In2science celebrates the 2021 Annual Awards at Science Gallery, Melbourne

By | Events, News

The highly anticipated In2science Annual Awards was held at the Science Gallery, Melbourne to celebrate the outstanding achievements and contributions of mentors, students, teachers and schools who participated in the peer mentoring program in 2021.

Throughout 2021, In2science has supported science and maths engagement and education across 54 schools, with 187 mentor placements reaching 3,294 students in metropolitan and regional/rural Victoria. The most inspiring examples from across the program were highlighted at this special celebration.

The event was opened by In2science Program Director, Dr. Alison Every with an Acknowledgement of Country followed by a video showcasing the Mentor Experience.  The Hon. Prof. John Brumby AO was invited to deliver his keynote speech, followed by Prof. Vera Ignjatović, a Director of the Toyota Community Foundation Australia Pty. Ltd. Prof. Brumby spoke of the generous support of In2science’s program and award partners, the Toyota Community Trust, Victoria’s Department of Education and Training, CSL Behring and Boeing was acknowledged, followed by a reflection of this challenging, but ultimately rewarding year. Prof. Ignjatović emphasised on the importance of small gestures in life that can spark a sense of curiosity in something new and congratulated the team on a successful launch of the Mentor Leaders Program, a new endeavour made possible with support from the Toyota Community Trust.

“Sometimes it is the small gestures that make a child or student veer in a certain direction, a respected teachers, an adult, an experience. I’m sure you can all remember a time when someone inspired you to do something different, see a subject in a whole new way or spark a sense of curiosity in something new” – Prof. Vera Ignjatović, a Director of Toyota Community Foundation Australia Pty. Ltd. and Senior Principal Research Fellow at the Murdoch Childrens Research Institute

The first winner of the evening was Brianne Chen of Virtual School Victoria (VSV), who, since taking the reins as In2science’s central point of contact for VSV in 2020 has hosted an incredible 30 mentor placements supporting 32 school students across Victoria. Joint Mentor Support Award winner, Lakshmi Sharma of Coburg High School has built wonderful relationships with mentors and In2science since joining the program in 2019 and continued her enthusiasm by maintaining these connections from in-person placements in Semester 1 to online with remote learning in Semester 2.

 

Two schools, Maffra Secondary College and Bayswater Secondary College took home awards for their school communities. Maffra Secondary College in Central Gippsland has been a committed and outstanding eMentoring partner school since the inception of the regional online mentoring model in 2016. Kristen Raine, who accepted the award on behalf of the school community has been phenomenal in her support of the program and is visibly dedicated to the success of In2science at the school. Amanda Dales received the award on behalf of Bayswater Secondary College, who have been a Swinburne University of Technology partner school since 2012 and is a school who fully embraces the range of benefits In2science and mentorship.

Ashlee Davey of Galen Catholic College, Wangaratta and Fatuma Mohamed of Mount Alexander College were joint winners as eMentoring and in-class mentees this year and enthusiastically accepted the Award from Prof Brumby. An inspiring speech from fellow mentee, Year 9 student from Virtual School Victoria and previous In2science award winner, Alex Zavros-Orr followed, where he detailed his experience with 4 science mentors from a diverse range of science backgrounds over the last 4 semesters.

Lastly, the Mentor Awards were presented. Five outstanding mentors representing each of the In2science partner universities were invited to the stage to be congratulated. The mentors of In2science “are truly the heart and soul” of the peer mentoring program. It is their commitment and enthusiasm that makes the difference to secondary school students. Patrick Taylor from RMIT University received the Boeing-sponsored STEM Champion award for his dedication in the online space during remote learning. Patrick co-facilitated computer science workshops and trained other mentors to do the same while also sharing his education journey in computational chemistry with multiple schools online.

 

John Seymour from Swinburne University of Technology won the Impact Award due to his dedication to mentoring and professional development since starting with In2science in 2019. John participated in eMentoring as well as in-class mentoring and has always shown detailed preparation and facilitation in supporting students to make a “sincere and valued impact.”

