Meagan Lowe, NYSF 2008 Alumna — Sea, Sand & Science

Meagan Lowe attended the NYSF in 2008 and has been busy ever since taking on exciting new science related adventures and challenges. In her own words…

 

“I am lucky to have already had many interesting and diverse experiences in my academic and early professional career. Attending the NYSF in 2008 certainly opened my eyes to the huge range of disciplines and opportunities in science, and it inspired me to seek them out for myself. But I’d be lying if I didn’t admit the best part was hanging out with other students from all over Australia, and generally having a great time!

Fighting bushfires in Victoria

Given my strong interest in the environmental sciences, I chose to study a Bachelor of Science (Honours) at the University of Melbourne, majoring in Geography and Ecology, while also completing a Diploma of Modern Languages (French). I specialised in Coastal Geomorphology in my fourth year, and completed an honours thesis investigating the stability of artificial beaches in Port Phillip Bay, Victoria.
Following my undergraduate studies I moved to Anglesea, on the southwest coast of Victoria, to work as an Environmental Planner for the Department of Environment and Primary Industries (now DELWP). This role involved processing Coastal Management Act consents for use and development of coastal Crown land, and providing advice to communities and land managers on coastal management issues. Alongside this work I gained my General Firefighter Accreditation, and responded to bushfires in the Alpine National Park, Grampians National Park, and planned burns along the Great Ocean Road.

Meagan carrying out beach surveying work

Feeling up for a new challenge, in late 2014 I moved to New Zealand to take up a role as Coastal Scientist for a small coastal science consulting company, Coastal Research Ltd. In this role I used a coastal hazard analysis framework to investigate the risk of drowning and injury at beaches around New Zealand, coupled with analysis of incident statistics, demographic data, and user resilience. This information was provided to territorial authorities and surf lifesaving organisations to guide use of current and future resources, such as recommended surf lifeguarding service lengths. This work enabled me to travel all over New Zealand, and even to Malaysia to present at the World Conference on Drowning Prevention in 2015.

However, I was always keen to return to the world of research, and I am now back in Australia in the second week of my PhD in Coastal Geomorphology, whilst also continuing to work part-time for Coastal Research Ltd. My PhD project will investigate the morphodynamics of low-lying reef islands in the western Pacific Ocean, and their vulnerability to erosion under future climate scenarios. I am excited for the challenge ahead, to grow my research skills, and to make a contribution to the wider body of geomorphological knowledge.

My best advice for NYSF participants and other young scientists is: be confident to choose your own path, not the one you think people expect of you, and don’t be afraid to change up your career. You’re young and intelligent, and you can only benefit from exposure to a wide range of people, ideas and experiences.”

While working in New Zealand

NYSF featured in Lockheed Martin Australia STEM dialogue in Canberra

Five NYSF alumni were honoured to be part of the Lockheed Martin Australia STEM dialogue hosted in Canberra last week. Lockheed Martin Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer Marillyn Hewson applauded the National Youth Science Forum’s (NYSF) efforts in encouraging thousands young Australians to pursue careers in the fields of science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM).

Ms Hewson underscored the importance of innovation and STEM skills to Australia’s future, noting this was the reason the aerospace and defense industry leader had made the three-year commitment to the National Youth Science Forum in 2015.

During the dialogue, recent NYSF alumni reflected on key moments in their lives that inspired their interest in pursuing STEM fields and how industry and government can inspire more young people to study STEM. In particular, the alumni talked about how the NYSF inspired them, by exposing them to tangible problems, introducing them to potential opportunities in STEM, and by showing how science is applied in a wide array of fields to improve the world.

In photo with Ms Hewson (centre), National Youth Science Forum Alumni (from left):              Ms Ashley Dunne, Ms Bella Mortimore, Ms Matilda Dowse, Mr Andrew George and Ms Kaliopi Notaras

Ashley Dunne, originally from Perth but now studying Engineering at The Australian National University (ANU), attended the NYSF in January 2013, and shared the impact of the program on her decision-making.

“On my return home after the NYSF I began applying for engineering degrees at interstate universities, something that I would never have had the confidence or skills to do previously.

“Since graduating from high school, the NYSF has continued to open doors for me. I have made contacts both in universities around Australia and in industry who have opened their doors at the very mention of the NYSF program. Even when I first moved to the ANU to begin my degree, I think I was far more prepared to start university that a vast majority of my cohort, because of the skills learned on the program.

