‘Role models count’—students inspired by Australia’s top scientists

May 30, 2019
The science students and their teachers with Dr Andy Thomas and Academy Chief Executive, Ms Anna-Maria-Arabia
The science students and their teachers with retired Astronaut Dr Andy Thomas and Academy Chief Executive Ms Anna-Maria-Arabia.

Ten of New South Wales’ brightest science students converged on Canberra in May to meet leading Australian scientists.

The new STEM education initiative by the Australian Academy of Science saw the group of Year 12 HSC Science Extension students and their teachers attend the Academy’s annual showcase of science, Science at the Shine Dome, for the first time.

Science Extension is a NSW Higher School Certificate course designed for Year 12 students with an interest in scientific research. It is the only science course of its type in Australia. Students undertake scientific research, in collaboration with a practising scientist to develop research and critical analysis skills and to apply evidence-based decision making.

The Academy’s Secretary for Education and Public Awareness, Professor Hans Bachor, said picking only ten students from 67 applications was no easy task.

“It is clear from meeting with this group of students that they are absolutely passionate about science, and after spending three days with some of Australia’s top scientists they have left with plenty of inspiration,” Professor Bachor said.

“What young people see of STEM professionals shapes their beliefs and career aspirations. The Academy’s Women in STEM 10-year plan published last month highlights the importance of role models.”

The students got the chance to have a Q&A session with Dr Andy Thomas, the first Australian-born citizen to fly as a NASA astronaut in space.

The ten students and their teachers attended Science at the Shine Dome thanks to the generous support of the Academy’s STEM education partner 3M. It’s Australia Managing Director, Makoto Itoh congratulated the Academy on creating a fantastic program to inspire Australia’s future scientists. 

“By providing equal opportunity to all NSW Science Extension students and including their science teachers, we’re creating a winning formula for success and the advancement of science in Australia,” Mr Itoh said.

“In future careers, these students could make their own scientific discoveries and apply them to solve some of life’s biggest problems. They could change the world—and that alone is worth its weight in gold.”

The ten students are:

Regional NSW

  • Elijah Kinnane, Bateman’s Bay High—researching alternative recycling methods for PET plastics
  • Ella Stephens, Great Lakes College, Forster—researching genetic technology and the role of PRioN proteins in the development of disease
  • Jade Dedomenico, Bomaderry High—researching the efficiency and sustainability of algae biodiesel as an alternative to petroleum diesel
  • Liam Flew, Gosford High—researching the product standards of carbon monoxide detectors
  • Rochelle Hensley, Aurora Virtual College (Narrabri)—researching how the orientation of solar panels can impact on their efficiency.

Sydney Metropolitan

  • Syed Taimoor Mansoor, East Hills Boys High—researching the effects of childhood maltreatment on interpersonal relationships during adolescence
  • Katherine Willetts, Meriden School, Strathfield—researching published data on synaptic activity in the mouse brain
  • Sarah Nelson, Northern Beaches Secondary College—researching the effect of citrus on the red worm’s ability to reproduce in household worm farms
  • Caitlin Wartho, Pymble Ladies College—researching the effects of urban environments on local water systems
  • April Abela, Glenmore Park High School—researching the available evidence on the consumption of processed meat and the link to colorectal, prostate or pancreatic cancer.

The Academy acknowledges the generous support of 3M.

© 2022 Australian Academy of Science