Toyota Community Trust sponsored the next two awards, with La Trobe University’s Lily Kenchington-Evans and The University of Melbourne’s Stella Ulm receiving the Dedication and Mentor Leader Awards, respectively. Lily has been an In2science mentor for four years and has always been a “shining example of dedication” through her work with many year levels at a variety of schools in Victoria. Stella Ulm has shown exceptional leadership skills during her 2 years as an In2science eMentor and, after being chosen to take part in the Toyota Community Trust-supported Mentor Leaders program, further demonstrated her outstanding commitment, especially supporting young women in STEM. During her time as a Mentor Leader, Stella engaged with multiple In2science placements through guest speaker sessions and facilitating career discussions.

Madeline Tomkins from La Trobe University took home the Regional Impact award for making an exceptionally positive impact on regional and rural students in In2science’s eMentoring program. Madeline frequently requested multiple placements and has been an extremely enthusiastic, reliable, and dedicated mentor since joining the program in 2020.

Finally, RMIT University mentor, Saumaya Fernando was invited to share her experiences of volunteering with In2science. Saumaya reflected on her motivations for joining the program, what inspired her to undertake a science degree and some notable memories of her time in the classroom. Most of all, as she recounted her experience as a mentor, she is grateful to be “the biggest nerd in the room and have someone look at (her) in wonder”.

The evening finished with good conversation over refreshments among the inspiring artworks of the Science Gallery, Melbourne, the atmosphere feeling all the more electric as all attendees embraced the opportunity to connect with others in person. Despite the challenges of 2021, In2science’s success continues to be reflected through the hard work of its mentors, teachers, schools and government and industry supporters.

Click here to read more about the 2021 Awards

Click here to access the 2021 Awards Photo Gallery

In2science is grateful for the generous support of our Program and Awards partners, Toyota Community Trust, CSL Behring, Selby Scientific Foundation, Boeing and the Department of Education and Training, Victoria.

Celebrating the successful roll-out of the Mentor Leaders Program

By | Events, News

The inaugural Mentor Leaders Program, which was rolled out in semester 2 this year, is an initiative aimed to bolster mentors’ understanding of STEM careers and develop their leadership skills by pairing them with outstanding early-career STEM Professionals from our industry partner network. To celebrate the achievements of the Mentor Leaders, the STEM Professional Mentors, and their commitment to the program, In2science hosted an end-of-program event, held at the Toyota Corporate Office in Port Melbourne. The face-to-face event provided a wonderful opportunity for like-minded STEM students and professionals to network and reflect on their participation in the program. 

 A major focus of the Mentor Leaders Program was to gain a deeper understanding of career pathways, and therefore, In2science invited a panel of esteemed STEM Professionals to talk about ways to navigate challenges and create opportunities in STEM graduate pathways. The invited panel members work within a diverse range of fields, including science and technology, within academic and industry settings, providing a well-rounded collection of perspectives on the topic.

Catherine Hart, a Senior Sustainability and Environmental Specialist for Toyota Motor Corporations began the discussion by describing that the STEM industry is constantly evolving, and how important it is to say yes to opportunities, even if is a bit hard or different, as you never know what will come out of it.  

Next, we heard from Thilanka Morawakage, a Project Assistant at the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute and IMNIS catalyst. Thilanka contributed to the discussion by giving insights into how mentoring has been a very valuable experience during COVID. For Thilanka, mentorship helped her identify transferable skills that she gained from an academic education and previous jobs, such as project management.  

 

Ivy Weng, a manufacturing graduate at CSL, spoke about her unique career pathway as a STEM graduate. Ivy reflected on how her education and training prepared her for the opportunities and challenges that arose over the past few years. Ivy also highlighted the technical and soft skills university training provides that really help you thrive in whatever career you choose to pursue.

To round off the panel discussion, Sarah Goss, an Advisory Board Member for In2science and Head of Innovation from Ericsson Australia and New Zealand, spoke about how the pandemic has accelerated the role of technology in our everyday lives. Sarah mentions that at the government, industry and societal level, tech is transforming and we won’t look back. 

 

Overall, this event facilitated thought-provoking discussions between Mentor Leaders and STEM Professionals, providing university students with further insights into the graduate opportunities in STEM.  

With the successful completion of the first Mentor Leaders Program, we would like to gratefully acknowledge the outstanding support from Toyota Community Trust, which allows In2science to continue to empower students to navigate the opportunities and demands of their STEM-based future. 

