In2science awarded Strategic Partnerships Program funding

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In recognition of its ongoing commitment to supporting science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education in Victoria, In2science was recently awarded funding from the Victorian Government. Bestowed by The Department of Education and Training (DET), this funding will ensure that this innovative and award-winning program can continue to place university STEM student volunteers into secondary schools to increase engagement, boost enthusiasm and build STEM career aspirations.

For nearly 14 years, In2science has fostered fruitful partnerships between disadvantaged and low SES schools, or regional students disadvantaged by distance, and its partner universities – La Trobe University, RMIT University, Swinburne University of Technology and The University of Melbourne. In doing so, tens of thousands of students have reaped the rewards of interacting with passionate, engaging and enthusiastic STEM university students.

The funding builds the capacity of In2science to work more effectively with students. The program will also expand its reach to include maths and science classes from year 7 all the way through to year 10 in our partner schools. Students who directly engage with mentors develop confidence in their maths and science abilities. Many also consider pursuing a career in STEM fields after these interactions.

 

STEM Career Speed Networking Event lights the way

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“Our STEM mentors build communication skills, interpersonal skills, problem-solving skills and time management – all very important things for future STEM careers”

– Megan Mundy, In2science Program Director

Enthralled In2science mentors, alumni and their fellow STEM students engaged with STEM industry graduates and professionals at our recent Career Speed Networking workshop to gain inside knowledge and advice about kick-starting their #In2scienceSTEMcareers.

In2science Director, Megan Mundy, commenced proceedings with an acknowledgement of country, followed by a brief overview of the In2science Program and finally, directed a special welcome to our guests and mentors. Alistair Grevis-James, Business Systems Analyst at CSL, then provided some insight into the benefits he reaped as an In2science mentor, and how these helped him attain a rewarding and exciting role in a global biotech company. After some housekeeping announcements, a hush descended as the students and industry professionals apprehensively took their places at their assigned station.

The energy in the room was palpable as our guests imparted their wisdom, stoked some fervent discussions, and further invigorated this passionate group of budding STEM enthusiasts to pursue a rewarding career in the STEM disciplines.

The students were very engaged; there were some great questions” – Kathryn Sobey, Head of Science, Auburn High School

In2science mentor, Yubeih He, from the University of Melbourne was equally impressed with our esteemed panel of professionals, “I met with some fantastic people from industry and received great advice”. Similarly, Anish Ramkhelawon from the University of Melbourne observed, “I really appreciated the practical advice and now feel more relaxed about the interview process”.

The small group chats facilitated maximum exposure to a diverse range of STEM professionals and graduates in a relaxed and informal setting. Many took the opportunity to pursue further discussions after the formal proceedings while they enjoyed some refreshments.

Some students and In2science mentors also availed themselves of the opportunity to have their resumes appraised by David Azzopardi (Senior Manager of Talent Development at CSL Behring), Waheed Rashid (Program Manager at Ericsson AU) and Vanessa Ashokkumar (Customer Project Manager, Ericsson); the In2science Team sincerely thank them for providing this valuable service.

With new contacts made and enthusiasm ignited, the event was reluctantly drawn to a close.

In2science gratefully acknowledges the Selby Scientific Foundation, whose generous support enabled us to run this event. In2science also extends our heartfelt thanks to all who participated, and particularly our inspirational guests:

  • Rachel Johnston – Technical Director, BP
  • Eliza Tipping Smith – Operations Analyst, BP
  • Sally Lowenstein – Science Communicator, Bureau of Meteorology
  • Kathryn Sobey – Head of Science, Auburn High School
  • Sarah Longhurst – Consultant, Deloitte
  • David Azzopardi – Senior Manager of Talent Development, CSL Behring
  • Alistair Grevis-James – Business Systems Analyst, CSL
  • Tiarne Ecker – Biodiversity Science Graduate, Arthur Rylah Institute for Environmental Research
  • Jaydene Pearson – Graduate Engineer, Lendlease
  • Waheed Rashid – Program Director, Ericsson Australia
  • Vanessa Ashokkummar – Customer Project Manager, Ericsson Australia

Meet a Mentor: Alicia Stevens

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In2science mentor Ali Stevens

What are you studying, and why do you like it? I am currently in my third year of a Bachelor of Health Science at Swinburne University of Technology, majoring in psychology and psychophysiology. I love psychology as it has taught me the skills to be able to help and understand others. I find psychophysiology so fascinating as the brain is such a complex system and its capacities continue to astound me!

