In2science mentors create online resources for classrooms with The Content Creation Project

By | News, Profiles

   The mentors of In2science are passionate about sharing their love of STEM. With many unable to do so in classrooms this year, we decided to find more innovative ways for these enthusiastic volunteer university students to provide a different style of science engagement to the future scientists, technologists, engineers and mathematicians of Melbourne.

The Content Creation Project was launched to siphon mentors’ communication skills and knowledge into free online resources that teachers and students can access at any time to enhance their learning experience.

 

These resources can be used to introduce a topic to students, assist their learning or provide extension to enthusiastic individuals. Vivian’s video has already been presented to a Year 8 biology class and Sarah’s revision content has been shared with regional VCE Biology In2science mentees.

The In2science Content Creation Project has enabled our mentors to produce and share inspiring STEM content that relates to their studies or personal interest. This innovative approach has enabled mentors to continue engaging with our partner schools despite the multiple transitions students have faced this year.

You can find all In2science resources at our Youtube channel, and on Twitter or Facebook

Enjoy the ride: How In2science mentor, Julia Ogon encourages students to find their passion and never stop learning

By | News, Profiles

Julia Ogon, an In2science mentor from RMIT University wants high school students to know that choosing to study something you are passionate about is as important as being mindful of where it will take you. It is a stressful thing to consider as a young adult and is the main reason she chose to become an In2science mentor.

“I wish I had someone to give me advice and share their personal experience before deciding on schools and degrees”, Julia writes. By mentoring and helping in classes she wanted to show younger students that it was okay to not follow the most common path to your goals and “anything can be achieved if you just go for it, no matter your age.”

Julia combined her love for creativity and mechanical systems by pursuing a double degree in Mechanical Engineering and Industrial Design. Julia’s main drive in doing something multi-disciplinary was to make sure it was something that evoked passion and was useful in solving real-world problems.

Her studies took her to Spain last year where she completed an internship at an international research facility, focusing on Metal Additive Manufacturing and 3D printing in Barcelona. “It was one of the best years of my life”, she reflects, because in addition to practising mechanical engineering and design Julia immersed herself in a new culture. When Julia returned to Melbourne, she immediately signed up to In2science so she could share her experience with others.

Although it has been a rocky year, with a limited opportunity to mentor in classrooms, it hasn’t stopped Julia from thinking outside the box. Along with joining weekly virtual classrooms at Keysborough College, Julia has participated in the In2science content creation project, where mentors make short videos for teachers to share with students in their online classes. Her first video explores the endless possibilities of 3D printing.

When asked about her In2science experience and what advice to give to university students interested in joining, Julia says, “Mentoring is a lot of fun, very rewarding and does not take up a lot of your time. Being able to pass on experience and advice is an important step”, but more importantly “your contribution may inspire someone to realise what their future can be!”

If you are a university student interested in mentoring for In2science, click here.

 If you are a teacher, click here to host a mentor in your classroom.

Problem-solving and curiosity is the heart of engineering, says In2science mentor Jacob Maynard

By | News, Profiles

 

Engineering is more than mathematical equations and building blocks. In2science mentor, Jacob Maynard has been debunking these stereotypes in his class at South Oakleigh College since he joined the program in 2019. For Jacob, who is studying a Bachelor of Engineering (Hons) at Monash University, engineering is ultimately about curiosity and problem-solving.

Jacob specialises in “materials engineering” and chose to pursue this degree because “it is challenging, but so rewarding when you get your head around a new concept or figure out a way to solve a problem”. He joined In2science because he wanted to share his experiences with younger people. Practically, he got the opportunity to demonstrate this by leading a physics experiment about light and remembers this as being a significant highlight of his placement. He says, “It was really cool to be able to combine my scientific knowledge of the topic with the relationships I had built with the students over the semester”.

To take this passion for engineering further, Jacob wants to work in the sustainability and renewables sector. When asked why, Jacob elaborates, “Engineering provides you with a better understanding of how the things we take for granted in our everyday lives actually work and why they’ve been designed the way they have, but also encourages you to challenge those ideas and constantly search for ways to improve them”. This philosophy gives Jacob the motivation to develop materials that can decrease human impact on the environment. He is open to all the career pathways engineering allows and says, “as long as I am doing my part to arrest climate change and maintain our natural environment then I will be satisfied”.