We also express our sincere gratitude to our STEM Professional Mentors for generously volunteering their time to mentor our In2science mentors.  

Finally, huge congratulations to our Mentor Leaders for being selected to participate in this program. by demonstrating exceptional leadership skills and for successfully completing the program. 

To find out more about how Industry partnerships can support STEM engagement for secondary school students, please contact In2science Program Director, Dr Alison Every.

In2science mentors keeping students engaged online

By | News

In2science is fortunate to have a wonderful community of STEM Professionals and In2science mentors who have kept secondary school students engaged in science and maths throughout the last 18 months of remote learning. The online environment presents a multitude of ways to facilitate mentoring sessions, as it is not constrained by time or the location of those involved. Online mentoring with In2science has included online guest speaker sessions with a classroom of students, 1:1 conversation with In2science mentors and STEM Professionals, and mentors creating social media content aimed to educate students about STEM degrees and pathways. 

Guest speaker sessions

With remote learning, the majority of our mentors have been unable to attend their in-class placements. Despite this, dedicated mentors including Lily Kenchington-EvansCatriona Nguyen-Robertson, Jenna Pride and Bianca Fato teamed up to virtually visit Footscray High School to support VCE students leading up to exams.  

 We also had enthusiastic mentor, Stella Ulm, join multiple eMentoring sessions to educate secondary school students on ‘launching their career in space’. Stella shared her journey in STEM and a PowerPoint presentation filled with opportunities, interactive resources and videos to boost students’ engagement and confidence in STEM careers.  

 Social media content creation

As a way to keep our mentors engaged and share their passion for STEM with the In2science community, we rolled out #TakeoverThursday. This initiative involves a mentor sharing their journey and passion in STEM through a series of Twitter posts, images and videos. So far, we have captured the diversity of our In2science mentors, the various degrees they are studying and the unique pathways they have taken to get where they are today. If you missed any of the #TakeoverThursdays, you can catch up here; 

In addition to our social media campaign, many of our talented mentors have created engaging and educational videos that teachers can share with their class, for example, learn DNA & RNA transcription/translation with Sarah or join Vivian for a short and sweet explanation of blood flow. Check out all other videos at the In2science YouTube channel. 

1:1 conversation with In2science mentors and STEM Professionals

Since 2019, the In2science eMentoring team have partnered with KBR facilitating STEM Professional employees joining eMentoring sessions to discuss STEM career pathways. Four KBR employees joined mentoring sessions, allowing regional secondary school students an opportunity to ask questions about STEM education and how this can lead to a diverse range of careers. The feedback from these sessions was overwhelmingly positive from both the students and the mentors; 

 “It was a wonderful experience for me, and certainly for the student as well, being able to gain valuable insights from different STEM industries. I truly believe that the session was beneficial and provided the student with a more well-rounded view on STEM.” – Bryan, In2science eMentor, 2021. 

 “It went really well! Really enjoyed the discussion a lot. The student loved seeing a different perspective from another field and similarities between different pathways in STEM.” – Georgia, In2science eMentor, 2021 

 While the onset of remote learning posed many challenges for school students to remain engaged in STEM, In2science mentors and our larger network of STEM Professionals have provided innovative opportunities for students to participate in broader conversations around science and maths. By sharing experiences and motivations through social media, 1:1 guest sessions with early-career professionals or mentors in the online classroom, In2science helps school students engage with STEM and encourage pursuit of tertiary studies in STEM so that they can help tackle the challenges of today and tomorrow.

 

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.

 

In2science mentor, Angus Watson tells students why it is okay to change your mind

By | News, Profiles

As we go through school, we are often asked what we want to be when we grow up or what we want to study after high school. But what happens if you are not sure of the opportunities or you change your mind? These questions are reasons why Angus Watson, an Honours student in the Department of Microbiology at La Trobe University, joined the In2science mentoring program.


