Volunteering Victoria Awards finalist, Thank you In2science!

By | News, Profiles

by Patrick Taylor

I first applied to become an In2science peer mentor at the start of 2021 at RMIT University, and after attending the training sessions, I was ready to be placed at a school and get started. Unfortunately, due to COVID-19, my placement was indefinitely postponed until schools reopened. However, this didn’t stop me! While all the schools were physically closed, many opened their firewalls for online mentoring, and although I wasn’t part of the standard eMentoring program, I participated in a range of “Meet the Scientists” sessions at various schools.

When schools finally opened in late 2021 I was selected to participate in RMIT’s Regional Roadshow because of my work with In2science. This outreach program involved engaging with students and running STEM workshops in remote schools across regional Victoria. While at the different P-12 schools in disadvantaged regions, I was able to apply my In2science mentoring skills to a range of different age groups in very active and engaging ways with fellow mentors.

My participation in the In2science program and willingness to help train other mentors resulted in me receiving the Boeing-sponsored 2021 In2science STEM Champion award. I also co-facilitated computer science workshops and trained other mentors to do the same, while also sharing my education journey in computational chemistry with multiple schools online.

This year, I could finally begin my In2science placement at South Oakleigh Secondary College. Here I run a unique style of sessions, where myself and four mentees are undertaking a research project titled, “Carbon Nanomaterials”. This supports students on how to conduct basic research, create a presentation, and model nanomaterials.

In early 2022, I received an ominous message from Dr. William Sullivan, RMIT University’s In2science coordinator that read, “I’m going to send you a document to sign…. please sign it and think nothing of it”. A few weeks later another email appeared in my inbox that read, “We are emailing you to confirm that you have been shortlisted for the 2021 Volunteering Awards in the category of Inclusive Volunteering”!  Because I participated in RMIT University’s Regional Roadshow and volunteered with In2science, I was named a finalist at the 2021 Volunteering Victoria Awards at Government House for the Inclusive Volunteering Award.

In my spare time, I’m also completing my PhD at RMIT University on the discovery of novel nanomaterials for the miniaturisation of electronic components. I love to explain my research as, “playing with really small pieces of Lego” whenever I’m talking to students. I also love attending live music concerts, playing basketball, and collecting rubber ducks.

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.

Mentor Leaders Program 2022: Round Two

By | News, Profiles

by Rachel Ella

I was lucky enough to be selected as one of the In2science Leaders to take part in Mentor Leaders Program in 2021, an In2science initiative generously supported by Toyota Community Trust. This program was designed to give In2science mentors who have had demonstrated exceptional leadership and mentoring skills, the opportunity to be matched with STEM Professional Mentors and become In2science Leaders. The STEM Professional Mentors provide mentorship to the In2science Leaders enabling them to gain insight into STEM career pathways and life after university. The matched pairs met at least four times over a three-month period to discuss pathways from university into industry, career values, leadership, motivation, success and failure, planning and time management amongst many other topics.

I was, and still am, on the pathway to becoming a secondary school science and maths teacher. The team at In2science did a great job of matching me with an amazing STEM Professional Mentor who had already walked the path I am on. As well has being able to share her experience in the world of education, my mentor is also a mother, so many of our conversations revolved around time management, boundaries, self-care, setting goals for the day, week, month, or year and celebrating your wins, no matter how small. We have continued our relationship since the completion of the program which has included assistance with job applications and modernising my CV. I truly value the connection we made and the support she provided and continues to provide me.

Due to the state of the world last year and all of us having to negotiate lockdowns, home learning and isolation, most mentoring sessions occurred online. Fortunately, we all adapted to the situation and made it work. A few of us were able to meet with our mentor face-to-face at least once towards the end of the program but many had their first in-person interactions at our wrap up event at Toyota headquarters in Port Melbourne. Even with these challenges, the program was a great success.

Sixteen mentor/mentee pairs completed the program. The feedback provided was outstanding, with In2science mentors reporting improvements in the leadership and professional skills because of their participation. Importantly, STEM Professional mentors also experienced significant benefit from their participation with 100% of survey respondents reporting that they felt better equipped to mentor their junior colleagues. This is reflected in the net promoter score of 83 and the 14 STEM Professional mentors returning for 2022.