Without attending the NYSF, I wouldn’t be at ANU, I wouldn’t be doing innovative research at a local hospital and I certainly would not be able to stand here this evening and speak to you. The NYSF program has given me this self-confidence and that is the most valuable thing I could have asked for.”

Matilda Dowse attended the NYSF in January 2016 and completed year 12 at Canberra College that same year. She has just begun a double degree of Engineering (R&D) and a Bachelor of International Security Studies. “The Lockheed Martin dinner was a fantastic opportunity to interact with some of the leading national and international innovators and policymakers in STEM. Being allowed to seriously discuss important issues in the future of STEM education and industry with leaders from our community gave me valuable, critical insight into my dream field, and what we can do to improve it.”

IP Australia at the NYSF

After signing on as a major funding partner for the first time in 2016, IP Australia was actively involved in the program for the NYSF 2017 January Sessions. In both Session A & C, IP Australia ran lab visits for the students, introducing them to the world of intellectual property, patents, trademarking and more.

The site visit included a number of activities, starting with an explanation of intellectual property and why it is so important. As an interactive activity the students were each given a KeepCup and asked to think about the design of the product that made it unique, with relation to Intellectual Property rights.

The students had the opportunity to speak with a number of IP Australia Patent Examiners over afternoon tea to discover more on the work they do there. Finally, to finish off the session, the students heard from an entrepreneur about their experience applying for Intellectual Property rights and protecting their inventions.

For many of the NYSF participants this was an aspect of STEM that they had not considered, but realised just how important it could be to their future careers and endeavours. It also showed them another area where they could potentially use their STEM skills in the future, with IP Australia employing hundreds of scientists, engineers and other professionals, all around the country.

“I enjoyed the light this visit shed on careers I had not previously considered, it offered me a fresh perspective on job opportunities in a work environment that I found appealing,” said Jack Roussos (Session A 2017) from NSW.

Representatives from IP Australia also attended the Opening Ceremony at Parliament House, the Science Dinners, and both of the Partners’ Day events where they presented to all of the students, had a stall at the expo and involved a number of IP Australia staff in the Speed-date-a-Scientist session. You can read more about IP Australia’s involvement in the NYSF here in their own coverage of the events.

Matt Lee (Right) from IP Australia at the Session A NYSF Science Dinner

A Newcastle Tea Ceremony

Students from the Newcastle area who recently returned from the National Youth Science Forum (NYSF) 2017 Year 12 Program in January, were treated to an afternoon tea hosted by The Lord Mayor of Newcastle, Cr Nuatali Nelmes.

The Lord Mayor congratulated local students on their achievements and selection to the NYSF program.


“It was my pleasure to host this special afternoon tea recognising the National Youth Science Forum and the number of local alumni who demonstrated the up and coming science, engineering and technology talent in Newcastle’s high schools.”

Also in attendance were Rotarians from local clubs, representatives from The University of Newcastle, local school principals and NYSF alumni, including NYSF 2013 alumnus, Phill Johnson, who was recently awarded Newcastle’s Young Citizen of the Year, and Newcastle City Councillor, Declan Clausen, who attended the NYSF in 2010. Cr Clausen knows first-hand the benefits students can gain from the NYSF program.

“As an alumnus of the NYSF, I know the value it plays in opening doors for young people across Australia in engineering, science and innovation.”

Callaghan College (Jesmond Campus) Student, Meheret Dagemawe, said the afternoon tea with the Lord Mayor was a memorable experience.

“Having the opportunity of meeting the Lord Mayor has allowed me to have an in-depth conversation of my future aspirations, in which Lord Mayor, Nuatali Nelmes, took great interest and provided invaluable insight about my choices.”

“The NYSF, although science related, has given me life skills that I could apply regardless of what path I choose to follow. The connections created through laughter and healthy debates with the brilliant minds of like-minded students is what I cherish most. I was also able to take away the most valuable lesson of networking with awe-inspiring scientists and speakers. Going to NYSF has allowed me to widen my career and further study options, it’s enabled me to be able to see different perspectives from a wide variety of people,” she said.

Cr Clausen noted that an additional 200 places will be available for next year’s program and encouraged local students to apply.

“As a region we have been very fortunate to have been so well represented at NYSF in the past, and I strongly encourage young Novocastrians in Year 11 to apply to attend NYSF in 2018,” Cr Clausen said.

Applications for 2018 open on 1 March. Full details at: www.nysf.edu.au

Extra 200 places for NYSF 2018 at The University of Queensland

Another 200 places will be available for year 12 students to attend the National Youth Science Forum (NYSF) next January due to the NYSF’s new in-principle agreement with The University of Queensland  (UQ) announced today.