Angus begun his tertiary education at La Trobe University undertaking a Bachelor of Biomedicineas he “wasn’t sure of the options and was influenced by the limited resources around him”. One of the great options at university is that once you are enrolled in a course, it is relatively easy to transfer to another course! Transferring to a course in a similar field also means that you are likely to receive ‘credits’ for subjects you have previously completed, meaning you won’t have to start a new course from the start. This worked in Angus’s favour, as while there were parts of the Biomedicine course Angus enjoyed, ultimately, he felt that the course wasn’t the right fit for him and decided to transfer to a  Bachelor of Animal and Veterinary Biosciences instead. “When I transferred from Biomedicine to Animal & Veterinary Biosciences, I was surprised by the similarities between the courses”, Angus says, which is an experience that led Angus to join In2science, to discuss the overlap in STEM fieldssubjects and concepts with his student.  

Angus believes that one of the factors that helped him transfer between courses were his transferrable STEM skills, including scientific writing and communication. These transferrable skills have also helped Angus in his job as a veterinary nurse by providing a pet owner with more information about parasitic diseases and their treatment. This would have been difficult to do without drawing on lectures and practical classes from his undergraduate degree. Outside of his university degree, Angus is in the process of publishing a fantasy novel. Angus explains how many of the skills have learnt throughout my STEM journey have also equipped me in progressing my writing career. 

Looking back on his STEM journey, Angus wished he had  more positive influences to guide him through high school and into university, which  also inspired him to join In2science. Whilst Angus has only been a mentor for 9 weeks, he has already made a great impression on his mentees, providing information to the students to support their learning in the classroom. Angus’s advice to all upcoming STEM students is that “the field of STEM is diverse and that with the right mentor, you can forge your own unique path in STEM”. 

 

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.

 

Mid-semester fun with In2science mentors

By | Events, News

In2science offers a unique opportunity for students from La Trobe University, The University of Melbourne, Swinburne University and RMIT University to increase aspirations and engagement in science and maths across Victorian classrooms. Having partnerships with multiple universities also means we take every opportunity to bring our mentors together to build connections that may not usually happen without access to a diverse network.

 

To lift spirits during yet another extensive lockdown and celebrate the incredible work In2science mentors do, we organised an evening of fun and games for everyone to participate in. Random teams were generated, and mentors got to know others from different universities to battle it out in multiple quizzes where there could be only one winning team.

Themes of the evening included scavenger hunts, biology, technology, and First Nations’ scientific discoveries with a sprinkling of probability and lateral thinking. It was a huge success with close to 50 mentors joining in the fun.

Thank you to The University of Melbourne’s In2science coordinator Hayden Dalton and Schools Outreach Coordinator (STEM) Julia Cleghorn for being outstanding hosts, and to In2science coordinators Stephanie Lynch (eMentoring), Dr Nicole Butler (La Trobe University), Ashlee Lambton (Swinburne University) and Dr William Sullivan and Sarah Longhurst (RMIT University) for working behind the scenes to make this event one for all to remember.

 

Pauline Deng from CSL guides In2science mentors

By | News

A graph that shows survey answers from Year 7, 8 and 9's students that participated in career-focused discussions. Results show that the majority of students strongly agree or agree that after participating in the career discussions, are now able to identify their own study and career options that relate to their interest.

The ‘Mentor Leaders Program’ is an exciting initiative generously supported by Toyota Community Trust. In 2020, a pilot of this program launched in classrooms, where In2science mentors led career-focused discussions with small groups of high school students. Preliminary evaluations showed that after engaging in the STEM career discussions, high school students better understood their STEM skills and interests and were better equipped to identify their own future career options.

This year, the Mentor Leaders Program has been refined and expanded to include STEM Professional mentors from our network of industry partners. These early-to-mid-career professionals support In2science mentors to further develop their leadership skills and knowledge of STEM careers. We had an outstanding number of STEM Professionals volunteer to mentor our In2science mentors, including Pauline Deng, a Pharmacovigilance Specialist at CSL. Pauline has a passion for not only leading continuous improvement initiatives but also advocating for STEM. 

Headshot of Pauline Deng from CSL

Pauline began her journey in STEM pursuing a Bachelor of Science (Honours) before joining CSL as part of their science graduate intake. Over the past 4 years in the pharmaceutical industry, Pauline has gained experience and skills within the field and now works in a global role in Pharmacovigilance. Pauline‘s journey from university into a STEM career generates an invaluable story to be shared with In2science mentors about life after university and the future prospects in STEM. 

