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.”  

 

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.

Mentors unpack the importance and diversity of studying plant health in The International Year of Plant Health

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In2science mentor Matthew James trekking up Mount Kilimanjaro.

In2science mentor, Matthew James has been around trees his entire life. As a child, bushwalks with his dad piqued Matthew’s interest in the complexity and diversity of trees. Therefore, it made sense to direct his passion to study a Master of Urban Horticulture at the University of Melbourne while mentoring for In2science and working as a consulting Arborist to practice what he learns daily.

Similarly, mentor Ivy Vrousgos, from La Trobe University, has always been interested in cultivating plants in her garden and helping them flourish. It made Ivy want to begin a Bachelor of Science, but she only decided to major in Botany and Environmental Geoscience after learning about plant evolution inspired her as an undergraduate.

There are moments in life when enough curiosity inspires you to explore a passion further in your education. For Ivy it was in a lecture theatre and for Matthew, looking at a leaf cell through a microscope and learning about photosynthesis for the first time. These moments are opportune, because the health of plants throughout the world is increasingly under threat due to climate change caused by human activity. The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations (UN) estimates that 40% of agricultural crops are lost annually because of reduced biodiversity and increased trade. This spreads pests and diseases to new areas where they can thrive and causes devastating effects because plants are vital to food security worldwide.

Once plant pests and diseases have established themselves in crops, they are almost impossible to eradicate. The effort required to manage them is expensive and time consuming.  In the wake of a new decade, the United Nations General Assembly declared 2020 as the International Year Of Plant Health (IYPH) because, at the very least, protecting plants from pests and diseases is substantially more cost-effective than international plant health disasters.

This renewed awareness in plant and ecosystem health is welcomed by mentors Ivy and Matthew, who study different areas in botany at La Trobe University and the University of Melbourne, but still share a desire to improve the health of the plant species in their respective fields. Matthew wants to take the skills he learns in Urban Horticulture to improve his practice as an arborist and address some issues that plants face in an urban environment. Ivy’s goal is to merge the fields of ecology and agriculture to develop smarter cropping systems.

A 600-700 year old Red Gum tree in Dunkeld.

When discussing what the IYPH means to them, Matthew says that “healthy plants are resilient plants. We are already seeing the effects that the increase of temperature has on plants, particularly plants that don’t possess the adaptations needed to survive in the changing climate”. Ivy agreed, adding that, “Plant health is an important aspect to our very existence, so it is very important for people to understand this”.

Practical ways that we can contribute to protecting our plants include limiting transportation of plants and plant products internationally, reducing our carbon footprint, connecting with our policymakers to encourage investment in plant health research and using environmentally sensitive methods of pest and disease reduction such as integrated pest management.

Plants make up 80% of the food we eat and provide 98% of the oxygen we breathe. The FAO estimates that agricultural production must rise to 60% by 2050 in order to feed the world’s growing population, despite climate change generally reducing the quality and quantity of crops.

If you’re inspired by plants and the importance of protecting them, it may be worth considering taking your curiosity further. The breadth of courses you can undertake in plant health is huge. Botany is no longer one course or subject, but forms large areas of study that results in transferable skills that overlap many fields including genetics, geoscience, urban horticulture and economics. As In2science mentors, Matthew and Ivy share these passions in the classroom, helping to guide students to pursue their interest in practical ways and find things that make them curious, because you never know where that might take you.

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.

Passion can be contagious: Changing mindsets in the classroom for the better

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“I’ve always had a passion for science, and I know that given the right environment this passion can be contagious.”

Vivian began her In2science journey in late 2018 when her PhD supervisor told her about the program. “I discovered that In2science’s goal to build positive mindsets towards STEM subjects really resonated with me”. For Vivian, mentors not only empower high school students, but “break down negative stereotypes, such as the idea of science being ‘boring’ or ‘nerdy’”.

One way Vivian has done that in the classroom is to get her hands dirty… literally. “There have been two memorable experiences that stand out most from my placement… first where we conducted a sheep heart dissection, and the second was in my final session for the term was when I was lucky enough to be able to run my own class and give the students an ‘Introduction to Chemistry’ and show how it relates to the real world”.

In 10 short weeks Vivian has “seen a big change in the students’ mindset towards science…Even students who initially did not see a point in doing science as a school subject were able to realise that STEM has a role in each of our lives”. Like most mentors, Vivian says that the students are the best part of In2science. “Each class is different and being able to spend time with each student and talk to them about their future career goals is such a rewarding experience. It is great to see the students open up over time and be able to build trusting relationships”.

Personally, Vivian says that In2science has helped her refine her science communication skills and the ability to think on her feet, especially when asked so many challenging and insightful questions. These skills will help her in the future, as she is aiming to combine her passion for scientific research with promoting educational equity in schools. For now, Vivian is enjoying her postgraduate studies and mentoring for In2science. “I can’t wait for the next term to start,” she writes, “(and) to see if my class has continued with this positive mindset!”

Want to host an In2science mentor? Click here!

 

Mentor David helps students tackle real-life community STEM problems

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Often In2science mentors give their students unique opportunities to participate in real life STEM applications. Mentor David from The University of Melbourne is one of them. This year, David presented several workshops to high school students in the Hobson’s Bay City Council through the Creativity in Research, Engineering, Science and Techology (CREST) program run by the CSIRO.

In these workshops, David focused on applying scientific method to real challenges currently facing their community. David said the most enriching part was giving “them a chance to think about and question how they could use STEM to manipulate the world around them”.

David Gavaghan joined In2science in 2018 while completing his Bachelor of Science, majoring in Infection and Immunity at The University of Melbourne. He became a mentor because he wanted an opportunity to give back, “I believe that the education I received and the influences I had during my high school experience played a large role in where I am today…I wanted the opportunity to pay that forward and help to improve the outcomes of those students from less represented areas”.

According to David, “getting to experience the growth of the relationships you build with the students over a 10-week period” is the best part of In2science. This is David’s favourite part because over time “their curiosity and desire to engage with you and ask questions increases and you start to witness the true importance of your presence in their class”. When asked about challenges David says that coming in as a stranger is always the most daunting, but “it also provides a really great opportunity to apply your creativity and problem-solving skills to think of ways to get students excited about science as someone they relate to”.

This experience with In2science has also prompted David to pursue a postgraduate degree in Secondary Education. “In2science has helped me cement my passion for education and my desire to address the educational disparities that are currently being experienced within Australia. I want to continue to be the mentor and science communicator that In2science has allowed me to be”.

Want to host an In2science mentor? Click here!