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!

ANU Event – Girls in Engineering and Technology Program (GET Set)

The ANU has the following event on offer to young women interested in engineering and technology with registrations now open.

Girls in Engineering and Technology Program (GET Set) is designed for female students in years 11 and 12, who wish to explore an education and career in engineering or technology.

This year The Australian National University (ANU) is celebrating the 10th GET Set event with a very special program of activities. This free, fun-filled day of non-competitive activities includes design, test and build tasks, lectures, demonstrations and more.

To find out more and register, visit the ANU College of Engineering and Computer Science website.

Date: Wednesday 19 July 2017

Time: 8.30am-4pm

Location: Ian Ross Building 31, The Australian National University

 

News from Monash University

Monash University has invested more than $200 million in the last few years to transform the Clayton-based Science Faculty into one of the leading science precincts in the southern hemisphere.

Spanning the disciplines of Physics and Astronomy, Biology, Chemistry, Earth Atmosphere and Environment, and Mathematics, the Science Precinct at Monash University has recently been transformed into a research powerhouse and provides state-of-the-art research, teaching and learning environments.

From the new Chemistry laboratories to the science student only lounge, the spaces provide an excellent on-campus experience. Monash’s approach to teaching is ground breaking and includes world-class and unique outdoor classrooms such as the Earth Sciences Garden and the Jock Marshal Reserve facility.

The new 360 virtual reality video offers the opportunity to experience these facilities.

To see this please visit http://www.monash.edu/monash-science-precinct

(Note mobile users: best results please view in the YouTube App.)

Generation Beyond — Lockheed Martin’s STEM Program on Display at Avalon Airshow, Victoria

The first person to visit Mars is in school today. Will it be you?

In an Australian first, NYSF’s major partner Lockheed Martin is bringing its Generation Beyond STEM display to the Avalon Airshow in Victoria next month.

Generation Beyond is an educational program designed to inspire the next generation of innovators, explorers, inventors and pioneers to pursue STEM careers.

With a number of fun and interesting interactive displays, Generation Beyond will take visitors on a journey from today, into the future and beyond and will feature the F-35, the Orion spacecraft and Mars exploration.

Generation Beyond will be open to the public on the weekend of March 4 and 5 at Avalon.

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

News from the University of Queensland

Here are two of the University of Queensland latest projects…

Food Lab by Ben Milbourne

UQ is working with 2012 MasterChef finalist Ben Milbourne to produce an online series of food science resources that align with Australia’s STEM Strategy 2025 initiative and the national science curriculum.

Each episode of Food Lab by Ben Milbourne will be accompanied by supporting material and resources for teachers and students including lesson plans, student activities, experiments, investigations, discussion topics and research tasks. You can register your interest in receiving these materials at www.uq.edu.au/bens-food-lab/eform/submit/uqform-learning-resources.

Food Lab by Ben Milbourne premiered on Channel 10 on Saturday 4 February 2017. With help from some of UQ’s most engaging teachers and researchers, Ben will explain and demonstrate common scientific principles in a way that’s fun and easy to understand — through cooking! You can catch up on all episodes at www.uq.edu.au/bens-food-lab/watch-episodes

QUERY101x Question Everything: Scientific Thinking in Real Life

This is the first MOOC of its kind in Australia, designed for high school students by high school teachers, working in partnership with UQ. Do you want to know how you can apply math and science skills to real life? This course will advance your knowledge and spark enthusiasm for further study of STEM subjects. Find out more and enrol.

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: 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

NYSF 2017 Session A: Human Centred Computing

Nikola Poli (left) and Declan Rixon (right) in the lab

In Session A, NYSF 2017 participants ventured over to the Research School of Computer Science at ANU for a workshop and presentation on Human Centred Computing.

Human Centred Computing (HCC) is based around optimizing computing for people. It is concerned with the function of the computer just as much as it is concerned with ergonomics and the understanding of humans.

After a short introduction to the basics of HCC, students were free to roam around and the lab and look at some of the devices that the PhD students there had been working on.

Human Centered Computing

They had some pretty cool stuff on display, one being an eye tracking exercise through which you can navigate a computer by eye movements alone.

This technology could have an application for people who are unable to use their hands to navigate, but can also be used to learn what kind of information attracts attention on screen, and what doesn’t.

The eye gazing data can also be combined with measurements of heart rate and endodermal activity, then analysed using deep learning or neural network technology to paint a picture of how the content on the screen is making the user feel.

Eye gazing technology

This is the project of PhD student Chris from the Research School of Computer Science at ANU, who had a bit to say about career paths and life in computer science and software engineering:

“Everybody uses technology. Our graduates go off everywhere to big banks, startups and so on. There are always new ways to apply the way of thinking, and there are a wide range of things that IT can apply to.”

“My work is to research into how people use websites, read emails and so on, but the way you configure it could make it good for many things such as self-driving cars or finding a cancer tumour. The basis is the same – neural networks are able to iterate and learn by themselves.”

There are always new ways to apply the way of thinking, and there are a wide range of things that IT can apply to.

Another cool device they had was the Myo PowerPoint arm band, which when strapped to your forearm can monitor the electrical activity of your nerves and allow you to navigate a slideshow using hand gestures.

Double tap your thumb and index finger to go to the next slide, flick your wrist to go back, clench your fist and turn to zoom it. A built in gyroscope even allows you to use your fingertip as a laser pointer!

A very stoked Tom Wright (NYSF student) learning to navigate a PowerPoint presentation with hand gestures

The students left the lab today feeling pretty blown away I think. Myself included. The work that they’re doing here is super cutting edge and exciting, and I can’t wait for the day that I can write these articles with my eyeballs.

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