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

By | News

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.”  

 

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 | 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! 

 

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

By | 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.

 

Meet In2science alumnus, Jett Osborne – ANZ graduate leader at Thermo Fisher Scientific

By | News, Profiles

In2science and pursuing a university STEM degree can lead to incredible career opportunities. Meet Jett Osborne, who went from graduating secondary school in a small New South Wales coastal town to joining global biotechnology company Thermo Fisher Scientific’s Graduate Leadership Program.

Jett’s STEM career started in rural NSW when he saw an interview from the Vice-President of genetics at GSK, Dr. Allen Roses, igniting a passion for science that saw him enrolling in Biomedical Science at RMIT University. During his degree, Jett joined In2science as an in-class mentor and eMentor of regional school students, totaling 20 weeks of mentoring before graduating university in early 2020.

As the youngest of 7 children and the first in his family to attend university, Jett had many relatable qualities that made him a successful In2science mentor. One of his favourite In2science memory was being a mentor in a Year 9 science class at a low socio-economic boys school in Melbourne’s West. When recalling the placement, Jett says,

“Here, science was an arduous learning experience rather than something to ever be passionate about. In my first practical lab experience, 4 out of 22 kids brought their lab coats because it was better doing nothing than participating in experiments. So, I spent my entire 10 weeks coming up with a fun, but informative science experience and then spent every week advertising it to the students. I worked hard to shift the students’ opinion of STEM such that on my final day, when I ran the practical, I had 17 our of 22 students bring their lab coats to participate in my science experiment.”

Mentoring with In2science helped Jett develop professional skills, like time management, communication and leadership skills, which made him more competitive in the job market. He won a place in the highly competitive Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP) where he conducted research in malaria genetics at Bio21 Molecular Science and Biotechnology Institute. He was given another opportunity to further develop his passion for biopharmaceutical innovation and precision medicine a year later when he received the New Colombo Plan scholarship from Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, which allowed him to travel all throughout the Asia-Pacific region and reside in countries like Hong Kong, Vietnam and Japan for over a year.

COVID-19 brought Jett home to Australia where he joined Thermo Fisher Scientific’s graduate program. Jett is participating in three diverse functional areas within the organisation to get a real feel of the intersection between scientific research and business over two years. Jett wants to continue using his science background to provide value to challenging and high impact global projects.

Overall, Jett agrees that participating in In2science had many benefits and he’s left with wonderful memories. “During my time at In2science I have made numerous amazing connections and lifelong friendships. My advice would be to just apply for it!”

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

Toyota Community Trust to help enhance In2science mentor impact

By | News

In2science is thrilled to once again partner with Toyota Community Trust to expand and deepen our impact and help build In2science mentors’ leadership capacity. With Toyota’s generous support, In2science will recruit and train 34 additional university student mentors from our partner universities. In2science will also foster partnerships with 4 new schools, 2 in the west and 2 in regional/rural Victoria, enabling us to reach up to 240 extra students per semester. Building on a successful project funded by Toyota in 2019, In2science mentors will increase STEM engagement, promoting STEM career aspirations and increasing understanding of connections between STEM curriculum and careers.

This grant will also enable In2science to establish a Mentor Leaders Program, providing an opportunity for 25 returning and experienced In2science mentors to accelerate their leadership capacity by supporting a designated group of new In2science mentors who are completing their first placement. Excitingly, In2science mentors will be matched with a STEM professional so that they can further enhance their understanding of the myriad STEM career pathways available. This additional mentoring tier will help to bridge the missing links between STEM Industry, universities and schools, for deeper awareness of STEM careers.

In2science is one of eight organisations to have received funding in 2021 to encourage young people to pursue STEM-related study and careers. The Toyota Community Foundation STEM grants forms an ongoing legacy since the closing of manufacturing operations in Australia.

Back to school with In2science!

By | News

It has been twelve months since In2science mentors stepped foot in Victorian classrooms. This time last year, schools across Victoria were met with the monumental challenge of shifting their curriculum online because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Some In2science mentors were lucky enough to visit students twice before the state was plunged into a lockdown that lasted a total of 111 days.

