Meet an eMentor: Scott Gigante

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What are you studying, and what do you like about it? I study Pure Mathematics at The University of Melbourne. Mathematics drew my attention in my first year of university as an area which emphasised creative approaches to problem solving and rigorous explanations for phenomena which I found lacking in other subjects I was studying. To me, mathematics is about “learning how to learn”, and I have seen the capabilities that I have developed in my degree prove useful time and time again outside of my studies.

Why did you become an In2science mentor? I became an In2science mentor because I have seen too many students in early to mid-high school lose enthusiasm for mathematics. Whether it be due to students falling behind in class, a lack of engaging content, or mathematics not being ‘cool’, the presence of a young engaged mentor who advocates for STEM could make the difference for young students with scientific potential.

Tell us about your In2science placement. I mentor four students from Ararat College. We meet online for thirty minutes each week, where we talk about university life, my research experience, exciting scientific discoveries, how to get a part-time job and more. The students are engaged and always excited to learn something new.

What’s the best thing about In2science? In2science gives me a unique opportunity to share my passion for science. In my day-to-day life, I mostly associate with people who work or study in STEM. By engaging with students who come from rural Victoria and who have not yet chosen their career paths, I can share my enthusiasm with those who will benefit from it most.

What’s one of the biggest challenges about In2science? It’s just too hard to keep the sessions within thirty minutes – there’s always more to say, I don’t think we’ve finished on time even once!

What inspired you to study what you are studying? I was inspired by my mathematics lecturer in the first year of my Bachelor of Science at the University of Melbourne. His approach to problem solving and learning was unique, dedicated and awe-inspiring, and led me to develop my own problem solving capabilities in similar ways.

What advice would you give to your fifteen year old self? Keep your options open, and take every opportunity. Join the school band, the cricket team, the debating club and the school play. When planning for Year 12 / university / your career, make the decision that allows you to make the decision later. Get involved. There’s always more time in the day!

What do you want to do after you finish university and why? I hope to work in computational biology research, using my mathematical and computational skills to solve problems in biomedicine. I love the challenge and the rigour of the mathematics, the power of computer science, and the real-world application of solving medical problems, and research in this field allows me to combine all three!

If you could have an hour to chat with any scientist, mathematician or engineer, who would it be and why? I would like to speak with Évariste Galois – a young mathematician who died tragically at the age of 20, he contributed more to his field than most scientists would in a lifetime. It would be incredible to see into the brilliant mind of this young genius, whose ideas could have revolutionised the way we think about mathematics.

What advice would you give other students looking to get involved in the In2science program? In2science is a rewarding and unique experience, and I strongly encourage any science enthusiast to get involved. eMentoring has been particularly rewarding – I have the opportunity to build strong relationships with a number of talented young people from rural Victoria, and I strongly believe that the In2science program will change the lives of many of the participating students.

Want to become an In2science mentor? Click here!

Mentor Training and Support to Increase Impact in the Classroom

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When university students first sign up to be In2science mentors, they are often driven by a passion to pass on their enthusiasm for STEM to secondary students. But it takes a lot more than enthusiasm to be fully prepared to step back into the classroom and make a genuine connection with year 8 and 9 students. In2science coordinators train and support mentors for the ten weeks of placement to ensure they leave a lasting impression on their mentees.

Pre-placement training

Mentors at Swinburne University of Technology practice a simple hands-on demonstration.

Before mentors step into a classroom, they undertake a five hour training session led by an In2science coordinator from each of the four partner universities. This pre-placement training prepares them for their role in the classroom. Mentors learn about the current trend in Australia of declining engagement of students in VCE STEM studies and the low university enrolments by students from low socio-economic areas that In2science seeks to addresses.

Mentors are taken through what their role in the classroom does and doesn’t involve, for example, they are not disciplinarians, but they are there to help students engage. They are  given practical strategies and communication tips to understand students’ needs and help students to see the relevance of science and maths to their own lives. There are many interactive tasks that enable mentors to start putting these ideas/strategies into practise, such as demonstrating and explaining a simple scientific concept to a Year 8 or 9 level audience. They also workshop ways to introduce themselves to the class, to explain their role as In2science mentors, and to share their own experiences of studying STEM. In the past, many secondary students have engaged much more readily with their mentor when they realised the mentor was not actually a teacher. New mentors also hear the experiences of prior mentors and ask questions for a better understanding of the realities of the classroom as well as hearing about challenges and successes.

