From the science forum to science policy

Dr Subho Banerjee attended the NYSF (then known as the National Science Summer School) in Canberra in 1987. Nowadays he is responsible for preparing science policy advice in the Commonwealth Government.

Subho had always had an interest in science through his high school days in Newcastle, including being a national finalist in the BHP Science Prize. So he was very excited to get the chance to attend the NYSF, and it didn’t disappoint.

“Attending the NYSF was an inspirational experience. The program gave us exposure to such a wide range of high-quality science research being done in Canberra, across universities and research agencies. I was blown away by the possibilities.”

“I remember particularly a fantastic talk given to us by a graduate student up at Mt Stromlo Observatory, at the ANU. He really captured how excited he was to be exploring the fundamental questions of the universe – and he made it fun as well.”

“But the best thing was definitely the chance to connect with students from all over Australia who were interested in the same stuff that I was. I made friendships there that I carry forward to today.”

Subho credits his NYSF experience as being crucial in encouraging him to study science at the ANU.   He went on to do a PhD in physics, using lasers to study the structure of the oxygen molecule.

After his PhD, Subho made the decision to move into public policy. He received a Rhodes scholarship to go to the University of Oxford, studying economics and social history, and then environmental policy.

“When I was doing my PhD, I got more and more interested in the interface between science and public policy – so many policy issues are framed by science, but relatively few people with a science background are involved in the policy deliberations.”

Subho joined the Australian Public Service on his return from Oxford. He has since worked across policy issues spanning economic, social and environmental policy, as well as on organisational reform of the public sector itself. In addition to public service roles, he has worked for a not-for-profit Indigenous policy think-tank, and a private sector management consulting firm.

… a grounding in science, such as that provided by the NYSF, is a fantastic foundation. It encourages rigour and clarity in thought

In his current role as a Deputy Secretary in the Department of Industry, Subho is responsible for preparing science policy advice to the Federal government. This spans whole of sector advice on issues such as science funding and infrastructure, as well as policy oversight of Questacon, the National Measurement Institute and the Australian Astronomical Observatory. Subho is also on the board of the international organisation responsible for delivering the Square Kilometre Array – the largest radio telescope in the world.

“I’m really enjoying having a science-based role again. I think a grounding in science, such as that provided by the NYSF, is a fantastic foundation. It encourages rigour and clarity in thought, which makes you better at what you do (whether science-based, or not). But it also encourages enthusiasm about ideas and about the world, which helps you to enjoy doing it.”

Subho Banerjee Siding Springs telescope

Subho Banerjee Siding Spring telescope

NYSF leads to limitless opportunities

Sylvie Guigere from Queensland on her NYSF experience:

Sylvie Guigere

“After attending NYSF in 2012, I was ready to take on Year 12 and go on to bigger and better things at university. After a year full of hard work, I got accepted into my dream course – a Bachelor of Science at the University of Queensland, with provisional entry into Medicine once I had completed my three-year undergraduate degree.

I got accepted into my dream course – a Bachelor of Science at the University of Queensland

I had my heart set on going to UQ because of its great medical program and the fact that it was still relatively close to my hometown of Mackay. Having to move away from home makes the transition to university so much harder; however, attending NYSF at the start of year 12 meant I knew a bit of what to expect at university. Unlike a lot of other regional students who had come straight out of high school, I had already sat in a lecture theatre, been inside a university laboratory and spoken to academics. These experiences made my transition to university a lot easier because my surroundings weren’t completely unfamiliar, especially since a huge university campus can be extremely intimidating at first.

After staying at Burgmann College during my time at NYSF, I also decided I wanted to live on campus, and I moved into the Women’s College at UQ at the start of 2013. When I moved in, I only knew two other people going into first-year at college with me, both of whom I had met at NYSF.

Now almost two years later, I have completed my second year of university and college, as well as having been lucky enough to be involved in the NYSF program as a staff member for the past two years. This brings me to two-thirds of the way through my Bachelor of Science and I have loved every minute of it. Due to my interest in going onto Medicine, I have chosen to major in biomedical science and have focussed mostly on anatomy and neuroscience. My time at university has been challenging but extremely interesting. My first semester was a shock to the system, after I realised how different university is to high school, but I have since learned to love that difference. The freedom to choose my courses has meant that I have been able to explore areas that I find the most interesting, something which is hard to do at high school.