This year, the mood is significantly improved. Mentors met each other for training in-person for the first time on campus. More importantly, they were excited to be allowed back into the classroom.

Catriona Vi Nguyen-Robertson, a PhD candidate in Microbiology and Immunology at the Peter Doherty Institute with The University of Melbourne, is mentoring at Maribyrnong College. After her first session she said she is most looking forward to “sharing my passion for science with the students…and of course, singing songs about their studies!”.

Software Engineering student, Kazi Kabir spent his first session chatting about his experience at La Trobe University. He answered lots of questions about computer science, including how Minecraft is related to the field. “I had a great time with the kids!… Definitely a win”, he said.

Joseph Araniakulathil who is mentoring a Year 8 science class at St Peter’s College, Cranbourne had a successful week too. As a student completing Biomedical Engineering at Swinburne University of Technology, he was keen to see that the students had a general curiosity about science, which made engaging with them so much easier.

“I had a wonderful first session with my Year 7 class at Coburg High School working on classification systems for biology”, says Elowen Amos from The University of Melbourne. Elowen studies Geology so she was excited when the students had lots of questions about the subject, including what the oldest rocks are and if she has seen any of them.

Teachers are noticing a difference in engagement already. Lakshmi Sharma, the teacher of Elowen’s class sent glowing feedback to In2science’s coordinator at The University of Melbourne, Hayden Dalton, saying that Elowen’s presence has been wonderful. “The kids love her and was just brilliant with them”, Lakshmi glowed. Because of Elowen’s experience in geology, Lakshmi also confirmed she will be talking to the Year 9s separately about rocks and volcanoes for a lesson in their Earth Sciences unit, “the kids are going to love it to have an expert person talk to them – she is such a superstar!”

So far, 94 mentors will be going into classrooms in metropolitan Melbourne, a huge positive difference compared to the challenging circumstances of last year. We look forward to their success stories and the advice they will pass onto new mentors who sign up to future semesters with In2science. It is a great achievement to be back doing what we love and sharing the amazing things STEM has to offer in everyday life and beyond school.

In2science’s impact in 2020

By | News

As the huge challenges associated with COVID-19 became apparent 12 months ago, In2science swung into action to ensure that we could continue supporting schools, teachers and students. As everyone grappled with the impacts of social-distancing restrictions, remote learning and elevated anxiety levels, In2science consulted with mentors and teachers, and developed a range of options to offer schools our support.

Adapting the program and upskilling our mentors so that they could continue mentoring online ensured that In2science could continue to foster students’ enthusiasm for STEM. As such, In2science placed 239 mentors in 55 partner schools, reaching 2,314 students.

The In2science mentors’ unwavering commitment to supporting teachers and students, all the while facing their own challenges, is reflected in the outstanding feedback received.

“The support and care that mentors gave our students was the highlight of the term for the students and also for us, as it really contextualized their learning and provided many benefits.” – Stephanie Brown, Teacher, Bundoora Secondary College

Consistent with past evaluations, 92% of teachers noticed students engaged more in the lesson with a mentor present, with 93% agreeing that the mentor was a good role model for students. Importantly, teachers who hosted mentors last year were immensely grateful for the mentors’ presence, resulting in a Net Promoter Score–characterised as a measure of how likely a teacher is to recommend the program to a colleague–of 100, the maximum possible score.

 

The support mentors received from teachers and In2science coordinators is also reflected in the exceptional feedback provided. In 2020, In2science mentors’ adaptability, commitment and professionalism was on display. Indeed, 97% of mentors agreed that In2science developed skills they will use in the future, with 85% feeling that they had a positive impact during their placement.

“Being a mentor has definitely put me outside my comfort zone but has taught me so many new skills and grown my confidence so much.” –Emma Holder, Swinburne University of Technology

Ultimately, the impact on students was dramatic, with 77% of students who interacted with a mentor realising that everyone can study science. Importantly, the evidence is clear: the frequency of interaction with a mentor has a significant positive impact on students’ attitudes towards science and maths, and STEM study (see below).