“We are very pleased to welcome The University of Queensland as our second host university next year,” said Mr Andrew Metcalfe AO, chair of the National Youth Science Forum. “This commitment from UQ will allow the NYSF to offer a wider range of experiences to all of our student participants, both in January and through our follow up programs.”

The addition of the 200 places at UQ will bring the total number of participants at the NYSF 2018 program to 600; this increase in numbers is supported through funding from the Commonwealth’s National Science and Innovation Agenda (NISA). The complete 600 student cohort will be able to access information about all of the NYSF corporate supporters and their employment opportunities along with our university hosts and supporters, through our Partners’ Days and follow up Next Step programs.

“We are excited about the possibilities for our science tour program and the access to industry that the south-east Queensland location offers the NYSF,” added Mr Metcalfe. “And more importantly, it allows us to meet the continuing and increasing demand for places at the NYSF January program from young people and their families, as they consider future options for study in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) fields.”

“This is a stand out program and a unique opportunity for students passionate about  science, engineering  and related disciplines,” said The University of Queensland’s Provost, Professor Aidan Byrne, who has been instrumental in securing the partnership between UQ and NYSF. “I have been involved in NYSF in some form since its inception and am confident that expanding the program into Queensland will provide valuable experiences and skills to those who participate.”

Applications to participate in the NYSF 2018 program open on 1 March 2017 and all documentation must be submitted by 31 May 2017. Applicants must be in year 11 in 2017 to attend the 2018 program.

 

Further information: Amanda Caldwell 0410 148 173

NYSF 2017 Session C welcomed to Parliament House

NYSF 2017 Session C NYSF Participants found themselves in the heart of the nation on Wednesday at Parliament House as they attended the official opening of NYSF 2017 Session C. Dressed to the nines, the group were warmly greeted by an impressive array of speakers.

Dr Andrew Metcalfe AO, chair of the NSSS Board, opened the event. With a personal connection to the program through his son, who is an NYSF alumnus and currently completing a science PhD, Mr Metcalfe conveyed to the participants the unique opportunity to immerse themselves in science that they had been given. Next, Mr Steve Hill, the District 9710 Rotary Governor, addressed the group. He highlighted the importance of Rotary to support youth programs, and encouraged the students to take advantage of the wonderful opportunities and experiences that are to come.

The group also heard from Ms Glenys Beauchamp PSM, the current Secretary of the Department of Industry, Innovation and Science. Having a business and economic background, the way she spoke so highly of science emphasised to the participants the importance of science in a political setting. After all, as she made a point of saying, ‘you can’t look at innovation without science’.

Ms Beauchamp shared many of her own views on the science community, equating scientists with rock stars, and the need to celebrate science. She proudly outline the many scientific achievements of Australia, and also the need for more entrepreneurial endeavours from scientists. Being in an age where technology and science are reaching exciting new levels, she stressed the importance of finding ways to let science translate into commercial and economic benefits for the whole nation. She concluded with inspiring words, ‘hope to see some of you in business, academia, and government’,  – which is fitting as all are possibilities with the varied pathways science can lead to.

Finally, Dr Anna Cowan addressed the group, outlining the great community that the NYSF creates, with many colleagues and students being NYSF alumni. Being the Deputy Director of Education at ANU’s college for Medicine, Biology and Environment, as well as the ANU College of Physical and Mathematical Sciences, her inspirational words were especially significant to the group of future scientists.

Once the speeches concluded, the group was treated to an exclusive tour of Parliament House, including the opportunity enact the process of passing a bill in the House of Representatives through a mock proceeding. The growing confidence of the group was evident in this activity, and with lab visits looming on the horizon, things are only just getting started for the Session C participants.

 

Meg Stegeman, Communications Intern NYSF 2017 Session C and NYSF Alumna 2014

Photos by Veronica O’Mara, Communications Intern NYSF 2017 Session C and NYSF Alumna 2014

NYSF 2017 Session A: Closing Ceremony

The final day of NYSF 2017 Session A was an emotional one to say the least. After two weeks of intense science and bonding with like-minded students, it was finally time to say goodbye. Who would have thought it could be so hard to do after a mere two weeks?

It was a rollercoaster of emotion; a fast moving mixture of ecstatic and saddening feelings – but it was exactly the way I remember it from my experience on NYSF a few years ago. There is nothing quite like it, and it isn’t an experience easily forgotten.

However, while it was the last day of the NYSF, we weren’t done learning just yet.