Sylvie Guigere on the student staff trek 2013

The academic opportunities I have encountered at university have been complemented by the leadership opportunities available to me at Women’s College. One of these happened recently during the G20 summit in Brisbane. Through my college, I received an invitation to the address by President Obama, which was held at UQ. Being able to witness this momentous speech was incredible and an experience that I will never forget. One remark of his, which particularly stood out for me, was when he spoke about how lucky we are to be part of a generation which has such limitless opportunities, which is something I couldn’t agree with more. I have been extremely fortunate to receive so many opportunities already in my young life, including being involved with the incredible NYSF, and I am looking forward to making the most of every opportunity that comes my way in the future.”

Why should the kids have all the fun? Summer school for science teachers

For the fifth year, the National Science Teachers Summer School will be running in Canberra next January, coinciding with the National Youth Science Forum (NYSF).

Applications open:   Wednesday 24 September 2013

Applications close:   Friday 24 October 2013

Aiming to provide teachers of science with a chance to reignite their passion and enthusiasm for science and teaching, the NSTSS takes participants into research labs at the Australian National University (ANU) and other sites around the nation’s capital including the Mount Stromlo Observatory and CSIRO.

“We’re able to offer the teachers unique experiences in science and science education,” says Damien Pearce, NYSF Director.  “They take part in workshops, and have discussions about teaching, learning and assessment in the classroom. We also look at the range of tools available to enhance teaching practices.”

The teachers also interact with students taking part in the January Sessions of the NYSF, and attend the NYSF Science Dinner at Parliament House.

Professor Ian Young, Vice Chancellor of Australian National University at the 2013 NYSF Science Dinner

Professor Ian Young, Vice Chancellor of Australian National University at the 2013 NYSF Science Dinner

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NSTSS is made possible through the collaboration of the Australian Science Teachers Association (ASTA), ANU, and NYSF.  “This collaboration is allowing Australian teachers of science with a really valuable professional development experience,” says Vic Dobos, CEO of ASTA.  “The support we receive from the researchers who host the lab visits makes a big different to the understanding and engagement of the participants.”

  • “Dr Kirk seamlessly brought to life the complexities of research, funding and science. There are many ways in which this can be brought to the classroom from planning a unit around a relevant theme and weaving the facts into a bigger story through to using simple everyday objects to represent the models we teach. The opportunity to listen to a great science communicator and be inspired by them was priceless.”  Dr Paula Mills, Prince Alfred College, Kent Town, SA
  • “These world-recognised academic speakers were exceptionally approachable and showed a sincere willingness to help teachers with questions and points of clarification. Many also invited post Summer School contact. This offer to remain in touch was most impressive.”  Paolo Arman, St Aloysius College, Adelaide, SA
  •  “As a primary teacher focusing on science and extension I now feel more confident in advising fellow staff as to how they might teach science and how I can support them to improve student outcomes.”  Neil Bramsen, Mt Ousley Public School, NSW
  • “Attending sessions with the students from the NYSF was an absolute privilege. I learned so much from them. Seeing them and listening to them makes what we all do so worthwhile. I think sometimes we forget this”.   Karen Jared, Mt Gambier High School, SA

NSTSS 2013 Chemistry lab res1 NSTSS 2013 Mt Stromlo res 1

Successful applicants to NSTSS will receive economy airfares to and from Canberra, six nights’ accommodation on campus at ANU, all excursion travel and most meals. A registration fee of $500 + GST is sought, which is fully tax deductible.

Key dates for NSTSS 2014:

Applications open:                                                                 Wednesday 24 September 2013

Applications close:                                                                Friday 24 October 2013

Successful applicants notified by email:                           Friday 1 November 2013

NSTSS 2014 will be held from Sunday 12 January to Saturday 18 January 2014 with participants staying on the campus of the Australian National University, Canberra.

For more information please contact Vic Dobos on ceo@asta.edu.au or phone (02) 6282 9377 during office hours.