Faces of the NYSF 2017: Session A

In this photo above, we have the first of our volunteers supporting the NYSF 2017 Session A students and student staff: from left to right Damien Butler, Kirsten Hogg, Nigel Liggins, and Angela Forthun.

First, let’s meet Damien and Kirsten, both former participants of the NYSF (or the NSSS, back in their day).

Damien is somewhat of an NYSF veteran, first attending the program as a student in 1990, and also attending the Stockholm International Youth Science Seminar (SIYSS). He returned as a student staff member in both 1991 and 1992 before being involved in several NYSF seminars as a guest speaker. He started university with a double degree of law and chemistry, but felt attracted to law and now works as a solicitor.

Kirsten attended the NYSF in 1991, and after graduating and completing her postdoctoral studies in physics she took on the world of research as an academic. Now Kirsten works as a secondary school teacher and has been awarded the Excellence in Teaching Award by Queensland College of Teachers (QCT).

meeting all these other brilliant students your age who reflect your interests was a real eye-opener

On the first day of the NYSF 2017 Session A program, I asked them what they thought of returning to the NYSF, as well as how they feel about the NYSF experience as a whole. Their responses were enlightening:

“We were both country kids, and meeting all these other brilliant students your age who reflect your interests was a real eye-opener.”

“There is enormous diversity in the people, and without even mentioning the science the atmosphere of the NYSF was incredible.”

I can definitely relate to everything Damien was saying. Pre-NYSF you rarely have any idea of the types of amazing people and opportunities out there for you. The NYSF is incredible in that you often go to the program alone and as a result have no choice but to grow, and fast.

Since becoming a secondary teacher Kirsten has worked hard to promote the NYSF:

“Often students go to the NYSF alone and sometimes they can come home on a low because nobody in their school understands or thinks of the NYSF as anything special. But it is an incredible experience, and having been there I encourage as many students to go as I can.”

Nigel Liggins and Angela Forthun are attending the NYSF 2017 as Rotary aunts and uncles. They come from different parts of Victoria, and have been involved with the program through Rotary for some time.

Angela Forthun teaches Japanese at primary and secondary schools in Melbourne. She has been involved with the NYSF for the past 12 years, starting out by interviewing NYSF applicants for her local Rotary club and now attending the NYSF 2017 as a Rotary aunt. Angela hopes to learn more about the opportunities the NYSF presents for high school students, with the goal of sharing this knowledge with her local Rotary club in Melbourne.

Nigel is a high school science teacher at Notre Dame College in Shepparton, Victoria. His involvement with the NYSF stretches back to 1988 when he sponsored a student to attend the National Science Summer School. Almost thirty years later, Nigel’s interest in the NYSF has only grown stronger as he returns for his second session as a Rotary uncle.

Partners’ Day is the most important event in the program

“Partners’ Day is the most important event in the program, as it informs students about tertiary options and career paths that they may not yet have considered,” he said.

Damien, Kirsten, Nigel and Angela are providing valuable assistance to the NYSF, underlining the important role that Rotarians and our alumni can play in continuing the work of the organisation that runs the NYSF programs.

They can also dab.

 

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

and Dan Lawson, NYSF 2017 Session A Communications Intern and NYSF 2015 Alumnus

Volunteering develops passion for crop genetics and research

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Ellen de Vries with Sally Walford from CSIRO

Ellen de Vries is from regional Victoria, and attended the NYSF in 2014. She is currently studying a double major in Genetics and Food Science with a concurrent Diploma in Languages (Italian) at the University of Melbourne.

“Without the NYSF I would not have had the confidence nor the contacts to discover and develop my passion for crop genetics and research.”

“Since attending the National Youth Science Forum (NYSF) in 2014 I have been really fortunate in pursuing the many opportunities offered to me. During the NYSF I met CSIRO researcher, Sally Walford, and she invited me to do volunteer work in her cotton genetics research lab in the summer after I attended the NYSF. This was my first real taste of research and I enjoyed every minute of. It consolidated in my mind that I really loved research and wanted to potentially spend the rest of my life doing it.

Through this experience and the NYSF I really developed my passion for researching plant genomes and genetic manipulation. In my first year of university, this led to me being a research assistant to a PhD student at the University of Melbourne, giving me a better understanding of how research projects work.

