Taking the “Next Step” in Sydney for STEM study information

The National Youth Science Forum (NYSF) continued its Next Step program in Sydney this July over a two-day period.  The Next Step Program is an extension of our January Year 12 Program – allowing the current year’s participants with the opportunity to further their knowledge about career and study options available to them.

Day one saw visits to our partner organisations ResMed and Cochlear in the morning and the Sydney Observatory and Powerhouse Museum in the afternoon.

At ResMed students toured the facilities of one of the biggest chronic sleep disorder device corporations in the world. They explored the ResMed manufacturing warehouses, had discussions with leading research and development engineers, and tried their hand at assembling various sleep apnoea devices.

During the Cochlear visit participants went behind the scenes for a glimpse into the hearing implant market and saw why Cochlear is a world-wide market leader.

In an interactive exhibition at the Powerhouse Museum, participants were transported back to Sherlock Holmes’ Victorian London to try and crack the case by conducting their own experiments.

Isabel Beaumont, one of this year’s cohort said NYSF’s Next Step program was a valuable addition to the January Year 12 Program.

“The Next Step programs are always useful as they further broaden your understanding of all the possible careers in science.  The are also a great way to reconnect with friends from the NYSF,” she said.

“I really enjoyed the visit to the Cochlear headquarters. We were able to tour their implant manufacturing facilities and see some very impressive machinery.”

During the evening the NYSF held an Alumni Event that you can read about here.

At the Sydney Observatory, in the heart of the CBD, students looked through a telescope over a century old, as well as more modern equipment. They viewed sunspots on our Sun, and the largest planet in the solar system, Jupiter. They also discussed career options with Danica, the tour guide, who is completing a PhD in Astronomy.

The following day students visited the University of New South Wales (UNSW).  There were multiple visits available such as the opportunity to build and engineer solar cars, explore the Museum of Human Diseases and listen to lectures about psychology, optometry, medicine and various other degrees. NYSF alumni who are at UNSW studying degrees across science, medicine and engineering, visited the group, and  heard about the amazing scholarship opportunities UNSW offers.

NYSF 2017 alumnus, Ben Kirsh said he got a better insight into university life after visiting UNSW.

“It was really good to see the uni (UNSW) and the student tour guides were great because they showed you the side that isn’t portrayed in the open day brochures. They gave insider knowledge of senior students which I thought was pretty cool … and confirmed to me that attending UNSW next year is very possible. All in all we came away with a lot of great information and advice we can use to make informed decisions about study and career options into the future.”

Ben also felt that Next Step gave him additional information about future career and study options.

“Next Step was very useful as it allowed the opportunity to see other (NYSF partner) universities such as UNSW and talk to students currently studying a range of degrees in differing fields to question them to see which may fit myself the best. It also allowed me to catch up with people I met at NYSF, as well as meeting people from other sessions,” he said.

We would like to thank our partners for their continued support and in particular those organisations that participated in the Sydney Next Step Program, IP Australia, UNSW, ResMed, Cochlear and UTS.

Sharing Knowledge and Experience – Sydney Next Step Alumni Event

In partnership with IP Australia the NYSF hosted the second Alumni Event in July. The event was held at the University of Technology Sydney (UTS), where our newest cohort of NYSF participants had the opportunity to listen to older NYSF alumni about their education and career journeys.  The Alumni Event was part of the Sydney Next Step Program which you can read about here.

Professor Louise McWhinnie, Dean of the Faculty of Transdisciplinary Innovation welcomed everyone to UTS, and then several NYSF Alumni spoke about their study and work since leaving high school.

Stephanie Pearce (NYSF 2010)  now works as a patent examiner at IP Australia. Stephanie shared insights about life after NYSF, particularly her career at IP Australia, and the importance of protecting  intellectual property.

Associate Professor Alison Beavis, (NYSF 1997) who is Deputy Dean for the UTS Department of Transdisciplinary Innovation said she felt a part of the NYSF family and offered some sage advice to this year’s cohort.

“This year will be a hard, crazy year but remember in the end it will be incredibly exhilarating. It’s a long journey but you are not alone, you are always being supported.”

