“NYSF is a four letter word!”

This January, Session C will hear from NYSF alumni and academic Dr Neeraj Sharma from the University of New South Wales during Partners’ Day.  Here’s a bit about Neeraj…


“Summer of 2001 was when I discovered that scientists are very cool – they get to discover completely new things and play with complicated and funky pieces of equipment. Most importantly, they were others like me who loved science and loved finding out about how things work (and making them better). People often ask me what got me into science and I would say two things – my high school science teacher and the four letter word, NYSF!

People often ask me what got me into science and I would say two things – my high school science teacher and the four letter word, NYSF!

After attending NYSF in 2001 (and while being a Staffie in 2002), I studied a Bachelor of Science at the University of Sydney and spent a year on exchange at Uppsala University in Sweden – study abroad is an awesome experience that I would recommend to all. I continued on to do Honours and a PhD at the same institution working on new materials for solid oxide fuel cell applications and ones that show weird-types of magnetism. Then I moved to ANSTO as a post-doctoral fellow, essentially irradiating batteries with neutrons and trying to figure out how to make better batteries – so our phones can last longer and we can all drive around in electric vehicles. Now I am a lecturer in Chemistry at UNSW, teaching, making new materials and trying to make new and better batteries. I also dabble in making materials that contract when heated and room temperature superconductors (I wish).

Neeraj Sharma

Neeraj Sharma

One thing NYSF has instilled into me is the need to communicate the science that I do – so I am involved in a number of outreach activities. I also enjoy making science fun and exciting and am often amazed at the types of questions I get from audiences! All in all, NYSF was an eye-opener and I am so glad to be a part of it from the scientists’ perspective now – to encourage students to do what they love (or at least appreciate what they love even if they end up elsewhere).

So if you’re an NSYF-er and find yourself at UNSW, pop by my office for a coffee =). Did I mention I met my wife at NYSF 2001?”

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


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.



Boosting the status of science teaching: what can we do?


NYSF Interim Director, Damien Pearce comments:

With National Science Week upon us, there has been some discussion in the past few weeks about Australians’ level of science literacy, and the role of our science teachers in contributing to the wider community’s understanding of science.

A recent survey of the Alumni of the National Youth Science Forum (NYSF) indicated that, along with parents and family members, science teachers were highly influential in assisting students to choose study pathways and career options within science, engineering and technology. The responses suggested that the influence of science teachers extended past the immediate teaching and learning interaction and included broader considerations within the learning environment, such as school wide approaches to student centred pedagogy, and contemporary educational leadership to empower teachers as we expect so that our students can be inspired within the classroom.

The NYSF, in partnership with the Australian Science Teachers Association (ASTA), has been facilitating the National Science Teachers Summer School (NSTSS) with support from the University of Canberra (UC) and the Australian National University (ANU). Designed to enhance the status, confidence and practice of both primary and secondary science teachers, the NSTSS is a two week “holiday program” that aims to provide teachers of science with unique experiences in science and science education to re-invigorate their passion for and engagement with science, which then leads to enhancing the teaching of science to their students. This experience includes engaging with research, researchers and academics across the science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields within modern facilities that are often better equipped than most Australian schools. ANU and UC have taken an altruistic view to support this program and their support needs to be acknowledged within this audience.

Chemistry Lab at the ANU, part of the National Science Teachers Summer School January 2013

Chemistry Lab at the ANU, part of the National Science Teachers Summer School January 2013

The ideology of the professions and professionalism has been widely contested and debated. Regardless of any debate, these perspectives place the emphasis on moral probity, service orientation and codes of conduct within professional practice to meet community expectations. Fundamentally, it may be argued that professions effectively strike an accord or bargain with the community in an environment where competence and integrity is exchanged for the trust, relative freedom from supervision and interference by people who do not have specialist or professional knowledge of the subject, protection against unqualified competition, substantial remuneration, and higher social status.

I also believe that the profession of science teaching and teaching more widely is taking a hammering and this definitely needs to stop. We need to be conscious that teaching is a difficult profession and trust, understanding and support from the community is imperative to mitigate negative perceptions to increase the professional status of teaching within the community. Instead of blaming teachers for relative performance of our school children in terms of benchmarked outcomes, we could place greater emphasis on the process of learning by looking closer at individual improvement of the student towards meeting the designated outcomes and not consider these outcomes in terms or absolute success or failure.

In Australia today, everyone is fortunate to have been educated to some degree, and most people have an opinion about education. Our opinions are informed by a combination of own experiences and varying engagement in debates, through the media or otherwise, about educational public policy and political agendas. To support our science teachers, lets progress from the deficit model of public opinion on the performance of teachers, to one where we identify and support them as professionals by acknowledging their specialist knowledge and trusting them to educate our children the best way they can within social-economic constraints.

Further information about National Science Teachers Summer School: nysf.edu.au/other/teachers