NYSF International Programs open up opportunities

In June this year eight National Youth Science Forum students travelled to South Africa to attend the National Science Olympiad Focus Week and spend two unforgettable weeks traveling around the south of Africa.

 Central … was the interaction by the NYSF students with such a diverse group of like-minded students from a wide variety of backgrounds.

Before heading to the Focus Week, the students stopped off in Cape Town, including a visit to the infamous Robben Island in what one of the students, Ashly Vu, described as, “a particularly sombre experience”. There was “a strange feeling of serenity on the island that has witnessed so much pain and hardship.” After visiting a local township and taking in the majestic views from Table Mountain, the students were excited to fly on to Johannesburg for the Focus Week.

The National Science Olympiad Focus Week is held for the top 100 science students from over 30,000 participants from across Africa who took the Science Olympiad exam.  Like NYSF, it aims to introduce the students to how much they can achieve in a career in science. Eight Australian NYSF students took part in the event.

During the week the students attended lectures by world-class scientists, visited various cutting edge research laboratories and industry workplaces and had the chance to speak to mentors in a wide variety of scientific fields. Ashly particularly enjoyed visiting the Cullinan Diamond Mine and debating the ethics about how science is applied at Denel Dynamics, a company that produces defence equipment. Another student, Lauren Booth, enjoyed visiting the Nuclear Energy Corporation and the South African National Biodiversity Institute.

Sth AFrica 2 2013 Ashly Vu C

Central to the experience of the Focus Week was the interaction by the NYSF students with such a diverse group of like-minded students from a wide variety of backgrounds. Along with the official activities the students played cards, baked cakes and successfully introduced Tim-Tams to their newfound friends. Although the Tim-Tams were a big hit Vegemite definitely did not go down so well!

Salt Pans Sth Africa Ashly Vu C

Before heading home after the Focus Week, the students experienced a ten-day safari through the wilds of South Africa, Botswana and Zambia.  They watched magnificent sunrises from the backs of elephants, saw lion cubs feeding, a rare white lion and even two rhinos. Along with visiting a wildlife rehabilitation centre, participating in traditional meals and dances, and a night-time cruise along the Zambezi River, Lauren said, “a personal highlight was watching a spectacular sunset from the Botswana salt pans and eating braai under a starry night sky.”

“It was truly a life-changing experience,” said Lauren, “that opened my eyes to the beauty of Africa and intensified my passion for science and my interest in pursuing a rewarding career in this area.” Ashly perhaps summed it up best by saying she’d “taken enough photos and videos to fill 40GB of an SD card and enough memories to last a lifetime.”

Story by Max Rintoul, based on report from Ashly Vu

First students from Brazil to NYSF 2014

The 2014 January Sessions sees three students coming from Brazil for the first time to attend the NYSF.

The REDE Programa de Olimpíadas do Conhecimento (REDEPOC) partners with programs in Colombia, Costa Rica, Eduador, France, India, England, Peru and Portugal, as well as with the NYSF.  The Brazilian program provides opportunities for extension work in science, including attendance at international programs such as NYSF, the Youth Meeting of Sciences in Portugal, and the London International Youth Science Forum.

“Over the years, NYSF has established strong links with a number of international programs,” says NYSF Director, Damien Pearce.  “These are mainly based in countries where Australian students might traditionally look at undertaking postgraduate research, such as the UK, Europe and the United States.  Most recently, South Africa has come on board and this year we will welcome four students from there to the January Sessions.  By expanding the breadth of the International Program we are acknowledging the wider horizons available for international exchange.  This could not be better represented by a move into South America, where a number of large Australian companies already do business and are seeking expansion. One of the NYSF’s key goals is for our students to begin to build professional networks, and these international programs are key to this engagement.”

NYSF 2013 Alumni selected as ANU Tuckwell scholars

Two members of the 2013 NYSF cohort have been selected as inaugural Tuckwell Foundation scholars.

Guy Leckenby, from Coffs Harbour, and Jakub Nabaglo, from Goulburn, were chosen from a shortlist of 72 students who spent a weekend at the Australian National University (ANU) undertaking a series of individual and group interviews. The original call for scholars received 657 applications of which 217 were invited to the next stage of online assessments.

The scholars will receive $20,000 a year for the length of a single or double undergraduate degree as well as ongoing academic and career mentoring. They will live in student accommodation and be encouraged to pursue community service and extracurricular activities.

“Guy and Jakob were outstanding participants in last year’s NYSF January Sessions,” says Damien Pearce, NYSF Director. “Both were selected to take part in our International Program. Jakob attended the South Africa National Youth Science Week in July.”

Guy has been selected as NYSF’s delegate to attend the Stockholm International Youth Science Seminar in December. A highlight of this program is attending the Nobel Prize Ball.  Guy is planning a research project which will be presented at the Seminar. Its initial focus is “The place of astrophysics in a climate of global quandary”.

The Tuckwell Scholarship Program was established by ANU alumnus Graham Tuckwell and his wife Louise in February 2013. Their $50 million gift to the University was the largest ever donation to an Australian university by an Australian citizen.

From the Director

Geoff BurchfieldMid-winter here in Canberra is generally a quiet time for the National Youth Science Forum. But this year the place is buzzing with significant developments, some perhaps surprising.

First up, I have decided to step down from my role as Director of the NYSF, effective from the end of August. It’s a been a wonderful nine years for me but it’s time to move on and pursue other interests. My succession program is already in place and I feel I’m leaving the NYSF in very good hands.

The interim director, Damien Pearce, is already on board. He is a Fulbright scholar with a strong background in education. And he is no stranger to the organisation. In his former role as NYSF Assistant Director, he will be known to many who have attended the Canberra sessions over the past two years. Additionally, Damien has been closely involved in the student-staff training program.

the place is buzzing with significant developments

Recently he has been an architect of major office re-structures that have not only streamlined portfolios and brought operations under one roof but made possible some new staff changes. In particular we are delighted to welcome Amanda Caldwell as our Manager, Communications & Partnerships. Also there are now three part-time positions in our office, specifically for former NYSF students. This is an important way of maintaining connections with the student body while also providing training opportunities.

As I write, the Next Step Program is in full swing around the country and the International Program is underway too. Currently we have students at programs in Boston and Pretoria with others soon to leave for Heidelberg and London.

The re-vamped Outback Leadership Treks are also about to get underway. This year our young student staff leaders are trekking in Southern Queensland under the guidance of Adventure Out.

While I am leaving to explore new personal opportunities, I am keeping options open for the possibility of continuing my involvement in some way, so strong is my belief in NYSF, its future and the organisation’s ability to achieve change in the lives of the young people we support.

Geoff Burchfield