At the beginning of 2016 I returned to the CSIRO and spent a week in the wheat genetics lab. I continued to develop my interest in the manipulation and expression of genes in cereal crops – specifically wheat plants.  There is a lot of potential to increase the yield of wheat crops, which would be of benefit to the Australian grains sector, and the economy more broadly .  This volunteer experience has motivated me to contact AgriBio Victoria to seek more lab work in the plant genetics field.

I am about to finish my second year at University of Melbourne, and am hoping to pass and go on to do my honours, and hopefully onto a PhD in cereal crop genetics.

Without the NYSF I would not have had the confidence or the contacts to discover and develop my passion for crop genetics and research. I know my experience with the NYSF is not a unique one and is shared by everyone who attends. The opportunities have been so incredible and they’ve really encouraged me to pursue my passion.”

Meet our Communications Interns for the NYSF 2017 January Sessions

Four National Youth Science Forum (NYSF) alumni have been selected as this year’s Communications Interns, given the task of capturing the experiences of 400 students during the January Sessions.

As alumni of the NYSF program, the four interns will have a great insight into what students will experience during their time at the NYSF. Covering Session A is Jackson Nexhip and Daniel Lawson, and in Session C are Megan Stegeman and Veronica O’Mara .

 

Jackson Nexhip

Jackson Nexhip (NYSF 2013 alumnus) will be commencing his third year of a Bachelor of Advanced Science in Chemistry at the University of New South Wales (UNSW) in 2017. He also recently completed a year-long research project for a biomolecular design competition called BIOMOD.

BIOMOD is an annual undergraduate research competition in biomolecular design founded by The Wyss Institute at Harvard University. This year the competition was held at The University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) and capped at 24 entrants from universities from various countries including the United States, Canada, Germany, India, China, Korea and Japan.

In early 2016 Jackson set up the UNSW team, which was the only team from Australia and the southern hemisphere to compete this year.`

“Our project involved using a technique called DNA origami to build a nanoscale box which can capture specific molecular cargo – kind of like a nanoscale mousetrap. The box can capture cargo such as potent pharmaceuticals used in chemotherapy and can be modified to specifically deliver that cargo to diseased parts of the body, reducing non-specific interactions with healthy cells and minimising side effects”. nexhip

The five students on the UNSW team had to juggle the BIOMOD commitment with their university assignments and full-time course loads, while the other teams had the luxury of working on their projects over their summer break. In late October the UNSW team flew to UCSF for the final conference (a few weeks before exams), and took out the grand prize!

“Regardless of where we came in the official rankings of the competition, we had already won in our minds. The real experience of BIOMOD, and any other competition for that matter, isn’t the prize you get at the end but rather the things you learn and the person you become along the way.

With that said though, the win was a nice cherry on top.”

You can view a 3-minute YouTube video summarising the teams entry Here, or visit the website with all of the teams work in detail Here.

Jackson said he was really looking forward to coming to the NYSF in January.

“It was extremely exciting and motivating to meet so many like-minded people at the NYSF, who were so incredibly passionate about what they do. Post-NYSF I found myself much more determined to become the best I could be in science and with science communication. And of course I also scored a heap of amazing new friends and an invaluable insight into university life and careers in science.”

“The NYSF is what you make of it. Turn up keen and ready to go hard and you will have one of the greatest times of your life.”

Daniel Lawson

 NYSF 2015 alumnus, Daniel Lawson, recently completed his first year of study at the Australian National University (ANU), majoring in physics and applied mathematics. He is focusing on undergraduate research and aims to make one quarter of his course load related to research for the next two years of his undergraduate degree. Daniel is also preparing to begin his second year as an undergraduate resident of Burgmann College while looking for more opportunities to inform students about STEM possibilities in the Canberra region.nysf-2017-launch_0018

Daniel believes that the NYSF is best enjoyed with an open mind-set.

“Before I attended the NYSF I wanted to study engineering in Queensland. This changed when at the NYSF I was exposed to research opportunities which greatly influenced my study and career goals. The NYSF showed me the possibilities of scientific research, particularly during my undergraduate education. It was through an NYSF alumni that I discovered research focused degrees at ANU, in particular the PhD science program. Through the PhD program I’ve contributed to the SABRE experiment jointly run by the University of Melbourne and the ANU, with the goal of detecting dark matter through WIMP (weakly interacting massive particles) interactions.”  To find out more about the SABRE experiment click HERE.

Megan Stegeman

Megan (Meg) Stegeman (NYSF 2014 alumna), is currently at The University of Queensland, studying a dual degree in Science and Arts, Majoring in Genetics, Psychology (and possibly journalism) and plans to complete a PhD after her Bachelor.  She hopes to combine travel with her career. megan-steggeman

Meg said she is looking forward being a Communications Intern at the coming NYSF January Sessions.

