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.

eMentors ‘Twinning’ in 2018

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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

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The diversity of the 2018 In2science volunteer university mentors is immense and they are continually impressing the In2science team. From reading each mentors 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 specalised 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 on 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.

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.

In2science Wins Australasian Peer Leader Award

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In2science team members Joanna Oreo (2nd from left), Dr Maddy Yewers, Oliver Barrand and Artem Bourov accept the 2017 Australasian Peer Leader Award for Outstanding Peer Educator Team, with Melissa Zaccagnini (end left) and Melissa Stephen (end right) of the National Centre for Peer Assisted Study Sessions, University of Wollongong.

In2science team members Joanna Oreo (2nd from left), Dr Maddy Yewers, Oliver Barrand and Artem Bourov accept the 2017 Australasian Peer Leader Award for Outstanding Peer Educator Team, with Melissa Zaccagnini (end left) and Melissa Stephen (end right) of the National Centre for Peer Assisted Study Sessions, University of Wollongong.

This week In2science was proud to accept the 2017 Australasian Peer Leader Award for Outstanding Peer Educator Team, presented by the National Centre for Peer Assisted Study Sessions (PASS) of the University of Wollongong. The award was presented at the prestigious annual PASS and Peer Learning Conference in Melbourne, whose theme was creating connections, celebrating partnerships. The PASS Conference and Awards bring together university educators and students from across Australasia to showcase best practice and innovation in peer assisted learning.

The In2science team was recognised for the innovation they have shown in developing a unique university-school peer mentoring program that increases student engagement and aspirations in Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM). This collaborative multi-university partnership, governed by an In2science advisory board chaired by the Hon Prof John Brumby AO, demonstrates an effective strategic direction for increasing STEM engagement among students.

The In2science program places volunteer STEM university students into science and maths classes in low Socio-Economic Status (SES) high schools. The volunteers act as role models and peer mentors for the secondary students, working with them once per week over a 10-week period. In2science was recognised for creating collaborative partnerships between universities and schools via metropolitan in-class mentoring and regional online eMentoring. In2science has maintained partnerships with four universities (La Trobe, Melbourne, RMIT and Swinburne) and 61 schools in the past three years. The program has coordinated over 2,500 mentor placements and helped support over 59,000 students over the last 13 years.

The judges of the award applied a number of criteria in making their decision. Winners were selected for their quality contribution to student learning and developing a culture of peer learning; as well as demonstrating  a strong understanding and delivery of peer learning theories and research within their own mentoring program. The Award winners  were also recognised for their outstanding performance, commitment and leadership.