This year, I have transitioned from being a participant in the MLP to coordinating the Mentor Leaders Program. This has been an enjoyable progression and I have been able to provide a unique perspective on the MLP from a participant’s viewpoint.

A review of the 2021 MLP was undertaken, and a few improvements were made.  The biggest was extending the MLP to run over 8 months instead of 3, with at least 8 meetings to take place during that time. This change was crucial to allow a deeper relationship to develop between the In2science Leader and their STEM Professional Mentor. The 2022 program was launched in late April and several initial meetings have already taken place, in-person and online, with the feedback being that everyone is looking forward to developing their personal and professional skills and their relationships with their mentors/mentees.

In second semester we will be running the second part of the MLP – Small Group STEM Careers Sessions. In collaboration with their host classroom teacher, our In2science Leaders will work with a small group of students in their class and engage them in meaningful career discussions. They will ask the students to discuss their own interests, hobbies, and skills and who inspires them before using those answers to reflect on how science and maths relates to these. Overall, we are looking forward to the launching this part of the program and inspiring the next generation of STEM Professionals.

The pleasure of presence: Returning eMentor, Chukwunonso Anyaoku, reflects on his In2science experience

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In2science mentors undergo vigorous training to prepare them for a placement with Victorian secondary school classrooms. A learning tool we love to use before entering a class is storytelling. At each training session, In2science invites past mentors to join coordinators in building the connection between verbal instruction and practice. Returning mentors reflect on their placements of previous semesters, sharing their experience and advice to help the new cohort feel empowered and confident before beginning their first placement.

Chukwunonso Anyaoku, a PhD candidate studying Chemical Engineering at RMIT University, joined In2science in 2021 and offered his valuable insight to the 2022 cohort of eMentors. Like many university students, Chukwunonso was looking for a job to support himself and when finding In2science, took some time to decide if it was something he wanted to pursue at the time. In the end, he discovered that the opportunity he was given, money could not compensate. It was more valuable than he ever realised.

Chukwunonso is an eMentor. eMentors support small groups of students with online mentoring and Chukwunonso’s first placement was with one student. In his first placement he was paired with, what their teacher described as, a reserved and shy student from Virtual School Victoria. However, due to the tailored nature of the eMentoring model, Chukwunonso was pleasantly disappointed. His eMentee quickly came out of their shell, “the placement takes on the personality of you and your mentee. It eventually ends up being your world and you can bend and shape things to your strengths.”

To his fellow eMentors he shared 4 discoveries:

  1. Use all the resources at your disposal. Your greatest resource at the beginning is the teacher. The teacher already knows what the student may be like, what their strengths are, what their weaknesses are. Ask the teacher and you can hit the ground running.
  2. In2science training works. Sometimes there are curveballs but remember your training. It is priceless.
  3. You get to form a real connection with a small group of students (in eMentoring). It allowed me to craft the sessions to my eMentee’s benefit.
  4. Expect pleasant surprises. For me, it was discovering that mentoring provided emotional security for my student. The session will take on the personalities of you and your eMentees. You yourself more at home than you thought possible. You will also find that your anecdotes are so appropriate. It is an authentic experience.

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

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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.

 

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.

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

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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.

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

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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 mentors create online resources for classrooms with The Content Creation Project

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   The mentors of In2science are passionate about sharing their love of STEM. With many unable to do so in classrooms this year, we decided to find more innovative ways for these enthusiastic volunteer university students to provide a different style of science engagement to the future scientists, technologists, engineers and mathematicians of Melbourne.

The Content Creation Project was launched to siphon mentors’ communication skills and knowledge into free online resources that teachers and students can access at any time to enhance their learning experience.

 

These resources can be used to introduce a topic to students, assist their learning or provide extension to enthusiastic individuals. Vivian’s video has already been presented to a Year 8 biology class and Sarah’s revision content has been shared with regional VCE Biology In2science mentees.