For eMentors involved in online mentoring of regional students, there is an additional training session conducted via the same online video platform that they will use to connect with the students. They are given strategies for establishing a rapport with the students, overcoming some of the communication barriers inherent in the online format. eMentors are also shown through a range of resources that they can use throughout their placement to give sessions structure and clear objectives.

Mid-placement visits

Secondary students benefit from the one on one support In2science mentors provide.

Once mentors have made their first few visits to their year 8 or 9 maths or science class, the coordinators from each university will visit each mentor to see how they are working with the students and the teacher. This is a good opportunity for the coordinators to see first-hand the makeup of the class and to meet the students the mentor is working with, in order to offer specific advice about how the mentor can maximise their impact with the students. The coordinator can also speak to the students to find out how they are benefiting from having a mentor, and to help emphasise the mentor’s role in the students’ minds.

In the case of eMentors, who have weekly sessions with the same two or three students ranging from year 7 to year 12, the eMentoring coordinator can join in on the session to observe the interaction, and offer the mentor advice after the session.


Mid-placement training

Mid-placement training is an opportunity for mentors to meet halfway through the semester to share stories from the classroom and learn from each others’ challenges and successes. The coordinators facilitate the mentors to reflect on the experience they have had with their mentees so far and help them frame some goals that they would like to achieve in the remaining weeks of placement. Past experience has shown that students’ perceptions of the relevance to science and maths to the real world increases when the mentors give a presentation to the class, so extra guidance and ideas are also provided to help mentors plan a presentation toward the end of their placements.

End of placement career skills PD

After the ten weeks of placement are over, and mentors have finished university exams, they are treated to a morning tea to thank them for their efforts. They are given a workshop that encourages them to reflect on their achievements during placement and translate the skills they have developed, such as communication and problem solving, into experience they can demonstrate to future employers. The mentors practice answering part of a job application citing experience they have gained from mentoring.

Volunteering as an In2science mentor is a great experience with just as many benefits for the mentors as there are for their mentees.


Want to become an In2science mentor? Click here!

eMentoring boosts regional STEM engagement

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After a successful pilot in 2016, In2science launched the eMentoring program for 2017 and is now delighted to be working with 15 regional schools across Victoria.  

Over the Semester 1 program, eMentors demonstrated an enormous amount of initiative and creativity to talk with their students about topics such as how to write practical reports, studying for exams, identifying their own learning style, the importance of referencing, exchange opportunities, open days at University, VCE subject choices, how to apply to uni and the vast array of careers available with a STEM education. One eMentor also took the initiative to assist his student to write a resume and conducted a mock interview for them.

Using the online video platform Zoom, various eMentors also took their students on a virtual tour of their university, showing them their labs, common rooms, libraries, collaborative spaces and lecture halls!


eMentors Yvette and Marie share their experiences of their Semester 1 placements.

A returning In2science mentor from La Trobe University developed such a great rapport with his students that he shared at the end of placement, “I actually became a little emotional today (internally!) when I had to farewell one of the eMentees”.

Feedback from teachers has been overwhelmingly positive. Maree Timms, Link Teacher from new partner school, Galen Catholic College, informed us their students  “have only said positive things about their experience with the program…you’d be happy to hear, [two of our students] stood up at assembly on Wednesday and spoke about the program and what they got out of it, and also to encourage others to do next semester’s program.”

The program is having a significant positive impact on all those involved.  Preliminary survey results from 2017 semester 1 show that the university mentors are able to establish effective mentoring relationships on an online environment.

Based on survey responses from eMentors during Semester 1 2017.


Placement Profile: Pascoe Vale Girls Secondary College

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Mentoring comes full circle

For In2science mentor Rayan Hayek, a chance encounter with a mentor in year 12 has come full circle, leading her to become a mentor at her former school.

In2science mentor Rayan Hayek has helped to extend year 8 maths students.

As a student at Pascoe Vale Girls Secondary College, a visit from an In2science mentor to her year 12 physics class was the moment Rayan decided to study biomedical engineering, “the In2science mentor was studying biomedical engineering at that time and inspired me to follow her footsteps. She helped me come to the realisation that engineering isn’t all about men in white caps, anyone can be an engineer you just have to put your mind to it.”

Rayan, in her fourth year of a Bachelor of Engineering (Biomedical Engineering) (Honours) at RMIT University, has now taken up the opportunity to become an In2science mentor herself, “I always thought teaching was not for me but I realised when you’re so passionate about something, you really want to send a message and help the younger generations aspire for what’s perceived as hard or impossible.”

Rayan’s special connection to Pascoe Vale Girls Secondary College as a former student also gave her a head start establishing a rapport with the students, “I could relate to what the students are going through because I already knew the rules and how particular things ran at the school.”