In volunteering for the Mentors Leaders Program as a STEM Professional, Pauline wants to share the importance of transferable skills. This is illustrated by Pauline’s change in career trajectory, “I always thought I’d be a researcher in the field of tumor immunology as that was what I found fascinating. However, I ended up in the CSL Graduate Program and it really has given me many fantastic opportunities!” Despite the shift in career pathways after university Pauline still had the relevant experience and knowledge to successfully navigate this change in direction. Pauline also attributes her career success thus far to volunteering opportunities that have allowed her to develop leadership and problem-solving skills, both of which she can help In2science mentors build for themselves through mentorship. 

Ultimately, mentors like Pauline are important in guiding people in STEM through every aspect of their study and career path. Whether it be choosing the best VCE subjects, building soft skills applicable to many stages of their career, or navigating changes in their STEM journey.  

We look forward to working with more STEM Professionals from our industry networks to continue the success of the Mentor Leaders Program. We are excited to see the positive influence the Professional Mentors have in building the confidence and career aspirations in our In2science mentors, which is then filtered down to the high school students. Stay tuned for further updates on this exciting program! 

To find out more about how Industry partnerships can support STEM engagement for secondary school students, please contact In2science Program Director, Dr Alison Every.

In2science launches the inaugural Mentor Leaders Program connecting university Mentor Leaders and STEM Professionals thanks to Toyota Community Trust

By | News

Studying a STEM degree and volunteering with In2science provides mentors with many transferable skills that opens doors to a multitude of career pathways.  During their time with In2science, we are committed to supporting our mentors to better understand the career options available to them, whether that be in science or non-science fields; in industry, academia or government, 

This year we were excited to once again partner with Toyota Community Trust, who, through their generous support, have enabled the roll-out of a new Mentor Leaders Program. This exciting new project aims to bolster mentors’ understanding of STEM careers and develop their leadership skills by pairing them with outstanding early-career STEM Professionals from our industry partner network. 

Through these meaningful professional connections, our mentors will be better equipped to engage in career conversations with secondary students throughout their In2science placement. This semester, Mentor Leaders will also be invited to facilitate a small group career activity at the school where they’ve been placed that’s been designed to spark students’ interest in science and maths. This will help students to better understand their own skills, interests and role models and how these can lead to a rewarding STEM career.

The program, due to commence in early August, is gathering momentum. Nineteen outstanding In2science mentors have been selected for the inaugural program alongside an equally impressive field of STEM professionals, with backgrounds in:

  • Biotechnology
  • Healthcare and medicine
  • Medical research
  • Environmental science, sustainability
  • STEAM communication
  • Technical Analysis
  • Pharmaceutical manufacturing and engineering
  • Data science
  • Intellectual property
  • Education

This year’s enthusiastic and diverse group of STEM professional mentors are excited to offer mentees insights into topics such as:

  • academic vs industry career pathways
  • what consulting vs government vs industry roles are like
  • finding your own way even when you don’t know exactly what you want to do
  • landing their first job and how to construct a CV and job application
  • techniques for acing an interview
  • the transition from uni to work
  • striking a healthy work/life balance
  • honing in on what you’re passionate about
  • furthering a growth mindset
  • navigating male-dominated industries
  • the importance of soft skills in STEM environments
  • how to use your science education to succeed in ‘non-science’ based roles

In an effort to provide a tailored mentoring experience, Mentor Leaders selected their preferred STEM Professional Mentors. With the matching process now complete and Mentor Leaders soon to undergo their induction, In2science is confident that all participants will maximise the opportunities this program will provide. This will further improve In2science mentoring in schools and set In2science mentors up for securing a role in the STEM workforce. Armed with resources to enrich the mentoring experience, Mentor Leaders will be meeting their STEM Professional Mentors from early August, with the program running throughout Semester 2.

With such an inspirational bunch of people involved, we can’t wait to see the rich learnings made and shared. Watch this space!