Our keynote speaker, Associate Professor Josephine Clayton,  attended the very first NYSF (previously known as National Science Summer School – NSSS) in 1984. She spoke about her professional and personal journey in medicine, and an experience with a dying patient’s attitude to medical care that changed the course of her career.  Associate Professor Clayton is the Director of HammondCare’s Centre for Learning and Research in Palliative Care. Her research aims to explore the best ways to facilitate open discussions around palliative care that aligns with the patient’s wishes as opposed to looking at the issue from a purely medical point of view.

“In an ageing population we can’t cope with palliative care. There are not enough beds.  We need to get GPs involved.”

“I am blessed to have a job that has dedicated time to researching and teaching.  I love collaborative research that focuses on translating research into clinical practice,” Associate Professor Clayton said.

The other presentations highlighted the diversity of our alumni’s experiences, touching on everything from overcoming obstacles and changing paths, through to advice on what employers are currently looking for and following your passion.  All in all NYSF alumni had a great evening, gaining great advice about study options and career, networking and meeting other alumni and catching up with old friends.

NYSF thanks our alumni speakers including Rhys Killian (NYSF 2013), Emily Smith (NYSF 2010), and Jacob Silove (NYSF 2014)  and our fabulous MC Jason Borg (NYSF 2010).  A special thank you also to Professor Louise McWhinnie, Associate Professor Alison Beavis, the staff at UTS who made the evening such a great success and IP Australia for its continued support.

My Dream Job as a Bioanalytical Chemist with CSL

CSL has been a valuable partner to the NYSF for eight years and has a range of exciting career options available for STEM graduates. Keep reading to discover more about just one career path on offer at CSL.

“I always thought I would end up in biology, but through exposure to practical work I ended up in chemistry and then biochemistry. So I would definitely say expose yourself to as many different areas of science as you can. This can be through reading, attending public lectures, practical-based school holiday workshops, working with a tutor, emailing someone at a university, watching videos on TED and YouTube and the myriad of open access courses available online.

CSL Scientist Alistair Grevis-James turned his childhood love of fish-keeping and propagating plants into a dream job as a Bioanalytical Chemist. Now he helps develop biotherapies for people with life-threatening medical conditions.  Alistair’s dream job profile appears in the 2017-18 edition of Student Guide Australia, a survival guide to life beyond school. For more dream job profiles, study and career advice, you can grab a copy here: http://au.educationhq.com/student-guide-australia/

NYSF 1987 Alumnus, Dr Jason Smith, talks about his varied career path

I attended the National Youth Science Forum (NYSF), formerly known as the National Science Summer School (NSSS), in 1987, some 30 years ago – that does make me sound old! It was the first time I realised there were lots of other kids like me who really enjoyed science, and it was fantastic to make friends across the country with others who shared a similar outlook. I was in the Human Biology group at NYSF/NSSS, which gave me a great insight into the world of health care and science within it.

Following Year 12 I studied Medicine at University of Queensland (UQ) and after working as a hospital doctor for a couple of years I started work as a GP. I then studied Civil Engineering as it was another area of interest for me, and I worked in that area for a short while before coming back to Medicine. After more time working as a GP, I undertook specialist training to become an anatomical pathologist, which is my job now and I love it.

In high school my favourite subject was biology and at the NYSF/NSSS I was amazed to see the possibilities that science was bringing to this field. The emerging knowledge of genetics that I first became interested in at NYSF/NSSS is now part of my regular work in regards to the different genetic mutations in tumours that we test for. A better understanding of these mutations allows for more accurate diagnoses and treatment with newer targeted therapies. This area of medical science is still changing at a rapid pace!

The NYSF/NSSS had a profound effect on me. It gave me the motivation to keep studying hard at school to get into university and opened my eyes to the wide range of jobs and careers that are based on the different sciences. It also gave me self-confidence – even if my school mates thought I was a bit of a nerd, I now knew there were others just like me all around the country who I’d met and made friends with.

I still keep in touch with fellow students from NYSF/NSSS 1987, both as friends and work colleagues. And although I’ve lost contact with some of the other students I met there, I’m sure many of them have also found their way to a happy and successful life somewhere in the sciences.

Highlights of NYSF STEM Explorer 2017

“I thought it was very interactive, interesting and fun to learn about how things can be structured.”