 So excited to not only have a part in the program that helped shape my future, but to work behind the scenes and to get an idea of how much work and commitment is put in to achieve great outcomes.”

Veronica O’Mara

Veronica O’Mara (NYSF 2014 alumna), is about to start her second year studying Advanced Science and Law at the University of New South Wales (UNSW) following a gap year in England and Europe.  Her long term goal is to complete a PhD in genetics and work in medical research.1655856_723943020957353_1634706806_n

The NYSF experience helped Veronica shape her career goals and increase her confidence in public speaking.  And her advice to this year’s NYSF cohort?

“Make the most of it! It might seem daunting at first, meeting with hundreds of new people but as clichéd as it sounds, I met some of my best friends through NYSF. Also get involved in the lab visits, it really is a unique experience and gives you a taste of many fields. It’s a great opportunity to think about what you like and are interested in.”

NYSF 2017 participants are encouraged to say hello to the Communications Interns and talk with them about their NYSF experience.

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!

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-at-winery-2

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.”

Rebecca Johns NYSF (NSSS) 1990 alumna – the beginning of a lifetime of science and teaching

Rebecca Johns attended the NYSF (then called National Science Summer School (NSSS)) in January 1990, and was totally inspired by her time. Not only because of the variety of research labs and scientists she visited and learned from, but for the enthusiasm of her fellow students for science in its many forms.

“I came from a small rural high school in Mossman, North Queensland and gained a lot from the opportunity to mix with different people with big dreams. My experiences at the NSSS encouraged me to apply for a Bachelor of Science at the University of Queensland after finishing high school.”

Rebecca also enjoyed studying physics and maths in her first two years of university but found her real passion was for chemistry. “I ended up gaining first class honours after working with Dr Trevor Appleton on cis-platin compounds in my honours year. I also received a scholarship to participate in a summer research session back at The Australian National University (ANU) at the end of my third year, which brought back many memories of my time at the NSSS.”

After completing her honours year, Rebecca wanted to experience something different. She started working as an analytical chemist at an aluminium smelter in Tasmania. “After nearly two years in this position, where I was involved in both regular environmental monitoring processes and quality control of different instruments, I was transferred to the research section working on developing a more effective electrolytic cell design. Not long after my transfer the government cut research and development support. My department lost a number of staff, including me.”  

“It was very exciting to be involved with this world-class facility.”

rj-at-cape-grim-baseline-air-pollution-station

Rebecca Johns at Cape Grim Baseline Air Pollution Station

This sudden change in circumstances prompted her to return to university, after receiving a scholarship to undertake her PhD studies. “My environmental monitoring work at the smelter had sparked my interest in the atmosphere and I was able to immerse myself in a project investigating the effect of non-methane hydrocarbons in baseline air. I worked for the CSIRO Division of Atmospheric Research at the Cape Grim Baseline Air Pollution Station and the University of Tasmania. Cape Grim station is located on the western tip of Tasmania and receives the cleanest air in the world. This is where baseline carbon dioxide, methane, and CFCs have been measured for many years and shown to be increasing. It was very exciting to be involved with this world-class facility.”

Rebecca did not complete her thesis as her focus shifted to looking after her young family, but as her youngest approached school age, she returned to university to train as a teacher to pass on her love of science – especially chemistry, to another generation of students.

“I completed my Diploma of Education at La Trobe University in Bendigo and was keen to work at a rural school, given my personal background and current location in a small country town.”

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Rebecca Johns (right) with Lachlan Twigg (centre) at Rotary dinner

For the last five years she has been teaching maths, science and VCE (year 12) chemistry at East Loddon P-12 College, located in a farming area 40 minutes drive north of Bendigo. “The school teaches 240 students from prep to year 12, with one class of students per year level. This results in some very small VCE classes, with my chemistry classes ranging from one to four students.” 

“I hope to continue encouraging students to attend NYSF as the need for scientists and scientifically literate people continues to be an issue for Australia.”

“One of my students, Lachlan Twigg, was particularly outstanding and I strongly encouraged him to apply for the NYSF. He took on the challenge and ended up attending the NYSF in 2014. He also thoroughly enjoyed the experience and in turn encouraged Sarah Collins to apply. She was selected to attend the New Zealand session in 2015, which was a huge experience for her as she was the first member in her immediate family to board an aeroplane, let alone travel overseas. Sarah also found the experience very inspiring and it encouraged her to not only finish Year 12 but go on to apply for university courses in agricultural science.  Both students said the highlight was definitely meeting other participants who were also passionate about science.”