At the Closing Ceremony we were fortunate to have 2011 NYSF alumnus, Jeeven Nadanakumar share his story. Jeeven graduated with a Bachelor of Law with First Class Honours and a Bachelor of Economics at ANU in 2016. He has worked for World Vision Australia, and has represented the organisations in many fora, including at the United Nations in New York.

Jeeven had some powerful points about science, leadership, and what the future holds for our participants– particularly on what it takes to create change:

“In the 21st century, being a good scientist, engineer, researcher, or a good thinker, is simply not enough. You need to be a good advocate for your science and your research. That’s the only way you can have your voice heard and have an impact.”

“I’ve always found that it is the rule-breaking, risk-taking, creative, entrepreneurial, daring and adventurous people among us that make the best scientists, the best leaders, and the most interesting people to have over for dinner.”

In regard to being a good advocate for your work, Jeeven hinted that it’s always better to beg for forgiveness than to ask for permission:

“I’ve always found that it’s the rule-breaking, risk-taking, creative, entrepreneurial, daring and adventurous people among us that make the best scientists, the best leaders, and the most interesting people to have over for dinner.”

Having attended the NYSF in 2011, Jeeven knew exactly the calibre of the audience he was speaking to, but also knew the challenges they are destined to face in the year to come. He stepped down from the podium leaving the students pumped to go and tackle their year 12 and life beyond:

“You’re here at the NYSF because you have those some of those qualities. You’re leaders, and you’re prepared to think outside the box. The year ahead is going to be challenging, but if anybody is ready for it, it is you.”

“I hope that we maintain the friendships that we’ve made here for the rest of our lives, but what I hope even more is that you guys maintain your curiosity and unadulterated passion, and use it to change the world.”

Following Jeeven’s talk several of the students stood up to share their thoughts on their time at NYSF, and how they feel it had changed them as a person. Each of the speeches were incredible, but I picked up a couple of particularly eloquent quotes from our dear Frankie Mackenzie:

“What really made the NYSF though, as soppy as it sounds, is the people. It is the best feeling ever to see your friends’ face light up when they start talking about their favourite field of quantum physics.”

The evening wasn’t just emotional for the students, but also for all the dedicated student staff who put themselves out there and facilitated all the growth. Megan Lowry, the linchpin and head of the student staff, had a particularly heartfelt message to share:

 “Each one of you now are more than when you arrived. Whether you found your passion, found your voice, found your confidence, or found a friend – you are now more you. We are proud of you for it.” 

“Remember the NYSF however you can; whether that’s through photos, or writing it down. Because these emotions are transient, yet powerful. Only you will ever understand what it felt like to experience all these emotions in combination all at once.”

 “Each one of you now are more than when you arrived. Whether you found your passion, found your voice, found your confidence, or found a friend – you are now more you. We are proud of you for it.” 

And of course what would a Closing Ceremony be without some final words of wisdom from the CEO, Damien Pearce:

“We’ve been here for two weeks together, but the NYSF has just started for you. Your careers have just started for you. And I look forward to engaging with each one of you in the future.”

It is tough to say goodbye, but Damien speaks the truth when he says this is just the beginning. The NYSF changes lives, and its influence pops up again and again all throughout your life – whether that is in the work you do, the bold decisions you make, or the compassion you show to others.

I want to extend my own thank you to everybody at the Closing Ceremony and everybody behind the scenes making the NYSF the incredible and memorable experience that it is.

Keep sciencing, and don’t let your memes be dreams.

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

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

Welcome to the Family: NYSF 2017 Session C Volunteers

At each session of the NYSF, we welcome a series of amazing volunteers who are there for participant and student staff wellbeing and support. For 2017 Session C we welcome our Rotary Aunts and Uncles, Sandra Quintemeyer, Stephen Porter, Sue Neale, Brendan Stevenson and Vera Liondas. Furthermore, their sharing of their experiences about involvement in the program provides an opportunity for Rotary to learn more about the NYSF, with their support critical to the program’s success.

L to R: Rotary Volunteers: Sue, Vera, Stephen, Brendan and Sandra.

Sandra comes from Townsville, Queensland and has previously been on the Rotary selection panel for the NYSF in her area. She is now retired but has worked in teaching vocational training and hospitality. For Sandra, this is a great opportunity to report back to her club on the work that the NYSF does and encourage continued involvement and support for students wanting to attend the NYSF in the future.