NYSF STEM Explorers were kept busy throughout the five-day program in Adelaide.

Arriving on Monday afternoon, participants spent the first afternoon getting to know each other, their Youth Advisors and the NYSF team.

On Tuesday, the day kicked off with a critical and scientific thinking workshop hosted by Ellen from NYSF designed to encourage analytical thinking and questioning, so important in this era of fake news. That afternoon was the first off-site lab visits, where the participants were split into five groups, visiting five different sites.

One group was thrilled to explore Lochiel Park, a housing development using latest science innovations to strive for sustainable, low emission living. In Lochiel Park the houses have a minimum 7.5 star energy efficiency rating and use on average 64% less energy than an average house. The Park has won a number of design awards since first being built over a decade ago and is supported by a a strong community engagement program.

Another visit toured the South Australian Aquatic Sciences Centre, a purpose-built marine and freshwater research facility. Students learned about why it is important to manage fishing stock into the future, and the Centre’s role in supporting the sustainable management of those fisheries resources. They also looked at the wider aquatic environment and how it underpins sustainable growth of aquaculture industries in South Australia, which can lead to future employment for the community.  The tour showed how oysters are grown, and how algae is farmed and harvested to feed crustaceans. Students dissected fish, looking closely at the otilith – a small bone in a fish’s ear that determines its age.

Mount Barker High School student, Cameron said the visit was well prepared and very informative.

“There is a lot under the topic of marine biology – a lot of work that isn’t talked about,” he said. “We learnt a lot of things like the management of fisheries, different methods of catching fish and other sea life.”

At the visit to the South Australian Museum on Wednesday the Chief Scientist of South Australia, Dr Leanna Read, spoke to the students about her role and own career. There were also talks from two PhD candidates – a palaeontologist and a microbiologist – both of whom engaged the students with their stories from their fields. More site visits, including to  South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute (SAHMRI) where the students toured the innovative building and learned that the design was modelled on a pine cone (and not a cheese grater as many often comment). With 16,000 windows and more than 600 scientists, there is certainly a lot going on at SAHMRI!

The University of Adelaide’s Why Waite program hosted students for some fascinating hands-on science. In the soil experiment, they learned about the different absorption properties of sand, soil and clay and how this would impact plants growing in those different soils. After that, the students got their hands dirty learning how to extract DNA from strawberries.

The University of South Australia hosted five visits from students.  In one visit, “Waging Peace”, they learned about the ongoing impacts of land mines used in war-torn countries. And during a tower building exercise, they put on their engineering hats. Working in teams, they set about designing and drafting plans to build a tower out of spaghetti and marshmallows so it could support a small can of tuna.

Monique from Parafield Gardens High School took away a lot from the Tower Building workshop:

“I thought it was very interactive, interesting and fun to learn about how things can be structured.  I learnt that through trial and error and team work you can make something better.”

The Government of South Australia’s Natural Resources Management Board (NRM) Water Testing Activity saw all of  the STEM Explorers take to the water at the Mylor Adventure Camp – the program’s host site.  During the water testing in the local creek they looked for aquatic macro-invertebrates, and found numerous specimens from yabbies to scuds, mosquito larvae and water mites.  They also surveyed the bird life to gain a general overview of the biodiversity at Mylor.

Amy Blaylock, NRM Education Officer said the testing helped to make the students aware that there is so much life around them, even though they can’t see it.

“Even though they’re (macro-invertebrates) small they’re still part of the eco-system.  They give us a long-term picture of what’s happening with the eco-system.  It’s fascinating because you get so many stories of adaptation and niches they occupy.”

Forty Students to benefit from new NYSF Equity Scholarship

Scholarship, NYSF, National Youth Science Forum, NYSF, STEM

Biological Anthropology, ANU College of Arts and Social Science

If you’re thinking about applying for the NYSF 2018 Year 12 Program but are not sure about the cost – our equity scholarships may help you on your way. The scholarship will award up to 40 students $1,000 each towards their fee to attend the Program.

The NYSF Equity Scholarships are designed to encourage young people from more diverse backgrounds to attend by contributing to the reduction of the participation fee.