Tell us about your In2science placement! I am currently mentoring at St. Joseph’s College Ferntree Gully. I was a bit apprehensive at the start as it’s an all-boys year 8 science class, but I liked the idea of a challenge! The boys can be very energetic at times, but it’s really fun to take that energy and get them engaged in what they are learning and relate it to things that they haven’t thought of before!

Why did you become an In2science mentor? I struggled with science at school and never thought I was capable of studying it at university so avoided it altogether during VCE. I really wish I could have had someone tell me back then that I was more than capable and that you shouldn’t let others limit your potential. I want to be that voice of encouragement for students: If I can do science, anyone can!

What’s the best thing about In2science? I had a student who was quite shy, in the sense that he enjoyed science but kept it quiet because all his friends thought it was uncool. He told me that he wanted to have a career in sport instead, as that’s what all his friends wanted to do. I was able to have a lovely chat with him telling him about careers in sport science and sport psychology, both disciplines he had never heard of before. It was lovely to see him become so excited about science and the possibility of what studying STEM could do for him.

I really wish I could have had someone tell me back then that I was more than capable… I want to be that voice of encouragement for students.

What message do you hope to pass onto the students in your In2science class? Don’t give up on something because you don’t find it easy to start with! If you find the subject matter interesting keep at it and it will become easier with time.

What inspired you to study what you are currently studying? I grew up in England and I know it’s going to sound silly, but I saw a stage show performed by Derren Brown who does tricks based on psychology and I found it amazing! After that, I read as many books about the mind as I could and just knew that’s what I wanted to do with my career.

What do you want to do after you finish university and why? I haven’t fully decided yet, but I know that after my undergraduate degree I want to continue my studies! I love educational psychology, so I want to do either a masters degree or a PhD in that field. I really want to help children to have the best experience and support during their school years as it can be such a tough and challenging time for them.

If you could have an hour to chat with any scientist/mathematician, who would it be and why? Erik Erikson! He was a developmental psychologist who studied humans at all stages of their life. I would love to have been able to chat with him about his findings and how they changed the way we view lifespan development today.

What advice would you give other students looking to get involved in In2science? Definitely do it! Yes, it can be challenging, but it is so rewarding. Being able to give students a more personal perspective on studying STEM is invaluable knowledge to pass on. I’ve talked to students who say they don’t like science; yet when they have an open discussion about science with someone who can give them one-on-one attention, they’ve realised that science isn’t limited to what we learn at school, it can take you in any direction in life you wish to go!

Want to become an In2science mentor? Click here!

STEM skills for all careers

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“There are no limits on what a STEM graduate can do, and we shouldn’t impose them.”

– Dr Alan Finkel AO, Australia’s Chief Scientist and In2science Patron

In the lead-up to the In2science STEM Career Speed Networking event, we reflect on the need for STEM skills for all careers.

Australia’s STEM workforce is growing, and studies show that STEM skills are relevant to an increasingly wide range of occupations. Graduates from degrees in science, engineering and mathematics are contributing to an innovative Australian economy in many different ways.

For current STEM university students, an ocean of opportunity awaits beyond graduation. Graduates from STEM degrees go on to be business owners, science communicators, engineers, consultants, educators, policy advisors and much more. Encouraging the emerging STEM workforce to seek out diverse occupations is one reason why the biological, physical and mathematical sciences directly underpin 14% of Australia’s economy. “No clever country would encourage its most STEM-literate people to pursue only traditional research paths, in universities or public sector research agencies”, says Dr Finkel.

Early-career jobs that included ‘problem solving’ in the job description attracted salaries with an extra $7,745 compared to other early-career jobs.”Foundation for Young Australians

Future workplaces will rely more on problem solving, independent learning, analytical thinking and communication skills than ever before. Today’s STEM graduates will use their technical knowledge in combination with ‘enterprise’ skills, skills that foster innovation and collaboration.

In2science is committed to supporting the next generation of innovative STEM workers. Current university students are already developing their communication and teamwork skills through In2science mentoring. Working with high school science and maths students across Melbourne, In2science mentors think creatively, collaborate with teachers and adapt to new situations every time they step into the classroom.

In 2018, In2science is also facilitating networking between In2science mentors and professionals working in a range of STEM-related workplaces. At the In2science Career Speed Networking event on 17th May, mentors will have the chance to talk with recent STEM graduates, In2science alumni and experienced industry professionals about career pathways, job applications and how to develop crucial enterprise skills that many employers now require.