“It was really cool to be able to combine my scientific knowledge of the topic with the relationships I had built with the students over the semester.” – Jacob Maynard, In2science mentor at South Oakleigh College

When reflecting on the In2science program, Jacob says that the experience is an amazing professional development opportunity for university students. In addition to networking within a dynamic and rich community of like-minded STEM enthusiasts and professionals, Jacob says that university students looking to get involved in In2science should, “Do it! Being able to share your experience with younger students to help them on their journey and extend their understanding of science is extremely rewarding”. After all, “curiosity if one of the most important ingredients of learning”.

If you are a university student interested in mentoring for In2science, click here.

 

 If you are a teacher, click here to host a mentor in your classroom.

Mentors unpack the importance and diversity of studying plant health in The International Year of Plant Health

By | News, Profiles

In2science mentor Matthew James trekking up Mount Kilimanjaro.

In2science mentor, Matthew James has been around trees his entire life. As a child, bushwalks with his dad piqued Matthew’s interest in the complexity and diversity of trees. Therefore, it made sense to direct his passion to study a Master of Urban Horticulture at the University of Melbourne while mentoring for In2science and working as a consulting Arborist to practice what he learns daily.

Similarly, mentor Ivy Vrousgos, from La Trobe University, has always been interested in cultivating plants in her garden and helping them flourish. It made Ivy want to begin a Bachelor of Science, but she only decided to major in Botany and Environmental Geoscience after learning about plant evolution inspired her as an undergraduate.

There are moments in life when enough curiosity inspires you to explore a passion further in your education. For Ivy it was in a lecture theatre and for Matthew, looking at a leaf cell through a microscope and learning about photosynthesis for the first time. These moments are opportune, because the health of plants throughout the world is increasingly under threat due to climate change caused by human activity. The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations (UN) estimates that 40% of agricultural crops are lost annually because of reduced biodiversity and increased trade. This spreads pests and diseases to new areas where they can thrive and causes devastating effects because plants are vital to food security worldwide.

Once plant pests and diseases have established themselves in crops, they are almost impossible to eradicate. The effort required to manage them is expensive and time consuming.  In the wake of a new decade, the United Nations General Assembly declared 2020 as the International Year Of Plant Health (IYPH) because, at the very least, protecting plants from pests and diseases is substantially more cost-effective than international plant health disasters.

This renewed awareness in plant and ecosystem health is welcomed by mentors Ivy and Matthew, who study different areas in botany at La Trobe University and the University of Melbourne, but still share a desire to improve the health of the plant species in their respective fields. Matthew wants to take the skills he learns in Urban Horticulture to improve his practice as an arborist and address some issues that plants face in an urban environment. Ivy’s goal is to merge the fields of ecology and agriculture to develop smarter cropping systems.

A 600-700 year old Red Gum tree in Dunkeld.

When discussing what the IYPH means to them, Matthew says that “healthy plants are resilient plants. We are already seeing the effects that the increase of temperature has on plants, particularly plants that don’t possess the adaptations needed to survive in the changing climate”. Ivy agreed, adding that, “Plant health is an important aspect to our very existence, so it is very important for people to understand this”.

Practical ways that we can contribute to protecting our plants include limiting transportation of plants and plant products internationally, reducing our carbon footprint, connecting with our policymakers to encourage investment in plant health research and using environmentally sensitive methods of pest and disease reduction such as integrated pest management.

Plants make up 80% of the food we eat and provide 98% of the oxygen we breathe. The FAO estimates that agricultural production must rise to 60% by 2050 in order to feed the world’s growing population, despite climate change generally reducing the quality and quantity of crops.

If you’re inspired by plants and the importance of protecting them, it may be worth considering taking your curiosity further. The breadth of courses you can undertake in plant health is huge. Botany is no longer one course or subject, but forms large areas of study that results in transferable skills that overlap many fields including genetics, geoscience, urban horticulture and economics. As In2science mentors, Matthew and Ivy share these passions in the classroom, helping to guide students to pursue their interest in practical ways and find things that make them curious, because you never know where that might take you.