The NYSF Equity Scholarship stems from funding secured from the Department of Industry Innovation and Science (DIIS) via the National Science and Innovation Agenda (NISA).

To find out more about our Equity Scholarships follow the link HERE

There may be further opportunities to cover part or all of the programs cost through community fundraising or sponsorship, or contributions from your endorsing Rotary Club or school.

Please Note: Submitting an application for an Equity Scholarship does not constitute an application to attend the NYSF Year 12 Program. A separate application for NYSF 2018 will also need to be completed.

If you have any questions that are not answered by the information on our website, please email programs@nysf.edu.au

Volunteer Opportunities for Alumni with NYSF STEM Explorer – July 2017

2017 is set to be a big year for the NYSF with the launch of a new pilot program, NYSF STEM Explorer. The program is a collaborative initiative between the South Australian Department of Education and Child Development (DECD) and the NYSF, with additional seed funding provided by the Commonwealth Department of Industry, Innovation and Science.

The Adelaide based program, running from 17-21 July 2017, is targeting science engagement for school students in years 7 and 8, with spaces for 120 students from across South Australia. In line with the vision of NYSF, the program aims to inspire young people to value science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) and its importance in our communities. Planning is well underway for this exciting new program with visits to leading research facilities and industry sites.

Are you an NYSF Alumni looking for a professional development opportunity? Would you be interested to take on a role to help to facilitate the program? Have you missed the NYSF and want an opportunity to re-engage?

Calling all NYSF Alumni

Following a similar model to that of the NYSF Year 12 Program, STEM Explorer will be staffed by NYSF alumni volunteers, and applications are now open. We are looking for one STEM Explorer Coordinator to act as a “Chief of Staff” (must be over 21) as well as several Youth Advisors (must be over 18) to supervise events and student participation in the program. You can read more about the positions and their selection criteria through the links below.

Apply here to be a Youth Advisor for the 2017 STEM Explorer program

https://www.nysf.edu.au/volunteer/stem-explorer-volunteering-opportunity/

Apply here to be the STEM Explorer Coordinator for the 2017 STEM Explorer Program

https://www.nysf.edu.au/volunteer/stem-explorer-volunteering-opportunity-2/

Applications close midnight Sunday 21 May 2017.

NYSF Rotary District Chair, Stephen Lovison talks about student selections

Rotary, NYSF,

“I honestly had no idea the depth and breadth of the program”

From our larger cities to small regional towns in outback Australia, Rotarians have been super busy over the past few months promoting the National Youth Science Forum (NYSF) and conducting student selections for the NYSF 2018 Year 12 Program.

We spoke to NYSF Rotary District Chair (DC), Stephen Lovison from Sydney (D9675), about his involvement with Rotary and the NYSF Student Selection process.

Stephen first joined Rotary in 1999 as a Rotaractor and has been president of his Rotary Club, Como-Jannali, twice and served on numerous district boards.

“(I joined Rotary) primarily to give back to my local community and to assist overseas causes championed by Rotary International.  I like the fact that club members are local community leaders, but the beneficiaries of our volunteer work could be anywhere on the planet,” Stephen said.

“When the opportunity for NYSF District Chair became available I decided to try something different. I honestly had no idea the depth and breadth of the program until I got working on it – it’s been challenging and rewarding all the same.”

Rotary Liaison Officer on the NYSF Board, Rob Woolley, estimated that last year Rotarians volunteered more than 20,000 hours to the NYSF in promoting the program and conducting student selections.  Rotary has over 30,000 members, 1,100 clubs in 21 Districts throughout Australia, giving students from all corners of the country the opportunity to attend the NYSF.

“Rotary provides a massive logistic service when it comes to student identification, interview and selection. We rely on our network of business and community leaders to ensure the most suitable candidates are put forward (to district selection),” Stephen said.

This year the NYSF Year 12 Program will be expanding, allowing 600 students to attend in either Canberra or Brisbane.  Stephen added that the program provided a great opportunity for students who were interested in the STEM fields of study.

“Experience and exposure to the top minds and resources in STEM at the level NYSF provides is unrivalled. If you can get access to this as a young person and springboard your career in STEM because of this opportunity, go for it.”