Stephen is from Hobart in Tasmania and is a long-time member of Rotary, with his club supporting the NYSF for a number of years. He is looking forward to learning more about the program and is particularly interested in seeing science in action through the lab visits and lectures.

Sue is from Echuca in Victoria and works as a Chemistry and Mathematics high school teacher. Her keen interest in science and a desire to further promote the program in her own school prompted her to volunteer. She is looking forward to learning more about the NYSF and what students who have attended in the past have experienced.

Brendan has just finished his Bachelor of Science at Monash University in Melbourne, majoring in Biochemistry and Pharmacology. Next year he will be at The University of Melbourne doing his Honours in Biochemistry and then plans to go onto further postgraduate study. He has been active in Rotary’s community work since he was 16. He is most looking forward to the science visits, experiencing ANU and says he is excited to see the change in the students at the end of the program as they come out of their shells.

Vera is from the Rotary club of Holtoid in Sydney and has been involved with the NYSF over the last 3 years, being on the interview panel for her district. She is now retired but has worked as a science teacher at TAFE and is looking forward to seeing “if science has changed in half a century!”

Thank you to Sandra, Stephen, Sue, Vera and Brendan for your assistance over the next 2 weeks and the role that Rotary plays in the ongoing support of the NYSF.

Now let’s begin NYSF 2017 Session C and let the science begin!

 

Written by NYSF 2017 Session C Communications Interns and NYSF 2014 alumni, Veronica O’Mara and Megan Stegeman.

NYSF 2017 Session A: Speed Date A Scientist

Speed Date A Scientist is an annual event at the NYSF that allows small groups of students sit and chat with many a variety of scientists from various disciplines and backgrounds. The turnout of scientists willing to be interrogated by the NYSF 2017 Session A cohort was phenomenal, resulting in an average of one scientist per group of four students.

The students have the opportunity to ask these scientists about their field, their career path, and their life in general. This article is a collection of quotes (including some bombs of wisdom) from some of incredible scientists who made the event possible.

Dr A J Mitchell – Nuclear Physics, RSPE ANU

“If you’re passionate about what you do, it makes going to work a whole lot easier.”

“At the heart of every atom you have a collection of protons and neutrons that really shouldn’t be held together – there is a whole lot of positive charge very close together so they should repel apart. The work we do is study that nuclei.”

“We collide them together, see what radiation comes off, and use that as a fingerprint to determine properties such as shape. This gives us a fundamental understanding of nuclear forces.”

“I always enjoyed mathematics and physics, and just always pursued what I enjoyed and now people pay me to do it.”

“If you’re passionate about what you do, it makes going to work a whole lot easier.”

 

Matt Lee – Assistant Director of Strategic Communication, IP Australia

“Doing a double degree you meet a whole bunch of different people, and you can demonstrate to employers that you have skills in many different fields.”

“Doing a double degree you meet a whole bunch of different people, and you can demonstrate to employers that you have skills in many different fields. For me I’m able to quickly read documents and give a sharp overview. It also gave me a strong understanding of global politics.”

“I go around to a lot of startup companies in IT, ag-tech, drone-tech, fin-tech and see a lot of amazing things.”

“One discipline in huge demand at the moment is data science. Everything involves data, but how do you make sense of it? People are needed to take the data, figure out how to interpret it, and make decisions.”

 

Gerard Dwyer – Teacher (Canberra Institute of Technology) and Education Officer (National Zoo and Aquarium)

“I used to like picking up and playing with lizards, but never realised it could be a job.”

“I used to like picking up and playing with lizards, but never realised it could be a job. Then I went to Questacon and got a job feeding the spiders – I love spiders so it was the easiest job I’ve ever had.”

“If you want to work in environmental areas, it pays to be interested in everything. ACT is good, because we have really strong legislation when it comes to the environment.”

“I realised that I can’t fix everything, but at least I can teach a lot of people.”

Gerard’s lizard friend, Sally

 

Claire Howell (Manager at National Forest Inventory)

“Do what you’re passionate about, and if you’re not sure what that is then do what you’re good at because that’s also motivating.”

“When I was in year 11 and 12 I knew I loved being outdoors, and I wanted to do Forest Science at university but I didn’t get in. So I did really well in my first year in another degree and then made my case with the Dean of the faculty and was transferred into second year Forestry.”

“Don’t think that your career will always be your career, because it will change.”

“Do what you’re passionate about, and if you’re not sure what that is then do what you’re good at because that’s also motivating.”

Students meet Claire Howell (Manager at National Forest Inventory) and Stuart Davey (Forest Ecology, Institute of Foresters Australia)

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