“This has been a really rewarding progam. I feel as though I am more motivated and inspired to get into science when I’m older” – Yr 8 student, Virtual School Victoria

Once again, In2science would like to express our sincere gratitude for the commitment and support of our outstanding partner schools, teachers and mentors, especially throughout these most challenging of times.

In2science mentor, Emma Holder shares how her high school experience motivated her to mentor at university

By | News, Profiles

In high school, In2science mentor Emma Holder was lucky to have a teacher who had significant influence on her decision to study science at university. This teacher would often go on “mind-bending tangents during class” and Emma was left inspired by someone who was so intelligent and engaging, which in turn influenced her own curiosity and ambition.

This high school experience was an important motivator in Emma starting her own In2science journey when commencing studies at Swinburne University of Technology. Emma notes, “I wanted a chance to have a similar impact on someone, improve my science communication skills and break down stereotypes to inspire more gender diversity in the field”.

At Swinburne, Emma is completing a Bachelor of Science, majoring in physics with a minor in applied mathematics. This combination of specialisation and insight made for a perfect placement when Emma was matched with a Year 8 maths class at St Joseph’s College in Ferntree Gully in Semester 1. The placement was off to a challenging start when the COVID-19 pandemic forced all students to transition to remote learning. However, Emma was able to work weekly with a small group of students online. These students needed some extension to keep them motivated during this unprecedented time, so Emma focused on collaborative problem solving to keep them engaged.

In Semester 2 Emma took on an additional Year 12 student mentee with whom she quickly developed a rapport. Emma says, “Although most of our sessions were not focused on STEM subjects, we spent hours having deep philosophical conversations, sharing life experiences and talking about our hobbies. I felt like we formed a really lovely friendship”.

For Emma, the most rewarding thing about her studies is how natural phenomena can be described using mathematical language. Emma elaborates, “Physics is a field with so many real-world applications and there is always something new to learn that will make your brain hurt”. When thinking about life after university, Emma doesn’t know what she wants to do yet, but is fascinated by postgraduate studies in quantum or optical science.

We asked Emma what she’d like to say to the students in her In2science class as the year’s end approaches and she replied, “The people that do what they love are always the coolest in my eyes. I’ve learned that it’s important to be curious and open-minded, and that learning does not happen just from study, but from everything around you. For me, developing a passion for learning has been essential for my studies, but even more importantly… for my personal growth”.

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 celebrates 2020 with its first online Awards Showcase

By | Events, News

In2science’s Annual Awards is the most highly anticipated event of the year, providing an opportunity to honour achievements of participating schools, teachers, mentors and students throughout Victoria.  For the first time in this program’s history, In2science shared the stories of our very worthy Award recipients in a video showcase.

In2science Program Director, Dr Alison Every led the proceedings and Acknowledgment of Country before The Honourable Professor John Brumby AO, Chair of the In2science Advisory Board, took to the camera. In his keynote speech, Professor Brumby reflected on the challenges of the year, thanking all those involved in the In2science community for a successful year in STEM peer mentoring.

Dr Every spoke at length about the launch of In2science at The University of Western Australia and introduced the first In2science award winner from Western Australia. Other mentor finalists were unaware if they had won until the premiere, building even greater excitement! We heard from our outstanding mentee awardees, who sent videos from their homes or at school to reflect on how important their In2science mentors were during such a tumultuous year.

“This has been a really rewarding program. I feel as though I am more motivated and inspired to get into science when I’m older. Not only that, I’ve made friends. I feel I’ve had someone to talk to, who’s like me. – Alex, Year 8 student

St Joseph’s College, Ferntree Gully, Science Leader, and In2science alumnus, Nick Harvey, was a worthy winner of the Mentor Support Award, after receiving significant praise from mentor, Emma. Bundoora Secondary College, winners of the School Engagement Award were one of the first schools in 2020 to invite In2science to mentor 30 of their Big Picture Academy students during remote learning. Mentors joined small groups of school students online during remote learning to help them visualise their STEM projects. The positive impact of these interactions on the students was evident as they thanked their mentors for their support.