The Speed Career Networking event is another way In2science mentors are gaining valuable employability skills while still at University. Our thanks go to the Selby Scientific Foundation for renewing their support for our mentor development program.

Current and past In2science mentors and other University students can register for the Speed Career Networking event here.

Meet a Mentor: Daniel Putra de Jesus

By | Profiles

In2science mentor Daniel Putra de Jesus

What are you studying, and why do you like it? I’m in my second year of the Advanced Diploma of Engineering Technology at RMIT University, majoring in Civil Engineering. I chose to study civil engineering because I’m fascinated by how engineers use maths and physics to design and build structures. Civil engineering is a broad field of study which allows me to explore different parts of it, from super-structure designs above the earth to foundations and footing designs beneath the earth. The study of soil and fluid mechanics are mind-blowing! I love fluid mechanics because fluid behaves in such a unique way under pressure. My lab sessions enhance my understanding of how theories apply in real-world situations.

Tell us about your In2science placement! This semester is my first placement as an In2science mentor at Simonds Catholic College in West Melbourne. It’s an all-boys school and I’m very fortunate to work with an incredible group of year 8 students. Most of my mentoring sessions are lab sessions. For instance, in my first week of mentoring the students did a lab prac on how matter changes due to chemical reactions. Lab sessions are the best way for me to get to know the students and vice versa. I was able to help them with the practical component and questions for their lab reports.

Why did you become an In2science mentor? When I was in middle school, I enjoyed science and maths, but I didn’t have someone who I could talk to or ask questions about STEM. More recently I have found that there are huge benefits when you work through problems and issues with friends, or with someone close in age. This is what inspired me to be an In2science mentor.

What’s the best thing about In2science? The best thing about In2science is I get to interact with students who all have very different plans for their future. This program allows me to share my experience, give advice and influence their decisions. Working with teachers and students in a class environment is really challenging, and I find myself out of my comfort zone, but it’s ultimately rewarding. With In2science pre-placement training I have been able to tackle some of the difficulties I encounter during my placement.

By being in the class and spending some time talking about the student’s interests, I hope they come to realise that STEM influences every aspect of life.

What message do you hope to pass onto the students in your In2science class? I want to make students realise maths and science are fun just like other subjects, and most importantly everyone can be outstanding in a STEM field. People say maths and science are boring unless you’re a nerd, which is a myth. By being in the class and spending some time talking about the student’s interests, I hope they come to realise that STEM influences every aspect of life and that pursuing a career in STEM field is achievable.

What inspired you to study what you are currently studying? I chose to study civil engineering because I want to contribute as much as I can to the development of my homeland, Timor-Leste. I grew up in Timor-Leste, where we did not have the luxuries that first world countries have in term of infrastructure. Learning about the lack of infrastructure, clean water and sanitation in Timor-Leste inspired me to study to become a civil engineer. Since I have a passion for maths and physics, becoming a civil engineer will be the best way to help my community and ultimately my country.

What do you want to do after you finish university and why? After completing my current program, I would like to continue to study a Bachelor of Engineering (Civil and Infrastructure) and major in water engineering. After completing my degree, I will go back to Timor-Leste to help my country and apply what I learn here to benefit people in Timor-Leste.

If you could have an hour to chat with any scientist/mathematician, who would it be and why? It would be an honour for me to spend an hour with the great Sir Isaac Newton. His contribution to maths and science is priceless. The application of Newton’s three fundamental laws in our daily lives is enormous. His contribution to calculus makes us realise that there is another approach to solving maths problems besides algebra. Above all, he taught me to ask “Why?”.

What advice would you give other students looking to get involved in In2science? Why wait? Get into it! Being in the class means a lot to the students. They look up to you as their role model. Believe it or not, you do influence the students’ views on STEM. Students appreciate the time you spend with them. They get to ask you questions that might not have been asked before. If you think you can’t change someone else’s decisions when they grow up, then think again!

Want to become an In2science mentor? Click here!

eMentors ‘Twinning’ in 2018

By | News, Profiles

eMentors Alison and Emilly

Meet Alison and Emilly – identical twin sisters studying science at The University of Melbourne. Alison is majoring in Human Structure and Function and Emilly is focusing on Neuroscience. They are passionate about STEM, keen to inspire the next generation of students and are part of this year’s cohort of In2science eMentors.

Emilly is not new to In2science – she volunteered last year for the eMentoring program with a student from Maffra Secondary College, a regional school located in Gippsland. Emilly was surprised by the differences that arise from having a regional education experience: a much smaller cohort and more travel time to Melbourne to access field trips and resources. When subjects were not available through the school they were completed via distance education – a very different experience to education in metropolitan Melbourne.