If you are a university student interested in mentoring for In2science, click here.

 

If you are a teacher, click here to host a mentor in your classroom.

Passion can be contagious: Changing mindsets in the classroom for the better

By | News, Profiles

“I’ve always had a passion for science, and I know that given the right environment this passion can be contagious.”

Vivian began her In2science journey in late 2018 when her PhD supervisor told her about the program. “I discovered that In2science’s goal to build positive mindsets towards STEM subjects really resonated with me”. For Vivian, mentors not only empower high school students, but “break down negative stereotypes, such as the idea of science being ‘boring’ or ‘nerdy’”.

One way Vivian has done that in the classroom is to get her hands dirty… literally. “There have been two memorable experiences that stand out most from my placement… first where we conducted a sheep heart dissection, and the second was in my final session for the term was when I was lucky enough to be able to run my own class and give the students an ‘Introduction to Chemistry’ and show how it relates to the real world”.

In 10 short weeks Vivian has “seen a big change in the students’ mindset towards science…Even students who initially did not see a point in doing science as a school subject were able to realise that STEM has a role in each of our lives”. Like most mentors, Vivian says that the students are the best part of In2science. “Each class is different and being able to spend time with each student and talk to them about their future career goals is such a rewarding experience. It is great to see the students open up over time and be able to build trusting relationships”.

Personally, Vivian says that In2science has helped her refine her science communication skills and the ability to think on her feet, especially when asked so many challenging and insightful questions. These skills will help her in the future, as she is aiming to combine her passion for scientific research with promoting educational equity in schools. For now, Vivian is enjoying her postgraduate studies and mentoring for In2science. “I can’t wait for the next term to start,” she writes, “(and) to see if my class has continued with this positive mindset!”

Want to host an In2science mentor? Click here!

 

Mentor David helps students tackle real-life community STEM problems

By | News, Profiles

Often In2science mentors give their students unique opportunities to participate in real life STEM applications. Mentor David from The University of Melbourne is one of them. This year, David presented several workshops to high school students in the Hobson’s Bay City Council through the Creativity in Research, Engineering, Science and Techology (CREST) program run by the CSIRO.

In these workshops, David focused on applying scientific method to real challenges currently facing their community. David said the most enriching part was giving “them a chance to think about and question how they could use STEM to manipulate the world around them”.

David Gavaghan joined In2science in 2018 while completing his Bachelor of Science, majoring in Infection and Immunity at The University of Melbourne. He became a mentor because he wanted an opportunity to give back, “I believe that the education I received and the influences I had during my high school experience played a large role in where I am today…I wanted the opportunity to pay that forward and help to improve the outcomes of those students from less represented areas”.

According to David, “getting to experience the growth of the relationships you build with the students over a 10-week period” is the best part of In2science. This is David’s favourite part because over time “their curiosity and desire to engage with you and ask questions increases and you start to witness the true importance of your presence in their class”. When asked about challenges David says that coming in as a stranger is always the most daunting, but “it also provides a really great opportunity to apply your creativity and problem-solving skills to think of ways to get students excited about science as someone they relate to”.

This experience with In2science has also prompted David to pursue a postgraduate degree in Secondary Education. “In2science has helped me cement my passion for education and my desire to address the educational disparities that are currently being experienced within Australia. I want to continue to be the mentor and science communicator that In2science has allowed me to be”.

Want to host an In2science mentor? Click here!

 

 

 

Meet A Mentor: Mabel Chen

By | News, Profiles

 

Mabel Chen is an In2science mentor at Preston High School and studying a BSc (Mathematics) at RMIT University.

You know that feeling of not knowing what you want to do, but wanting to do and be everything? That is what In2science mentor Mabel Chen says still hasn’t gone away years after graduating high school.

Mabel was a “pretty stock standard” student who achieved good grades until she stopped engaging, her school attendance dropped and her dream of becoming a mathematician was almost crushed.