Mentors as role models make a difference in class

For science and maths teacher Catherine van Vliet, Rayan has been a huge help in her year 8 maths class, “Having her here is invaluable. In maths especially, I find having 25 girls and 50 minutes to see them all, to have that extra person in the class…helps me a lot.”

Catherine sees the impact Rayan has had on the students’ future aspirations beyond school, “In the science classes where we’ve talked a lot more about careers they really think, ‘oh maybe that’s a possibility for me, that’s something I could do,’ and they might not have thought that before they met Rayan.”

Catherine says the students have shown interest in Rayan’s path to university, and how they can get there too, “She did talk about what she’d been studying and what she did at school and they ask[ed] her lots of questions about how you get into uni.” With a chuckle Catherine recalled the students asking “‘Do you have to study maths?’”

Positive impact on students

The impact Rayan has had on the students is clear and the year 8 maths class looks forward to Rayan’s visits each week. “Every day they’ll ask ‘Is Rayan coming today?’” says Catherine.

“Rayan has helped the girls see what is attainable,” says teacher Catherine van Vliet.

Rayan uses her time in the class to mentor all students, but remembers a specific class when she helped students who were disengaged with the work, “Two students [were] constantly causing trouble and distracting the teacher and the students. I noticed this wasn’t because they [weren’t] interested in the subject, it was because they felt they were on a lower level than the rest of the class and gave up.

“I sat with the two and spoke to them about their future goals and how math is related to it. I proved to them that everything is hard until you work hard and make it easy for yourself. They seemed really motivated and the next class, they were constantly asking me questions about their homework and proved that they want to learn.”

Rayan hopes to leave the students with a desire to seek out more knowledge, “The most important thing for a student is to ask as many questions as possible. The more questions you ask, the more interesting it gets!”


Want to become an In2science mentor? Click here!

In2science Mentors get career ready

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With semester 1 coming to a close, mentors from our four partner universities were treated to a ‘thank-you’ morning tea and a special professional development session. The session was designed to improve the mentors’ awareness of employability skills they have developed while volunteering for the In2science program.

The mentor PD was developed with support from the Selby Scientific Foundation. The session highlighted to mentors the non-technical, ‘soft’ skills they put into practise during placement, including initiative, team work, improved communication and organisational skills. This is an important skill set for mentors to develop, as it is estimated by Deloitte Access Economics that soft skill intensive jobs in Australia will grow 2.5x faster than other jobs. Soft skill intensive jobs are expected to make up 63% of all jobs by 2030, which will include managers, engineers, ICT and science technicians.

The mentors brainstormed which of those skills they had developed in the classroom. They were shown examples for translating those experiences into responses to job selection criteria and interview questions, then practised responding to selection criteria for graduate roles at government and private organisations citing their In2science experience.

University members of the In2science advisory board were also in attendance to help congratulate mentors for their volunteering efforts and present them with certificates of recognition.



ACER Report Affirms Mentoring Impact

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ACER logoThe Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER) has completed an evaluation of the efficacy of the In2science peer mentoring program, and the results show that mentors increase student engagement. A total of 1868 secondary students from 34 participating schools were surveyed on a range of areas including their confidence in STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) studies, their understanding of the relevance of STEM, their enjoyment of science and maths, and their awareness of the career opportunities in STEM related fields.

The review found that secondary students who have In2science mentors working with them experience positive benefits including the belief that anyone can understand science and maths with enough effort and the confidence to find solutions to problems.  Students could also see the relevance of things they learned in science and maths to daily life, for people other than scientists and mathematicians. Students who had a mentor in their class also reported high levels of enjoyment of the problem solving aspects of science and maths, and an awareness that going on to study STEM subjects in VCE would improve their employment prospects in the future.

The full report can be accessed here, or at:

Meet an eMentor: Jessica Li

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IMG_2899What are you studying, and what do you like about it? I’m currently studying a Bachelor in Science, majoring in Molecular Biology, at La Trobe University, Bendigo. The course allows us to choose electives from other faculties and has allowed me to explore the areas of anatomy, pathology and physiology and allowed me to find the links and how it is relevant to what I am learning in my core subjects in a practical view.

Why did you become an In2science mentor? I became a mentor because I wanted to inspire young students that there is so much more to STEM then what is in the class room. I feel like I was greatly inspired by my biology teacher in high school who continually fueled my curiosity and I want to return that to upcoming students.