After the broadcast of the Awards Showcase, supporters of In2science, our mentors, finalists, award winners and their families were invited to a private celebration event. Professor Brumby introduced our special guest, Victorian STEM Education Ambassador Dr Tien Kieu MP, who gave a humbling speech about the importance of STEM education and lifelong learning, noting that persistence is the key to addressing the challenges of today, because even experts in their fields can still find their disciplines difficult.

“As a professional scientist, physicist in fact, I still find science very difficult, but rewarding. It is difficult, there is not illusion about that. It is so important for students to have availability to speak to someone who can explain the concepts and answer the questions, but equally important is for people to share their own experiences.” – Dr Tien Kieu MP, VIC STEM Education Ambassador

After the formal proceedings, The University of Melbourne coordinators Julia Cleghorn and Hayden Dalton led the participants through a friendly quiz before the In2science team initiated private rooms for groups of 4 participants to get to know each other. The groups were diverse and included In2science Advisory Board members, mentors, In2science team members, school and industry representatives and friends and families of award winners. This diversity enabled conversations that were stimulating and dynamic, with topics ranging from “What’s your STEM journey?” to “Memorable experiences of 2020”. To finish, participants reflected on their group conversations and a hugely challenging, but ultimately, rewarding, year, before Dr Every formally closed the event.

In2science would like to sincerely thank Boeing for their generous support in sponsoring In2science’s first online Awards Showcase. Special thanks to Dr Tien Kieu MP for joining our celebration event. We would like to acknowledge our program partners, The Victorian Department of Education and Training, CSL Behring, the Howmet Aerospace Foundation and to Dr Peter Laver and the Selby Scientific Foundation for their generous support.

 

 

There’s no party like a Zoom party: In2science mentors test their STEM skills and interrogate their coordinators

By | News

It is the middle of yet another challenging semester where Melbourne remains in lockdown. Exams are looming and placements will soon be wrapping up for the year. Apart from small picnics with close friends, there are few other things besides falling COVID-19 cases to look forward to. However, the In2science team always have something up their sleeves. To lift spirits and connect with our outstanding community of volunteer university student mentors, we organised an online event that celebrated the enthusiasm, diverse experiences and incredible minds of this huge, multi-university family.

 

Forty-five mentors from La Trobe University, The University of Melbourne, Swinburne University of Technology, RMIT University and Monash University spent a Thursday evening online to partake in a few hours of laughter and friendly competition. The session was hosted by our talented University of Melbourne coordinators, Hayden Dalton and Julia Cleghorn, who began the proceedings by randomly creating small groups of mentors from our partner universities. This was a unique challenge for participants because it is a rare thing to partner up with people you don’t necessarily know in social gatherings. However, one of the amazing benefits of the In2science program is that it brings together like-minded individuals from multiple universities in a space to interact where they would not normally.

Each group created a team name and participated in games and quizzes to test their diverse general knowledge and STEM skills. The prize was worth competing for; UberEats vouchers and potential free dinners were at stake! Once the winning team was crowned the next item on the agenda was something the other In2science coordinators were not looking forward to.

For the remainder of the evening, each In2science University Coordinator was invited to share their university and STEM journey in one minute before throwing themselves at the mercy of the mentors in the room. Mentors were invited to ask anything of their coordinators, and In2science Director, Alison Every fielded the questions to an eager crowd.

Two hours went by in a blink of an eye. In2science mentors and coordinators learned much from each other and felt more connected than ever. For a few hours the challenges of the year were forgotten, and we were reminded of what we can look forward to when they are finally behind us.

Thank you to everyone who participated in our special event, it was a memorable experience that In2science hopes to replicate as soon as we can – and in person, too.