Not one to give up on her ambition, however, that 14-year-old girl grew up to study mathematics at RMIT University and mentor students at Preston High School with In2science. When asked what Mabel loves about maths, she says it’s how extensive it is. In fact, trying to pin down something specific was difficult, “I love literally EVERYTHING about maths! It’s huge and all-reaching”.

Studying maths isn’t all about geometry and calculus, though. Mabel credits RMIT University for teaching her coding, one of the most valuable skills she has acquired this year. Coding is everywhere, “not just in the selection criteria of new jobs, but it even pops up in the casual conversations at weekend parties (or at least at mine!)”.

For Mabel, maths feeds the “innate curiosity that we’re all born with” and that feeling of wanting to do and be everything? The most important advice Mabel has is that if you feed that curiosity and “go with it…good things will happen”.

Want to host an In2science mentor? Click here!

 

Meet our mentors

By | News, Profiles

In2science is extremely proud of the outstanding young university students who volunteer to mentor high school science and maths students. Their enthusiasm is infectious and the talent and abilities they bring to the program are the reason In2science has such a positive impact on all who participate. In this issue we profile three of our wonderful mentors. Please allow us to introduce you to Chloe, Dalton and Lachlan.

Read More

Meet a Mentor: Lachlan McPhee

By | Profiles

In2science mentor Lachie McPhee

What are you studying, and why do you like it? I am in my second year of uni studying a Bachelor of Biomedical Science at La Trobe University. I like the course because of its flexibility in terms of the subjects I want to learn. My core subjects are a maximum of two biochemistry subjects per semester and then I have free reign. I am doing a human anatomy and physiology major and love every minute of it. The way that all the subjects come together shows how deeply involved every structure of the body is. It really allows me to open up to a broader range of thinking when it comes down to something that can normally be so basic.

Tell us about your In2science placement! At first it was really daunting. I was placed in a biology class but had not done biology since first year. I walked into the first class and they were finishing their topic on plant biology – which was really lucky for me. Then I found out that the next topic was human biology, especially looking at the cardiovascular system. It was almost a real coincidence that this happened because I felt that I could now make a serious impact on the students when it comes to their learning. Every week they touch on a new topic and I am able to guide their thinking about a particular topic.

During the middle and end parts of the program I almost stepped into the teacher’s role in a way that I was able to lead a class discussion, teach them a new topic, or help them with their work if they ever needed it.

Why did you become an In2science mentor? A close friend actually recommended that I give the program a go. He knew I had a busy schedule but said that I would fit directly into the program because he saw how well I can interact with students. At first I was unsure about whether the it would be the right program for me, but I signed up knowing that this would be a great experience and would allow me to help influence the next generation of young thinkers.

What’s the best thing about In2science? Definitely the students. Every week the relationships that I build become stronger and stronger with the students. They look forward to me coming in, and I look forward to seeing them every week. Sometimes we don’t even talk about school – they talk to me about their everyday lives which is the best thing about it. I become less like a teacher, and more like a mentor in that regard.

You force yourself to think in many different ways to explain things to students, and importantly, you learn a lot about yourself.

What message do you hope to pass onto the students in your In2science class? Don’t disregard science, even in the most basic form. The logical thinking and processes of inquiry that are applied in class apply everywhere in life. If there’s only one thing to take out of your classes, it should be the ability to think, to learn and, in some cases, to relearn.

What do you want to do after you finish university and why? I would like to work in the sporting area, particularly with regards to concussion. I would like to go to medical school and learn how to treat and manage patients that suffer from concussions. Another option is working in research as a neurophysiologist with a specialisation in concussion – this way I may even be able to continue teaching but at a tertiary level.

If you could have an hour to chat with any scientist/mathematician, who would it be and why? James Watson and Francis Crick. They were the ones to discover that our DNA is in a double helix and encodes everything that makes us unique. How they did that during their time is incredible.

What advice would you give other students looking to get involved in In2science? Even if you’re not sure about it – do it! You’re not just a mentor for the kids in this role, you challenge yourself to think further. You force yourself to think in many different ways to explain things to students, and importantly, you learn a lot about yourself.

Want to become an In2science mentor? Click here!