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.”

2017 In2science Awards Celebrate Mentor Impact

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On a balmy November evening, more than 100 guests from universities, schools, government and industry gathered to celebrate the achievements of university student mentors, secondary teachers and their students in STEM engagement. The 2017 In2science Awards, hosted at Melbourne Museum, highlighted the achievements of university student mentors, secondary teachers and students in connecting science and maths in the classroom to the real world and highlight pathways university courses.

The evening commenced with a welcome form In2science Director Megan Mundy and a special preview of a video looking at the placement of Yianna Phaedonos at Copperfield College.

In2Science Chair The Hon Professor John Brumby AO.

Advisory Board Chairman, The Hon. Professor John Brumby AO welcomed attendees and distinguished guests, including the Honourable Judith Graley, Parliamentary Secretary for Education. He spoke of the achievements of the In2science program in 2017, from the time generously given by university students in classrooms and the teachers who support them. He highlighted sheer number of people who have been involved since the beginning of the program in 2004, with 140 schools involved, nearly 2000 mentors, supporting more than 59,000 students. Professor Brumby also made mention of the positive findings of the independent evaluation undertaken by ACER earlier in the year.

Professor Brumby presented the Mentor Support Award to Loan Luong-Nguyen of Westall Secondary College her exceptional support of the several mentors she hosted. The School Engagement Award was given to Galen Catholic College. The Outstanding Mentee Award went to year 9 maths student Jack Esho at Roxburgh College.

eMentoring student Jake Aronleigh shares his experiences.

eMentoring mentee and award finalist, Jake Aronleigh, a student of the Distance Education Centre Victoria, delivered a delightful reflection on his experiences with his Swinburne University of Technology eMentor Wael Farah, recounting all of the exciting things he had learned about astrophysics and his inspiration to pursue his interest in STEM further.

The Mentoring awards followed, with Hasti Zamanian of La Trobe University winning the Role Model Award for her support of students at Templestowe College by sharing her experiences of university life and encouraging them to begin imagining their future education pathways. The winner of the Impact Award was Reza Aliakbari from RMIT University, who developed a great rapport with his mentees at Brunswick Secondary College and contributed significantly to the learning environment.

Anna Drayton from the University of Melbourne was presented with the Dedication Award for not only being an excellent mentor to her year 9 science class at Hume Central Secondary College, but also volunteering to assist the school’s lunchtime robotics club despite no prior experience with coding or robotics. The winner of the Above and Beyond Award award went to Margaret Ngugi from Swinburne University of Technology, who showed exemplary initiative for taking on numerous professional development opportunities offered by the In2science program, and for acquiring new skills in robotics and coding to support her mentees learning with Nao robots at Bayswater Secondary College. The eMentoring award went to Sarah Hegarty of Swinburne University of Technology, who was specifically selected for her three mentees who had a particular interest in astrophysics.

L-R Teacher Loan Luong-Nguyen, La Trobe University mentor Hasti Zamanian, The Hon Professor John Brumby AO, In2Science Director Megan Mundy, Parliamentary Secretary for Education The Hon Judith Graley MP, Swinburne eMentor Sarah Hegarty, University of Melbourne mentor Anna Drayton and RMIT mentor Reza Aliakbari.

Anna Drayton returned to the stage to speak about her experiences as a mentor, during which she described sparking the student’s curiosity for her chosen study of neuroscience as ‘lighting a fire in them’, as she was met with a barrage of questions during a practical lesson involving sheep brain dissection. She was also able to share with students the sensation of being unfamiliar with a new area of knowledge and helping the students deal with the initial discomfort of developing new knowledge when she joined the lunchtime robotics class. Anna reflected on her opportunities to chat to students about what being a university student is like, and the amazing array of career possibilities opened up at univeristy that the students may not yet be aware of in secondary school.

Following the formal proceedings, the attendees enjoyed time to socialise and network together. The event highlighted the wonderful impact in STEM engagement achieved by mentors during the year with the support of the excellent teachers that hosted them. All of the team at In2science is grateful of the commitment of everyone involved, and the achievements of 2017 set the scene for an even greater 2018.