Rotary, NYSF

This year the NYSF is offering 40 Equity Scholarships of $1000 each to students who may need assistance to attend the Year 12 Program.  Stephen believes this will encourage a more diverse range of students to apply.

“There are a number of schools and districts where, for various reasons, a program such as this may be deemed “out of reach”.  In keeping with Rotary and NYSF’s commitment to making the program viable to all students, the Equity Scholarship should hopefully open more doors for these students.”

And Stephen’s advice to students thinking of applying to the NYSF …

“Jump on the NYSF website and do some research, then make contact with your local Rotary Club. We are here to guide you through the process and answer any questions you may have.”

“In our district, we look for any student with a keen interest in the STEM fields, who is community and culturally open minded, and is willing to share and collaborate with their peers and mentors.”

Stephen said feedback from students who have participated in the NYSF Year 12 Program is a testament to its success and value.

“We have not had anything but praise for the NYSF team and the program itself from every returning student! The phrases “changed my life” “wonderful and challenging two weeks” “would recommend to anyone” feature heavily in the post-program reports sent to DCs.”

“In broad terms, alumni have gone on to various university courses and careers in science, healthcare, astronomy, and engineering. Several have joined Rotaract and/or Rotary and we’re glad to see that investment coming full circle.”

For more information about the NYSF Year 12 Program go to https://www.nysf.edu.au

Superstars of STEM – become a voice for female scientists

STEM, women in science, Science

Superstars of STEM is a fantastic opportunity for female NYSF alumni who are interested in developing their communication, presentation and media engagement skills.

Science & Technology Australia is now accepting applications for the inaugural Superstars of STEM. The professional development program aims to smash society’s gender assumptions about scientists and increase the public visibility of women in STEM.

Superstars of STEM will support 30 of the nation’s most dynamic female scientists and technologists to become role models for young women and girls, and work towards equal representation in the media of men and women in STEM.

Science & Technology Australia’s, Chief Executive Officer, Kylie Walker, said the program provides a great career development opportunity for female scientists.

“The opportunities that will come from this program will propel these women’s careers, shaping them to become influencers and leaders in their sector.”

Successful applicants will participate in workshops, networking, mentoring, media and public speaking throughout the program

Women from all STEM disciplines are encouraged to apply, in fields including but not restricted to mathematics, technology, biology, medical research, geology, marine science, microbiology, engineering, physics, astronomy, and more.

Applications close 5pm, 23 May 2017.  To find out more or to apply go to  https://scienceandtechnologyaustralia.org.au/what-we-do/superstars-of-stem/

For further enquiries about the program contact Brodie Steel, Project Officer – Superstars of STEM, Ph 02 6257 2891 or email brodie.steel@sta.org.au

NYSF Alumna Nana Liu, Scientist by day, Opera Singer by night

STEM, Science, Alumna, Alumni, NYSF, National Youth Science Forum

Invited to Israel by Prof. Jacob Bekenstein (one of my heroes as a teenager, known for the Bekenstein-Hawking radiation in black holes) at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Here is me enjoying the Old City in Jerusalem

“I’ve always liked what Winston Churchill said, that no failure is fatal and no success is final.”

Twelve years has passed since I was fortunate enough to attend the National Youth Science Forum, and what a ride it has been so far! Looking back, I feel so lucky to have interacted with so many amazing people and to have been inspired by each one of them to better reach my own goals. Interacting with my new friends at NYSF has certainly helped me to learn from interesting and diverse groups of people. I’m looking forward to the next twelve years! Bring it on!

Around the time of attending the NYSF, I became a member of a research group at the University of Melbourne studying the behaviour of granular materials. This dynamic area of research exposed me to the importance of the cross-pollination of ideas coming from different fields, which is still influencing the way I’m viewing research now. During the time I was in this group, I majored in pure mathematics at the University of Melbourne before completing a master’s degree focusing on theoretical physics. My thirst for more physics and the `outside world’ led me to pursue a PhD in theoretical physics at the University of Oxford, where I was fortunate enough to be offered a full scholarship as a Clarendon scholar. This was a very exciting and also a very difficult time, where I was given a great deal of freedom to pursue my own research interests. I began work on finding out how quantum mechanics (the physics governing atomic scale phenomena) can enhance the processing of information. This required a lot of cross-disciplinary research, which my experience in earlier years in granular materials had prepared me for. This led me to study how quantum mechanics can improve the power of computation and also precision measurement, like imaging. After completing my PhD, I began work as a full-time researcher at two research institutions in Singapore, continuing research on how quantum mechanics can make computers so much more powerful than any computer existing today.