The In2science Content Creation Project has enabled our mentors to produce and share inspiring STEM content that relates to their studies or personal interest. This innovative approach has enabled mentors to continue engaging with our partner schools despite the multiple transitions students have faced this year.

You can find all In2science resources at our Youtube channel, and on Twitter or Facebook

Enjoy the ride: How In2science mentor, Julia Ogon encourages students to find their passion and never stop learning

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Julia Ogon, an In2science mentor from RMIT University wants high school students to know that choosing to study something you are passionate about is as important as being mindful of where it will take you. It is a stressful thing to consider as a young adult and is the main reason she chose to become an In2science mentor.

“I wish I had someone to give me advice and share their personal experience before deciding on schools and degrees”, Julia writes. By mentoring and helping in classes she wanted to show younger students that it was okay to not follow the most common path to your goals and “anything can be achieved if you just go for it, no matter your age.”

Julia combined her love for creativity and mechanical systems by pursuing a double degree in Mechanical Engineering and Industrial Design. Julia’s main drive in doing something multi-disciplinary was to make sure it was something that evoked passion and was useful in solving real-world problems.

Her studies took her to Spain last year where she completed an internship at an international research facility, focusing on Metal Additive Manufacturing and 3D printing in Barcelona. “It was one of the best years of my life”, she reflects, because in addition to practising mechanical engineering and design Julia immersed herself in a new culture. When Julia returned to Melbourne, she immediately signed up to In2science so she could share her experience with others.

Although it has been a rocky year, with a limited opportunity to mentor in classrooms, it hasn’t stopped Julia from thinking outside the box. Along with joining weekly virtual classrooms at Keysborough College, Julia has participated in the In2science content creation project, where mentors make short videos for teachers to share with students in their online classes. Her first video explores the endless possibilities of 3D printing.

When asked about her In2science experience and what advice to give to university students interested in joining, Julia says, “Mentoring is a lot of fun, very rewarding and does not take up a lot of your time. Being able to pass on experience and advice is an important step”, but more importantly “your contribution may inspire someone to realise what their future can be!”

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.

Problem-solving and curiosity is the heart of engineering, says In2science mentor Jacob Maynard

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Engineering is more than mathematical equations and building blocks. In2science mentor, Jacob Maynard has been debunking these stereotypes in his class at South Oakleigh College since he joined the program in 2019. For Jacob, who is studying a Bachelor of Engineering (Hons) at Monash University, engineering is ultimately about curiosity and problem-solving.

Jacob specialises in “materials engineering” and chose to pursue this degree because “it is challenging, but so rewarding when you get your head around a new concept or figure out a way to solve a problem”. He joined In2science because he wanted to share his experiences with younger people. Practically, he got the opportunity to demonstrate this by leading a physics experiment about light and remembers this as being a significant highlight of his placement. He says, “It was really cool to be able to combine my scientific knowledge of the topic with the relationships I had built with the students over the semester”.

To take this passion for engineering further, Jacob wants to work in the sustainability and renewables sector. When asked why, Jacob elaborates, “Engineering provides you with a better understanding of how the things we take for granted in our everyday lives actually work and why they’ve been designed the way they have, but also encourages you to challenge those ideas and constantly search for ways to improve them”. This philosophy gives Jacob the motivation to develop materials that can decrease human impact on the environment. He is open to all the career pathways engineering allows and says, “as long as I am doing my part to arrest climate change and maintain our natural environment then I will be satisfied”.

“It was really cool to be able to combine my scientific knowledge of the topic with the relationships I had built with the students over the semester.” – Jacob Maynard, In2science mentor at South Oakleigh College

When reflecting on the In2science program, Jacob says that the experience is an amazing professional development opportunity for university students. In addition to networking within a dynamic and rich community of like-minded STEM enthusiasts and professionals, Jacob says that university students looking to get involved in In2science should, “Do it! Being able to share your experience with younger students to help them on their journey and extend their understanding of science is extremely rewarding”. After all, “curiosity if one of the most important ingredients of learning”.

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.