 

Click here to read more about the 2017 In2science Award finalists and winners.

 

Click here to see a photo gallery of the 2017 In2science Awards.

Swinburne eMentoring Astro Tour

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eMentoring secondary students from Traralgon Secondary College and the Distance Education Centre Victoria (DECV) were treated to a behind the scenes guided tour of the inner workings of the Centre for Astrophysics & Supercomputing at Swinburne University of Technology during the September school holiday.

eMentors Sarah Hegarty and Wael Farah, both completing PhDs in astrophysics, hosted three students from Traralgon Secondary College and two from DECV, who had made the trip to Swinburne’s Hawthorn campus for the day.

Sarah gave the students an insight into her PhD work of taking huge volumes of data collected from radio telescopes and finding ways to visualise it. She demonstrated to the students the computer code and software she had developed to analyse her data and probe it for insights into the mysteries of the universe.

Wael then led the group across campus to his office where he works on Fast Radio Bursts (FRBs) and explained how he is developing a machine learning system to help solve the problem of extremely short cosmic radio signals being drowned out by radio noise generated on Earth.

The students also had a sneak peak at the virtual reality experiences under development at OzGrav, the Australian Centre of Excellence for Gravitational Wave Discovery.

Finally the students enjoyed a journey around the solar system in Swinburne’s 3D Astro Tour theatre. The day was a fantastic opportunity for students from regional areas to gain a first hand insight into life at university and real scientific research. It was a demonstration of the level of commitment shown by eMentors like Sarah and Wael and their willingness to go above and beyond to inspire their mentees.

Swinburne University of Technology eMentors Wael Farah (2nd from left), Sarah Hegarty (far right), Swinburne In2science Coordinator Artem Bourov with students from Traralgon Secondary College and Distance Education Centre Victoria.

Meet an In2science Alumnus: Alistair Grevis-James

By | Profiles

“In2science gave me the communication skills and experience I needed to get my first proper STEM job out of University, laying an important foundation for my career in science, ” says Alistair Grevis-James.

My name is Alistair Grevis-James. I am 29 years old, a former In2science mentor, and currently work full time at CSL Limited (Parkville, Melbourne) as an analytical biochemist. I help create biopharmaceuticals to treat serious illnesses, including haemophilia (an inability for the blood to clot), hereditary angioedema (a genetic condition that causes potentially life threatening swelling) and diabetic nephropathy (damage to the kidneys caused by diabetes). I am one of those annoying people who absolutely loves their job!

For me, the In2science peer mentoring program was a critical stepping stone between university learning and working my first proper science job. Fuelled by the rhetoric in popular culture around climate science, nutrition and vaccination, I developed an interest in science communication during my undergraduate studies at the University of Melbourne.

I participated in the In2science program in my final undergraduate year, completing a placement at Northcote High School in a year 7 science class. In2science was my first ‘hands on’ experience with science communication and it was fascinating to work with young people who are grappling with the STEM content you yourself grappled with only a few years prior.

The In2science program was a critical stepping stone for my career. The communication skills and experience I gained allowed me to successfully apply for my first STEM job at Scitech (Perth, WA), as an Outreach Presenter. My next STEM role was working as an analytical chemist. My mix of experience was very well received in my interview, and I was able to discuss problem solving I performed during my In2science placement.

In my current role at CSL, my ability to collaborate with colleagues and to communicate scientific information effectively is just as important as my technical skills. Communicating my passion for science, explaining scientific concepts, and building mentoring relationships with students as an In2science mentor was a great way to develop these skills while at university.

The In2science program is of great benefit to the mentor, the teacher and the students. The program is well-structured, with an easily manageable time input. I would recommend the program to any tertiary student studying STEM who wants a unique and valuable experience.

 

Are you an In2science Alumni? We’d love to share your story! Get in touch via the In2science Alumni Network.