I feel blessed everyday that I am living my dream of being a scientist, something I’ve wanted since I was eight or nine. There is no feeling quite like finally being able to feed yourself (to buy as much ice-cream as you want!), house yourself and to buy gifts for your family and friends from what you earn doing what you always dreamed of doing.

One of the best things about scientific research is working with fantastic fellow scientists who also become your friends. Bouncing back sometimes crazy ideas and trying them out with colleagues often feels just like building a treehouse, digging into a new ant’s nest or acting in imaginary worlds with your friends in the playground.

My colleagues live all over the world and I travel all around the world to work with them and share my research with them at international conferences. I have visited colleagues throughout England, Ireland, France, Switzerland, Israel, China, Singapore, United States and of course Australia. From each scientist I meet, I always learn an important lesson. Sometimes it is about how to better clarify ideas, how to be more rigorous in demonstrating an idea or learning different habits to enhance creative moments. Other times, it is being inspired by their enthusiasm, their optimism, their love of learning and most of all their kindness. I have also had the privilege to meet and work with many world-class researchers, some of whom I’ve wanted to meet since I was at NYSF. So sometimes dreams do come true!

STEM, Science, Alumni, Alumna, NYSF, National Youth Science Forum, Oxford University

Left: This is the first ever banquet dinner for the first Women in Physics Society in Oxford, which I helped to organise. We are standing outside the hall of Merton college, one of the oldest colleges in Oxford. Right: Invited to Jiao Tong University in Shanghai. I was born in Shanghai before moving to Australia when I was six, so physics has taken me back to my earliest roots.

Social activities outside my own research have also kept me quite busy and I have found these vital to keep life balanced and in perspective. Oxford has been the perfect place for me to learn from people dedicating themselves to different areas. Every other evening, I would be dining and engaged in discussions with a biologist, a chemist, an archaeologist, a linguist, an anthropologist, a mathematician, an historian, a free-lance adventurer, an economist, a roboticist, a musician, a writer, an engineer, a philosopher, a neuroscientist, an environmental scientist, or the occasional politician and ambassador. It is always super interesting and helpful to learn about the struggles of different people trying to overcome different obstacles in different fields of endeavour. These conversations are always an endless source of inspiration.

I also became the first social events coordinator for the first Women in Physics Society in Oxford and this provided an excellent opportunity to learn from amazing women physicists. I was also very lucky to belong to one of the oldest colleges in Oxford (Merton) and sang in the college choir for many years and performed regularly. One of the highlights is performing in the 750th anniversary celebration of the college and singing with world-class performers. Since coming to Singapore, I have been fortunate enough to join the chorus of the Singapore Lyric Opera Company and am due to perform in my first major opera production. Working with a fantastic team towards a thrilling goal is incredibly inspiring, whether it is in science or not!

In the twelve years since I attended NYSF, I have discovered that science is not a solitary island or an ivory castle in the clouds (you guys are smart and probably already know this, but I’m a bit slow). It is a vibrant marketplace, populated and run by people, with all the pluses and minuses that come with people. The direction of a field can be more often led by beliefs than by solid demonstrations. Therefore, to navigate better in science, I have found that it is important to better understand other people and how to interact with different kinds of people. Doing science is not a pure intellectual activity. It can be more often than not a heavily emotional activity. So it is important to take good care of yourself, to be kind to yourself and to keep the company of good friends. Resilience and enthusiasm counts for more than being clever. Success only happens perhaps 1% or less of the time (maybe you’ll be luckier than me), so it is important to keep yourself happy and motivated the rest of the time. I’ve always liked what Winston Churchill said, that no failure is fatal and no success is final. There’s no final destination and no real dead-ends, so it must be the ride that counts. You NYSFers are all amazing, resilient and unique, so just go for it and keep positive during the exciting ride that awaits you!