In2science eMentor, Stella Ulm debunks myths in STEM and encourages young women to put their hand up

By | News, Profiles

Stella Ulm, eMentor from The University of Melbourne in front of a wind farm

There is a myth in school that if you are a scientist you must work in a laboratory and if you are an engineer, you fix cars. In2science mentors know this is not true. It is one of the reasons Stella Ulm, a Masters of Mechanical Engineering student at The University of Melbourne, joined the peer mentoring program.  

Stella is particularly passionate about the myths and negative stereotypes associated with women in STEM and is excited to share the variety of careers available to young women that they may not yet know about. One of these is combining fields to work in multiple disciplines like business, biomedical technology, and engineering. 

“I’ve changed what I want to do quite a few times and people don’t realise that you can have that kind of flexibility,” Stella says, reflecting on her university life. At first, Stella began a degree in Commerce, before switching to a Bachelor of Science because she had a passion for cochlear implants. This interest resulted in a 12-week internship with Cochlear that left her questioning where this degree would take her. An opportunity then rose for an internship at a renewable energy firm where Stella decided that she wanted to utilise a cross-disciplinary approach to implement engineering solutions in business. This flexible thinking and growth mindset is what Stella aims to inspire in secondary school students through In2science.  

Since 2020, Stella has participated in In2science’s eMentoring stream, which focuses on supporting regional, remote, and rural students all over Victoria. Some of her best memories are what her students have taught her, including topics in marine science, occupational therapy, and psychology. “We learned together, we researched together: how to get into those fields, how you apply for universities interstate. The best part about mentoring with In2science is that you’re not a teacher.” Stella says, recalling a time where she let her mentees lead sessions. “(My mentee) taught me more about science. It was inspiring.” 

Stella and her eMentee

Above all, Stella believes that mentoring is of significant value to women in STEM. “We often get scared to put our hand up” she says, “Having that curiosity to keep wanting to know more is something we (mentor and mentee) can learn together. That’s something I really hope I have inspired my mentees to do. To keep asking questions and not be afraid to not know the answer.” 

In2science acknowledges the Victorian Government for their support for eMentoring.

 

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.

Dr Jen Martin and Catriona Nguyen-Robertson upskill In2science mentors in effective science communication

By | Events, News

If only all Mondays ended like this. To give back to the wonderful In2science community and equip mentors with useful techniques and skills to use in their STEM degrees and beyond, In2science provides professional development workshops to celebrate and round off each placement period.  

This year, we invited Dr. Jen Martin, who leads the acclaimed Science Communication teaching program at The University of Melbourne and In2science mentor, science communicator and PhD candidate Catriona Nguyen-Robertson (The University of Melbourne, Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity) to facilitate a fun, interactive session on confident communication in science. 

Dr. Jen Martin was a field ecologist who founded The University of Melbourne’s outstanding Science Communication teaching program. For almost two decades she has been in the science communication space, speaking weekly on 3RRR and writing for popular STEM publications like Double Helix to complement her public speaking workshops and courses. Catriona Nguyen-Robertson is a star mentor for In2science who is currently completing her PhD in immunology at the Doherty Institute with The University of Melbourne. She spends much of her time as a Science Communications Officer for the Royal Society of Victoria, a STEM presenter at Scienceworks and creating inspirational songs about science for primary and high school students.  

Mentors gathered at RMIT University’s City Campus where they learned skills in what makes a great speaker and the essentials in effective communication. Mentors worked in groups to refine narratives, particularly when it comes to their STEM passions and interests and how to cope with those dreaded nerves.  

The event finished with some informal networking and bonding over food and drinks. The In2science coordinators Team formally thanked their mentors for all their hard work in 2021 so far and presented some well-earned certificates. Thank you to Dr. Jen Martin and Catriona Nguyen-Robertson for such an engaging and fun evening, we hope to work with you again soon! 

 With thanks to the Selby Scientific Foundation.

In2science brings together Indigenous STEM experts to celebrate Australia’s First Scientists

By | Events, News

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples are Australia’s and the world’s first scientists. For over 60 000 years, Australia’s First Nations Peoples have cared for and managed vast and diverse landscapes through their intimate understanding of the stars, land, sea and climate. Despite this rich scientific heritage, however, the achievement gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous students is approximately two-and-a-half years for science and maths (Programme for International Student Assessment, 2018). Recognising the need to address this disparity as a priority, In2science hosted an online forum, “Indigenous STEM engagement – Celebrating Australia’s First Scientists”. This event brought together an inspirational and dynamic panel of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander STEM experts to discuss how to engage young First Nations People in STEM and build pride in Indigenous scientific knowledge, both inside and outside of Indigenous communities.