Emilly really enjoyed engaging with her student, talking about STEM concepts in the news or classroom, as well as talking about future STEM study and explaining misconceptions about university life.

This year Emilly is returning to eMentoring with her sister Alison. Both Emilly and Alison wanted to get more involved at university and in the wider community so being able to mentor students and talk about their enthusiasm for STEM seemed like a great opportunity to volunteer and create some positive change in the community.

This semester, they will both be mentoring students from Maffra Secondary College.They are looking forward to sharing their passion for STEM and encouraging their students in their current and future STEM studies.

New In2science funding to change lives of regional and rural students

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In2science has been awarded a Student Mentoring Program grant as part of a $1 million commitment from the Victorian Government. The grant is to develop new or existing mentoring programs for students from disadvantaged backgrounds; with the aim to promote school connectedness, engagement and aspirations for disadvantaged children and young people.

The eMentoring program inspires, motivates and mentors regional and rural students’ interested in STEM skills and opportunities beyond year 12. Mentors and school students meet digitally once a week for 30-40 minutes over a 10 week block and discuss their common interests in science and mathematics, share their study experiences, and explore opportunities for pursuing science and mathematics at university and beyond.

I went to a regional school so I’ve had experience with how hard it is for kids to connect. Where I was, in particular, we had next to no external resources for science, so I love what In2science brings to the schools.

– Yvette – In2science eMentor at The University of Melbourne 

I want them to know not to give up if it’s challenging or hard – because the reward and satisfaction you get at understanding something and getting it right is the best part.

– Vineeta – In2science eMentor at RMIT University 

The innovative online platform, specifically designed for the In2science program, connects secondary students across regional Victoria with volunteer eMentors studying STEM at university.

eMentoring was piloted by In2science in 2016 and launched in 2017. Each year the program goes from strength to strength with new schools joining.  Currently In2science has partnerships with 19 regional and rural schools across Victoria.

This year is shaping up to be something special. Andrew McKenzie-McHarg, a teacher from a new 2018 partner school (Catholic College Wodonga), has said: “I have been in contact with all our assigned mentors…. what an absolutely fabulous bunch they appear to be.  This program is shaping up to be one of the highlights of the year!! So very excited!”

The program has the potential to really change the lives of young people.

– Bill Simmalavong – Teacher at Distance Education Center Victoria

 

Semester 1 Mentors are on their marks, and ready to go

By | News, Profiles

The diversity of the 2018 In2science volunteer university mentors is immense and they are continually impressing the In2science team. From reading each mentor’s application, to having an interview, to then undergoing a thorough training schedule, the mentors bring many unique qualities to the In2science program.

Here is a snapshot of some of our mentors who are about to head out to schools for the next 10 weeks:

Lily Martin

From being told that she wasn’t cut out to study science or maths subjects at high school, to completing a university research project in machine learning and galaxy classification, Lily is living proof that every student has enormous potential to excel. After discovering her passion for science through an honours degree in nursing, a job in a telescope shop, and Brian Cox videos, Lily is now studying Bachelor of Science (Physics) at Swinburne University of Technology and loving it! She is keen to mentor young students to help them achieve their full potential and to let them know that it’s OK to take some turns to work out where you true passions lie.

Megha Mohan

At a young age Meg was drawn to the sciences.  Her interests ranged from rock collecting to launching homemade mentos shuttles – trying to figure out how to adjust the shuttle’s flight projectile path so it wouldn’t destroy the garden was her first introduction to mathematics. Later on, she combined these two loves to study Petroleum Engineering.  Meg has since worked in various oil rigs in the desert and jungles of Asia as an engineer for 5 years.  She is now studying a Masters of Analytics at RMIT University and is a passionate and committed mentor who is looking forward to inspiring more girls into engineering.

Timothy Manser

After spending 6 years in the Australian Air Force Cadets and Royal Rangers Australia, Tim’s interests in solving abstract problems and mathematics brought him to studying a Bachelor of Science (nanotechnology) at La Trobe University.  He is an enthusiastic and engaging mentor who underwent his secondary education being home-schooled through the Australian Christian Home Schooling system and is passionate to share his unique STEM experiences and interests with the next generation.

Ashleigh Kropp

Ashleigh is a Melbourne University PhD student in Medical Biology and is based at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute.  Volunteering is not new to Ashleigh. She has volunteered for Embrace Education homework club for years 7-10 students at a high school in Fawkner, and she is passionate about being an In2science mentor because she believes everyone should have access to science and people in science, regardless of their circumstances and background.