“I hope to continue encouraging students to attend NYSF as the need for scientists and scientifically literate people continues to be an issue for Australia.”

“NYSF was a turning point for me” – NYSF Alumnus Chris Hatherly

Chris Hatherly is the Director of Science Policy and Projects at the Australian Academy of Science. His journey into science began in 1996 at the National Youth Science Forum.

“Full immersion into the National Youth Science Forum began in January 1996. Student accommodation with several hundred like-minded friends by night, and lab-tours, lectures and mind-expanding science by day.

NYSF was a turning point for me, but perhaps not in the same way as it was for others

Almost 20 years on, the specific memories are hazy, but the overall impression is still clear: what an opportunity, what a privilege and what a monumental couple of weeks developing lasting friendships and shaping a future.

NYSF was a turning point for me, but perhaps not in the same way as it was for others. Like everyone, I’d come to NYSF with interest and aptitude for science, and like most, I wasn’t entirely sure how these interests might pan out into further study and eventually a career.

But rather than narrowing my focus, the range of science on show during NYSF left me less certain than ever about what I wanted to do. What had become clear though is that whatever further study I might do, ANU was the place I wanted to do it.

So with that in mind, I finished year 12, deferred a Science/Arts degree, and headed off on a gap year: in my case, pedalling a bike around Australia.

I returned to the ANU in 1998 and experienced all the delights of first year, but the travel bug had got me, and a year later I deferred again for more travel: first with a friend on an 18-month bike trek across Russia and Mongolia, then a few years later with my wife along the Silk Road from Istanbul to Hong Kong.

Chris riding through Siberia 1999

Chris riding through Siberia 1999

These were great experiences cementing life-long friendships, learning new languages, seeing places un-visited by westerners for decades, and landing travel awards, a successful book and a documentary along the way.

But the fascination with science was still there, and over time (and with a number of detours along the way), this coalesced into a degree with honours in psychology, and eventually a PhD in cognitive science. All of this at the ANU which I’d first fallen for during NYSF some 14 years earlier.

And then the real world!

My first job took me out of academia to management of a research-funding program at Alzheimer’s Australia. Over the course of five years my responsibilities expanded to include a high profile ‘knowledge translation’ program, and involvement in a targeted and strategic program of research advocacy. These roles gave me the opportunity to work closely with leading health and medical researchers on cutting-edge research projects, and also at the interface between science, public awareness and government policy.

And finally, back to science proper, commencing a job in 2015 as Director of Science Policy and Projects at the Australian Academy of Science (a supporting organisation of NYSF).

The breadth of issues I now deal with is much larger than at Alzheimer’s Australia, and the calibre of scientists I have the opportunity to work with couldn’t be higher. But the overall challenges remain the same: ensuring science informs government policy making on the one hand, and working through a variety of channels to try and persuade governments to do more science on the other.

It’s not where I imagined I’d end up during my January at NYSF nearly 20 years ago, and it’s not how I imagined I’d get there. But for someone with a broad and lifelong interest in science, I couldn’t be happier.”

NYSF Alumna Kelli Francis-Staite is Oxford Bound

Kelli Francis-Staite 2009 NYSF Alumna and Adelaide University student has recently been announced as the 2015 South Australian Rhodes Scholar.

For three years she will work alongside some of the world’s best academic minds as she completes her doctorate in her field of differential geometry, nutting out solutions to Einstein’s field equations to expand knowledge about curves of gravity, time and space.

Kelli completed her undergraduate degree at the University of Adelaide, majoring in pure mathematics. “I was fortunate enough to be awarded a scholarship for a two-year masters degree, which I completed earlier in 2015.”  During that time, she started applying for scholarships to begin a new journey overseas.

A Rhodes Scholarship is far more than just a scholarship. It is an invitation to an amazing network of people in Oxford

Kelli Francis-Staite

Kelli Francis-Staite

The Rhodes Scholarship presents an opportunity for graduate students with proven leadership skills to apply to The University of Oxford, with tuition fully paid for, along with a scholarship stipend for living allowances.

“A Rhodes Scholarship is far more than just a scholarship. It is an invitation to an amazing network of people in Oxford, including previous and current Rhodes Scholars, as well as a wider network of industry and opportunities.”