Kids are the best engineers. They are the best scientists because they ask the best questions.– Corey Tutt, Founder and CEO of Deadly Science

Corey Tutt, a proud Kamilaroi man, 2020 NSW Young Australian of the Year, and the Founder and CEO of Deadly Science, a charity that provides STEM resources to remote school across Australia, started the evening with a stirring keynote presentation about his story and how Deadly Science is helping to build STEM aspirations for young First Nations kids.

Our culture is the oldest living culture in the world that we know of. To survive we had to be good observers, we had to be great engineers, we had to be even better chemists. We had to be good technologists, we had to be great scientists and science starts with observation. When we observe and we find problems, our solutions are methodically thought out.– Corey Tutt, Founder and CEO of Deadly Science

Multi-award-winning STEM journalist and broadcaster, Rae Johnston described her own experiences with STEM and then facilitated this important panel discussion. Associate Professor Misty Jenkins, who heads an immunotherapy lab in cancer research at WEHI  and was the first Indigenous Australian to attend Oxford and Cambridge universities as a postdoctoral research fellow, discussed the topic in relation to her important work in developing treatments for brain cancer, and how her ancestry have influenced her approach to science.

I come from a long line of storytellers, and I grew up hearing stories about how my ancestors would burn a certain type of plant when they birthed their babies because there was something in the smoke that kept the environment free from germs and modern science has actually now verified that.– Associate Professor Misty Jenkins, WEHI

 

Yemurraki Egan, a proud Yorta Yorta, Wemba Wemba and Gunditjmara man, who works at The University of Melbourne and currently studies engineering at Swinburne University of Technology provided practical advice about how universities can improve the experience of First Nations students to encourage and retain them over the course of their degrees.

If you put the same amount of effort, dedication and ambition that you do in sports and arts into STEM, you would see Indigenous people succeed just as much.– Yemurraki Egan, The University of Melbourne and Swinburne University of Technology

Mibu Fischer has been employed by CSIRO for 10 years and in that time has found her niche in marine ethnoecology, with a focus on strengthening partnerships between First Nations communities and current fisheries, for improved coastal and conservation management. Mibu is a proud Quandamooka woman, who took the opportunity to speak about her STEM pathway and how Traditional Knowledge can be incorporated with Western science.

The best way [to communicate Traditional Knowledge] is through education. It’s also feeling safe to educate those around us. It’s around finding supportive allies in these spaces to create a platform to get our stories out there.– Mibu Fischer, CSIRO

Over the course of the evening, audience members asked thought provoking questions pertaining to how to communicate Traditional Scientific Knowledge to non-Indigenous Australians, how universities can better support Indigenous students and how the education system can be more inclusive of young First Nations children.

It’s important for teachers to know that not every kid they work with is going to become a doctor or a scientist or is going to become an absolute world champion, but they have a right to believe that they can.– Corey Tutt, Founder and CEO of Deadly Science

Overall, the event highlighted the diverse and incredible connections First Australians have had, and continue to have, with science and maths over millennia, despite their under-representation in STEM subjects at school and in the workforce. More importantly, this discussion taught us much about the barriers that many young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders face that can  prevent them from pursuing a career in STEM, while also outlining ways that schools, universities, and the public can incorporate more inclusive practices to support young Indigenous students.

STEM is for all.– Corey Tutt, Founder and CEO of Deadly Science

In2science gratefully acknowledges GHD for sponsoring this event. In2science would also like to express our sincere thanks to Mr Corey Tutt, A/Prof Misty Jenkins, Ms Mibu Fischer, Mr Yemurraki Egan and Ms Rae Johnston for sharing their stories and thoughts with us. We look forward to continuing the discussion about how scientists from all disciplines can work in partnership with Indigenous Australian scientists to help secure Australia’s future in an ever-changing climate and environment.

If you missed the event, a recording is available and can be viewed here.