Tell us about your In2science placement. For my placement I am an eMentor. This means I video conference with my students at Camperdown College once a week. It has been a challenge to figure out ways to engage the students over video as activities that can be done is very limited. However, I have learnt a lot about how to engage people, even when there is a screen separating you.

What’s the best thing about In2science? The best thing is when you see the students eyes light up when you hit something that they are interested in. They may not enjoy what they’re learning in class but the interest is still there, and when you find it, it is very rewarding.

What’s one of the biggest challenges about In2science? The biggest challenge I have come upon is building that connection with the students when they may not be available every week. A big part of being a mentor is having the trust between you and the student that they are comfortable to talk to you about school and what they want to do in the future. And it is very hard to build that when you see them a once a week, and at times you don’t see a student for a couple of weeks due to school events or holidays.

What inspired you to study what you are studying? I was always a curious child and when I started science in high school and I loved the practical side and loved that moment when everything we learnt in theory clicked when applied in practical classes. As I went through high school I was drawn to the microscopic side of science and the further I got the more curious I got and I wanted to know why and how. I guess I was inspired by my teacher’s questions and encouragement to keep helping me along the way.

What message do you hope to pass onto the students you are mentoring? I want them to know that there is so much to discover and to keep asking why and how. I want them to know to keep trying and not to let what others say stop them to reach where they want to go, because there is always a way if you keep trying.

What do you want to do after you finish university and why? I want to go into haematology/biochemistry in a hospital lab or pathology. It’s all a big puzzle with haematology and biochem. You get given a list of results to certain tests and you need to work out what is wrong with the patient. Pathology interests me because there is still so much that isn’t known and I would love to figure just a fraction of that puzzle.

If you could have an hour to chat with any scientist, mathematician or engineer, who would it be and why? Probably Rosalind Franklin or Dorothy Hodgkin. Rosalind was discouraged by her father because he thought that women would find it difficult to be recognised as scientists at the time. But she went onto become an expert in graphite structure and discover there were two forms of DNA,  as well as demonstrated that DNA was a double helix using X-Ray crystallography.

Dorothy had support behind her from friends and family, but was excluded from research meetings because she was a woman. However she went onto help determine the structure of penicillin and the structure of vitamin B12 and how it prevented pernicious anaemia. Dorothy won a Noble Prize for her work in this area.  

What advice would you give other students looking to get involved in the In2science program? Give it a shot, it’s definitely an opportunity to be taken. It allows you to be involved in inspiring possible future STEM students and is rewarding in a way that is hard to explain. There is a feeling of achievement and pride when a students says they understand something or want to know more.


Want to become an In2science mentor? Click here!

Meet a Mentor: Margaret Ngugi

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Margaret Ngugi

In2science mentor Margaret Ngugi

What are you studying, and what do you like about it? I am currently in my third year studying Bachelor of Aviation Management/Bachelor of Business at Swinburne University of Technology. I am interested in the workings of the aviation industry as its development is fast paced and very dynamic, but above all I like the degree I am doing because it involves planes.

Why did you become an In2science mentor? I have always loved mathematics, ever since primary school. I feel this was mostly thanks to the awesome mathematics teachers I had and the fact that I found maths straightforward. I became an In2science mentor because I wanted to give back to the community. I want to help younger students with mathematics, making sure that they enjoy studying it and that they see how it can allow them to pursue their dreams.

Tell us about your In2science placement. This semester I am volunteering in a year 8 maths & coding class at Bayswater Secondary College. My placement so far has been more about coding than maths, which felt terrifying at first because I had no previous experience in coding. However, I am learning the various programs and I’ve become convinced that coding is actually pretty amazing. It’s also been a great conversation starter with the students. For example, the students were recently programming their own websites and I would assist them in coming up with ideas. Moreover, the teacher Amanda has been very understanding and has incorporated me in the classroom despite my lack of formal expertise.

How do maths and coding combine in the classroom? To understand coding you need to have a basic maths background, since most coding is essentially logical thinking.

What’s the best thing about In2science? The fact that I get to enhance and influence someone’s future in a positive way is the biggest positive for me.

What’s the biggest challenge about In2science? Building rapport with unwilling students can very challenging and requires lots of patience.

What inspired you to study what you are studying? I am interested in piloting but also want to have a degree related to the aviation sector more broadly.

What message do you hope to pass onto the students in your In2science class? Working to accomplish your dreams and desires in life is never easy, but it’s worth it.

If you could have an hour to chat with any scientist, mathematician or engineer, who would it be and why? Captain Irene Koki Mutungi. She was the first female on the African continent to become certified as a Captain of the Boeing 787 “Dreamliner” aircraft. I would love to meet her and speak with her about her experience in the aviation sector, especially as a woman.