The Rhodes Trust has a selection committee for each state of Australia. “In South Australia, I filled in an online application which included detailing my leadership experiences and extra-curricular activities. The core of this application was a 1500 word personal statement about why I was interested in the Rhodes Scholarship and what I wanted to study. The process of applying is a little daunting, but even the experience of writing a personal statement and being interviewed is a valuable process.”

The committee selected seven students for interview where Kelli was questioned extensively, including the inevitable question, ‘Why should anyone study pure mathematics?’

“I’m not sure I felt I answered the questions as convincingly as I could have, but I hoped they saw the determination I had to continue my studies overseas.”

On learning of her successful selection, Kelli says she spent the next couple of weeks in shock. “I’d never had so many emails, phone calls, and text messages with so many congratulations. I was still at University, completing my masters, and students and lecturers would stop and chat to me. It was an incredibly strange experience for a few weeks, almost as though I had become famous.”

I thoroughly encourage any young NYSF student to apply to the Rhodes Trust if they are considering continuing their studies beyond undergrad, and beyond Australia

Kelli is studying a DPhil in Pure Mathematics, focusing on Differential and Algebraic Geometry. “I think it is a testament to my initial engineering aspirations I had while attending the NYSF – which started the process of discovery for me – that I retained a focus on the geometrical aspects of mathematics.”

“For those who have not heard of these subjects before, they are essentially studying differential and algebraic equations on geometric objects. In simpler terms, this is akin to applying calculus techniques on circles and spheres and doughnuts. In my time here, I hope to learn and create more mathematical tools to solve these kinds of equations.”

For Kelli, a lot of the motivation for her work comes from theoretical physics, and the mathematics she has been using is the same mathematics that physicists used to describe Einstein’s Special and General Theories of Relativity, which allows GPS devices to work. So while it may seem that there is no direct application to pure mathematics, is it more likely that the application is yet to be invented.

“Another example is the incredible work on prime numbers. Prime numbers have over 2000 years of pure mathematical interest, and the pure mathematical theory behind them is the main reason we have secure internet communication. This is one of the many areas where mathematics that has been seen as ‘pure mathematics’ has become very applied too. In this lies the answer to the question, ‘why study pure mathematics?’ Although there may be no current application, this does not mean there won’t be one in the future.”

“I thoroughly encourage any young NYSF student to apply to the Rhodes Trust if they are considering continuing their studies beyond undergrad, and beyond Australia.”

NYSF alumni society at University of Melbourne

Students at the University of Melbourne have recently decided to form an alumni society. President, Kushani Hewage, tells how it came about:

The National Youth Science Forum Alumni Society at the University of Melbourne was founded this year after a gruelling semester-long process full of applications. We collaborated to create this group after finding out that despite the enthusiasm to start a society, there was a need for someone to make the dream a reality. We knew that a couple of other universities around Australia had NYSF alumni groups or had annual gatherings, but this was not so in Victoria. Throughout last year and in particular this year, monthly gatherings were generally organised and co-ordinated by students who attended NYSF in 2013. We felt that by creating clubs affiliated with our universities, we would create a more prominent presence in the community.

While we are only a new, tiny club for now, we hope that as we are able to promote ourselves and bring in more members, we will be able to fulfil our aims.

The aims of the club are:

  1. To allow students who are a part of the National Youth Science Forum to remain connected with their peers in the University of Melbourne.
  2. To represent the cohort of NYSF who live/study in Melbourne, similar to NYSF alumni societies created interstate.
  3. To act as ambassadors on behalf of the NYSF organisation, promoting the program and play an integral role to help future NYSF students assimilate to the program easier.
  4. To hold events within the University as well as in collaboration with other Universities to raise funds for scientific research/projects.
  5. To hold an annual gathering to celebrate the newest NYSF students into the program.

We have already held our first event with a casual meet and greet (and drink) with a good turnout of NYSF alumni from various years. There are plans to hold a number of fundraisers so that we can grow our community and hold events on a larger scale, extending to not only past members but also to show potential NYSF participants in the coming years how the National Youth Science Forum can benefit them.

We are really excited to have this society at our University and we encourage alumni who want to keep in touch, whether you’re a student at the University of Melbourne or at a different institution you are welcome to join our lovely community!

Stay nutty and remember to always go bananas!

Further information: Search on Facebook – NYSF SOCIETY @ Unimelb or email nysf.unimelb@gmail.com

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.”

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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