Meet an In2science Alumnus: Anthony Gonzales

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In2science mentor Alex Dellios with host teacher and In2science alumnus Anthony Gonzales at Epping Secondary College

In2science mentor Alex Dellios with host teacher and In2science alumnus Anthony Gonzales at Epping Secondary College.

We caught up with In2science mentor alumnus, Anthony Gonzales, now a teacher at Epping Secondary College. Anthony recognises the value of having an In2science mentor in his classroom and is now hosting his second mentor, Alex Dellios, in his year 8 maths class. We asked Anthony to reflect on his time volunteering with In2science and how it helped him get to where he is today.

Anthony, what year/s did you volunteer for In2science and what were you studying at the time? I volunteered in 2004 to 2005. I was completing a Bachelor of Science/Bachelor of Science Education degree at La Trobe University at the time.

What inspired you to pursue teaching as a career, and what did you learn from your mentoring experience? I decided to pursue teaching simply because I love being around young people and that I always felt I was able to explain pretty hard maths topics using everyday language. There is also that ’emotional factor’ when it comes to maths for most students to which I could identify with and address. My mentoring experience confirmed that teaching was what I wanted to do. I also learnt that students are always welcome to having visitors in their classroom.

Tell us about your In2science placement. I completed about 3 placements for the In2science program. My first placement was at Eltham High School in a Year 7 Science class. One week I was given the opportunity to take a class and I decided to give a ‘Playground Physics’ lesson. We walked to the local playground and the students conducted experiments on the slides and the playground equipment. The students had an enjoyable time as it was a lesson that was different to what they were used to.

What was the best thing about mentoring? The best thing about mentoring was simply being in a classroom full of kids. Students are always great fun and it was a great stepping stone for me before I got into my teaching placements.

Anthony Gonzales, In2science alumnus and maths teacher at Epping Secondary College

Anthony Gonzales, In2science alumnus and maths teacher at Epping Secondary College.

What was one of the biggest challenges about mentoring? It was the nerves of being in a new environment. However that quickly became a non-issue after a couple of sessions with the class.

What has been the biggest change in your approach to education since you were at uni? It has been ensuring that the class values a positive learning environment and that the best classroom environment is when a strong relationship between the teacher and the students has been established. Relationships are everything.

Why did you decide to host In2science mentors and what do you hope your students will gain from them? I decided to host In2science mentors simply so that I could give back to the program which helped me along the way to becoming a teacher. I hope my students can see that there are people out there who are simply giving of their time and wanting to engage with them both as people and as students.

What advice would you give other university students looking to get involved in In2science? I would say simply give it a go! It’s an experience not every uni student has the opportunity to have. It’s not every day that you are able to come into a classroom to experience what it’s like to be on the other side of the table.

 

Are you an In2science Alumni? We’d love to share your story! Get in touch via the In2science Alumni Network.

In2science eMentoring recognised at Regional Leadership Award night

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In2science eMentoring Coordinator Robyn Gamble (left) and Program Manager Joanna Oreo (right) accept the nomination for the Regional Development Victoria Leadership and Innovation Award from Bank of Melbourne CEO Michelle Winzer. Credit: Victorian Regional Achievement Community Awards.

The In2science eMentoring program received a nomination for the prestigious Regional Development Victoria Leadership and Innovation Award at the recent Regional Achievement and Community Awards. The nomination was presented by Bank of Melbourne CEO Michelle Winzer at a gala event held in Flemington on October 13th 2017.

In2science eMentoring was recognised as the first successful online STEM mentoring program for regional Victoria. During the 10-week program, secondary students cover a range of topics with volunteer eMentors from La Trobe, RMIT, Swinburne and Melbourne Universities over an interactive platform, and take a virtual tour of their universities. This recognition was a significant acknowledgement of the success of the eMentoring program, which was among 220 nominations received from across Victoria.

The Victorian Regional Achievement and Community Awards started in 2002 and are designed to encourage, acknowledge and reward the valuable contributions that individuals, communities and businesses make throughout regional and rural Victoria. These awards aim to recognise their success and achievements, which contribute to making regional Victoria a better place.

Read more about the latest successes of the In2science eMentoring program here.