF merchandise never fails to win compliments from other alumni, and is always a great way to make new friends.

When you’ve been to the NYSF, you’re never without friends and university life has been eased by the bunch of lovely familiar faces

Tanzina Kazi and Daffodil Anton at Monash Uni

Tanzina Kazi and Daffodil Anton, NYSFers, at Monash University

In general, my move to university has been relatively seamless and much of this can be attributed to the holistic experience provided by the NYSF. College is just like an extended stay at Burgmann and walking around the Monash Clayton campus reminds me of the times spent wandering through ANU, despite the vast differences between the two campuses.

Without a doubt, the university experience is unlike anything at high school; the hours are longer, the work is harder and there is a lot more responsibility. At the same time, the extra freedom, ability to learn about what truly intrigues you and opportunity to meet more people who have the same interests and aspirations as you, amongst other things, make it that little bit easier to get used to the drastic change that is your first year at university.

From Monash to Princeton

Tasman Powis, is a graduate of Monash University with a Bachelor of Aerospace Engineering/Bachelor of Science with Honours.  In September 2015 he will begin his PhD in the department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at Princeton University.

Tasman Powis studied a double degree in Aerospace Engineering and Science at Monash University from 2009-2014, with majors in Physics, Mathematics and Aerospace Engineering.

During his degree he had the opportunity to undertake cutting-edge research in cold atom physics under the supervision of Dr Tapio Simula and with fellow Honours student Steven Sammut in the School of Physics. The research was published in one of the world’s most prestigious Physics journals, Physical Review Letters (PRL) and attracted media attention.

Tasman Powis (right) with supervisor Dr Tapio Simula (centre) and fellow student Steven Sammut (left) image: Monash University

Tasman Powis (right) with supervisor Dr Tapio Simula (centre) and fellow student Steven Sammut (left) image: Monash University

After receiving offers from a number of world-leading universities, Tasman will later this year be starting a PhD at Ivy League University, Princeton, where he will be working on plasma physics, in particular with applications to electric propulsion for spacecraft and fusion power plants for use on Earth and in space.

“One of the main reasons that I chose to study at Monash was because it gave me the option to study a double degree. I knew that this would provide me with a deeper understanding of mathematics and physics to complement my engineering degree.

“I have also always fostered a fascination with the strange and wonderful physics of quantum mechanics and Einstein’s relativity. Studying Science at Monash allowed me to pursue these interests alongside engineering, in one of Australia’s most reputable science faculties.

“One of the greatest experiences I had at Monash was the opportunity to work on cutting-edge research in cold atom physics with my colleague Steven Sammut and under the supervision of Dr. Tapio Simula. Through a lot of hard work and Dr. Simula’s mentorship we were able to publish a paper on our findings in one of the world’s most prestigious physics journals (Physical Review Letters). Not only was it incredibly exciting to discover something that no one had ever seen before, but I believe that this publication is one of the main influencing factors for my acceptance into a PhD program at Princeton. When applying for a PhD most universities want to know if you have the skills to write and publish your notable work. Fortunately, graduating from Monash I already had that experience. Not only did this make me desirable to other universities but provided me with the best kind of preparation for my PhD.”