What advice would you give other students looking to get involved in the In2science program? In2science has been a very rewarding program. I have been able to make an impact in someone’s life and give back to the community, all while gaining professional skills and attending useful workshops [such as the ACER ‘Having Fun With Maths’ workshop]. I would therefore advise any and all students to take a chance with In2science and watch how it changes their lives for the better.


Want to become an In2science mentor? Click here!

Selby Foundation Supporting Mentor Development

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The Selby Scientific Foundation was established in 1980 by E.J. Selby (left) supported by brother B.A. Selby (right). Images courtesy of the Selby Scientific Foundation.

The Selby Scientific Foundation was established in 1980 by E.J. Selby (left) supported by brother B.A. Selby (right). Images courtesy of the Selby Scientific Foundation.

This year In2science is fortunate to receive financial support from the Selby Scientific Foundation to provide mentors with professional development opportunities. The aim of the Foundation is to support scientific education and research in Australia. They provide grants, fellowships and awards to support science education and research from the secondary school level through to advanced research by distinguished international scientists.

In addition to benefiting secondary students from disadvantaged backgrounds, a key feature of In2science is the benefits and improved educational outcomes for university students who volunteer their time to be mentors. During classroom placements, mentors develop their confidence, communication, interpersonal and professional skills, while gaining first-hand experience of teaching to consider it as a vocational pathway.

The grant from the Selby Scientific Foundation allows In2science to expand the quality and range of professional development sessions provided to mentors. Professional development sessions provide high quality communication and professional skills for mentors to use not only during placements, but also in their studies and into employment. Furthermore it is a fantastic opportunity to acknowledge the sustained voluntary commitment of mentors and their contribution to high school students’ science and maths education.

Veteran In2science mentor and new staff member, Rachael McCullough

Thanks to the generous support of the Selby Foundation, we are also excited to introduce you to our new staff member Rachael McCullough! Rachael will be leading our new mentor professional development sessions.

Rachael is no stranger to In2science. She has completed two in-class mentoring placements at Maribyrnong College and John Fawkner College and is currently studying a Bachelor of Science majoring in Ecology and Evolution with a concurrent diploma in Mathematical Sciences at The University of Melbourne.

Rachael is well placed to share her experiences to make professional development opportunities as relevant and productive as possible for mentors. She is passionate about science and maths education and particularly wants to encourage girls to thrive in STEM. She wants to provide mentors with as many opportunities as possible with the thought that even small workshops or activities can turn into quite important elements of their future studies and career.


Look out for stories on our mentor professional development events in future newsletters!

Meet a Mentor: Andreas Alzate

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In2science mentor Andreas Alzate

What have you studied, and why did you like it? I studied a Graduate Certificate in Science (Pure Mathematics) at The University of Melbourne. I am a mechanical engineer but my real passion has always been mathematics, so I decided to stop working as an engineer and went back to university to study pure mathematics.

Tell us about your In2science placement. My placement was at Mt Alexander College. I enjoyed working with students from different ethnic backgrounds and they were always very respectful towards me. I believe that I helped the students not only with their understanding of mathematics, but also with their perception that people who like mathematics are boring and uninteresting. I learned so much about myself and about teaching. Thanks to the In2science experience, I decided to change my career from engineering to education.

Why did you become an In2science mentor? I wanted to make a positive contribution to society through education and also to promote STEM careers. In2science was the perfect opportunity for me in order to achieve these goals.

What’s the best thing about In2science? To be able to help students from educationally disadvantaged backgrounds. I had the opportunity to be in a high school classroom and this led me to consider a career in education.

What’s the most challenging thing about In2science? My experience with In2science was very positive. The worst thing was having to leave the classroom at the end of the placement after having developed positive relationships with the students.

What inspired you to study a STEM field? In my opinion, mathematics is one of the most coherent, solid, fascinating and beautiful human endeavors that I know of.

What did you want to do after university and why? This year, I am teaching Mathematics at Cranbourne Secondary College as part of a Master of Teaching (Secondary) Internship at the University of Melbourne. After having completed my In2science placement, I discovered that I am very passionate about education and decided to change careers to become a school teacher!

If you could have an hour to chat with any scientist or mathematician, who would it be and why? It would be the mathematician Alexander Grothendieck. He was not only one of the greatest mathematicians of the twentieth century, but he was also a person concerned about social issues and he was a political activist and pacifist.


Want to become an In2science mentor? Click here!