These four, along with 100+ other fellow STEM university students, were trained by their In2science coordinator from their respective universities. The specialised In2science training program equips mentors with the necessary skills and confidence required to best help their mentees.  Mentors cover a range of key areas including: communication skills, growth mindset, student diversity, gender inclusivity and STEM skills for any job.  The training enhances the mentors’ own interpersonal skills, increases their awareness of the importance of being a positive role model and reinforces the required boundaries when mentoring students in the classroom or online.

In addition to the in-person training, eMentors for regional school students were trained online using the same technology they will use with their mentees. This allowed them to utilise the online platform, resources, share strategies and discuss the main stages of developing an effective mentoring relationship within an online environment.

These new mentors will be joining 30+ returning mentors as they all embark on their mentoring journey for the new semester. And although each mentor will have a very unique experience in their allocated group, their passion and enthusiasm for science are sure to inspire the next generation.

In2science Inspiring Girls in STEM at Engineers Australia

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L-R In2science Project Officer Rachael McCullough, mentor Priyanka Pillai and University of Melbourne In2science Coordinator Dr Maddy Yewers.

A few weeks ago, In2science had the opportunity to be a part of another great community event aimed at raising the profile and support available of girls in STEM.

The event was run by the Capital City LLEN and hosted by Engineers Australia in their Melbourne office on Bourke Street. High school students, parents, and teachers alike all came along to hear from women currently working in STEM, as well as organisations committed to improving gender equity at all stages on the pipeline from school to university to the workplace, including Women in Science and Engineering, Robogals Monash, and BrainSTEM.

In2science Project Officer Rachael McCullough spoke on behalf of In2science about In2science’s aim to ensure that students of all backgrounds have the opportunity to be engaged by science and its practical applications. The importance of mentoring was highlighted by other speakers throughout the evening, and further emphasised by current In2science mentor, Priyanka Pillai.

Currently a postgraduate science student at the University of Melbourne, Priyanka shared stories from her own journey into science, as well as her experiences as a mentor with In2science. For Priyanka, it was having her own supportive role model and mentor that inspired her to become an In2science mentor. She explained that her mother saw her interest in science at a young age and encouraged her to try new things, which ultimately saw her begin a Masters of Bioinformatics at the University of Melbourne earlier this year. Priyanka encouraged the parents and teachers at the event to invest time in listening and actively suggesting new ideas for young people, especially girls, to try out.

Students at the event had the opportunity to engage in a range of workshops hosted by other organisations committed to gender equity in STEM. Robogals Monash, who were also present at In2science’s Supporting Girls In STEM event in September engaged primary and secondary school students in a hands-on robotics workshop. Melbourne University’s Women in Science and Engineering club introduced students to some lesser-known female role models in STEM, as well as passing on tips about how to be successful in their STEM studies.

As long as there is a gender gap in education and workplaces in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics, we are all responsible for improving our understanding of the barriers that exist for women in STEM, and committing to action that will help break them down. In2science is proud to be part of initiatives such as the City LLEN and Engineers Australia Girls in STEM event, and look forward to contributing to more in the future.

Mentees visit Science Gallery Melbourne

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In2science mentor Victoria Munro leads an activity for secondary students the University of Melbourne.

 In2science mentors hosted 75 students in years 8 and 9 from Footscray City College at The University of Melbourne and Science Gallery Melbourne. There, they took part in an interactive demonstration on the chemistry of fingerprints, then moved on for a tour of The University and Science Gallery’s Blood Exhibition. A big thanks to Bachelor of Science student, Victoria Munro who mentored at Footscray City College in semester 2 2017. Victoria took real pride in sharing her experiences in the Chemistry lab and showing the students her favourite places around campus, including the Science Gallery.

Students from Footscray City College learning about the chemistry of fingerprint analysis.

 

Teacher Alice Kim, Footscray City College said that the students gained much from the excursion, “Thank you for such a fantastic opportunity! All students really enjoyed the Gallery and found most parts highly fascinating! Students thoroughly enjoyed the chemistry lab and the Gallery. The mentor engaged students in conversations and some students ended up asking questions about what she does.”

Ms Kim continued, “Overall, it was a great experience for my students as they got to see the other side of science. The creative and innovative side. As we had only studied the traditional theory part of ‘blood’, seeing the same concept represented in various forms was a pleasant surprise for most students.”