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Meet a Mentor: Zack Yarak

By Profiles

Zack Yarak Zack Yarak

 What are you studying? I am currently studying a double degree, Bachelor of Engineering (Civil & Infrastructure) (Honours) / Bachelor of Business (Management) at RMIT University.

Tell us about your In2science placement: My placement was an amazing experience. Aside from giving me experience in working with young students and inspiring them to work hard in maths and science and pursue a career in those fields, it was also great fun. I got to meet a lot of young kids, and that brought me back to when I was their age, so it was quite nostalgic in that sense. I got to return to my old high school as well. It was very nice, as I got to see some of my old teachers, and the kids connected with me even more once they knew I attended the same school as them.

Why did you become an In2science mentor? I had an In2science mentor when I was in high school. I remember the impact it had on me and some of my decisions going into VCE and even university. I felt like this would be a good way to give back and help inspire young students the same way I was at that age. I am very passionate about engineering and wanted to encourage kids to gain an interest in maths and show them how it can be applied to exciting courses and careers. It was actually quite surprising to see how many students had an interest in engineering and how they can go about studying it in the future.

What’s the best thing about In2science? The best thing about In2science for me would have to be the positive vibes that come from everyone in this program. Everybody is very passionate about science and encouraging others to be interested in it. There is always a great exchange of ideas and stories and I believe this positivity and passion will flow into the younger generation who we mentor and they will continue to spread the good vibes and love of science.

What’s one of the biggest challenges about In2science? Honestly, I felt that the whole In2science experience went smoothly and I didn’t run into too many challenges. It was a little bit difficult to motivate certain kids who were completely disinterested in maths, but with some time and dedication, those kids even seemed to come around on it.

What inspired you to study what you are studying? I think the biggest inspiration for me which led me to the course I am studying were certain teachers and mentors along my high school journey. I think the importance of mentors cannot be understated. My year 11 and 12 physics teacher was probably the biggest reason I am studying this course and have such a strong passion for physics and engineering.

What do you want to do after you finish university and why? I want to work as a project manager on infrastructure projects around the world and eventually specialise in rebuilding infrastructure in third world countries. I am very eager to get out into the real world and work on projects that will help move society forward and create a better standard of living for everybody.

If you could have an hour to chat with any scientist, mathematician or engineer, who would it be and why? I would want to chat with Isaac Newton, he achieved so much in the fields of science and mathematics. He developed the three laws of motion which are integral to engineering as well as discovering calculus, one of the most important foundations for engineers that followed.


Want to become an In2science mentor? Click here!

Meet an eMentor: Lauren Grimes

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Lauren Grimes

What are you studying?  I am in my final year of the Science Double Degree Program at La Trobe University. Through this program I have been able to study two degrees; Bachelor of Biological Sciences and Bachelor of Animal and Veterinary Biosciences, with majors in Agriculture, Zoology and Microbiology (and a minor in Psychology).

Tell us about your In2science placement:  This was my first In2science placement, and to make it even more exciting I was lucky enough to be part of the eMentoring pilot program. This meant that all of my In2science sessions were run over a chat program online! I worked with four year 8 science students from Cobram Secondary College. Given that it was just myself and the students, we had the freedom to talk about whatever came up and focus on any particular areas each individual student was interested in or needed help with; no two weeks were the same!

Why did you become an In2science eMentor?  I believe that, unfortunately, many people view mathematics and science as daunting or difficult fields of study, and therefore avoid them completely. For me, being an In2science eMentor was about breaking down these stereotypes and showing that science and maths can be interesting and fun. I specifically liked the eMentoring as the students I worked with had an extra set of obstacles to overcome as they live in rural locations.

What’s the best thing about eMentoring?  I would have to say the small groups (as opposed to being with an entire class), as it allowed me to get to know each student well and tailor the topics we covered to suit their interests. Although it was through a computer screen, it seemed much more personal and relevant for everyone involved.

What’s one of the biggest challenges of eMentoring?  One of the interesting things about eMentoring is that there is no teacher present; just the mentor and the students. Sometimes this made it hard to prepare in advance for our sessions, as I didn’t always know what topics were being covered in class. It meant I had to think on my feet and be flexible – luckily I was trained up and had ample resources from In2science to help with sessions.

What inspired you to study science and mathematics?  I love that science and mathematics always have a correct, concrete answer or concept. On top of this, with science in particular, there is always more to discover! I find it really inspiring knowing that there is so much we don’t know about the world we live in and that I could be the one to discover something new!

What do you want to do after you finish university and why?  My degree has allowed me to study many different areas of science, and this appears to be a blessing and a curse at the same time! Each year I seem to fall in love with a new discipline (this year it’s microbiology) and this means I am constantly looking at different careers and pathways. My end goal is to work in biosecurity and animal health though.

If you could have an hour to chat with any scientist or mathematician, who would it be and why?  I would have to say Sigmund Freud! He was, and still is, a huge influence in the field of psychology and made so many interesting contributions. Although many of the theories he proposed have since been discredited, I would love to meet him to observe his personality and gain an insight into his absurd way of thinking.


Want to become an In2science mentor? Click here!

Meet a Mentor: Jaydene Pearson

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Jaydene Pearson Jaydene Pearson

What are you studying? I am currently in my final year of a Bachelor of Mechanical Engineering (Honours) at Swinburne University. I really enjoy engineering as it applies maths to the real world and is a field that is constantly changing and moving forward with innovating ideas.

Tell us about your In2science placement: This is my third placement with the In2science program and I’m enjoying it a lot. Currently I am placed at Rowville Secondary College working with a year 8 science class. The class is a part of the Maths and Science Academy they run at the school. They are an amazing group of students to work with, and many different personalities making each class exciting to walk into.

Why did you become an In2science mentor? I saw the program as an opportunity to give back to the community, while encouraging students to consider STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) careers. As one of very few girls in mechanical engineering it’s an opportunity to show students that you don’t have to fit the stereotype to pursue a career you want. Later on in my career teaching is definitely an option so it also gave me a little bit of insight into the workings of a classroom.

What’s the best thing about In2science? The best thing about In2Science is how it connects students to the possibilities offered in STEM careers and brings the real world to them. In high school it is often hard to connect what you’re learning to the world around you and bringing in university students to help do that is a brilliant idea.

What’s one of the biggest challenges about In2science? I found over my placements the biggest challenge was the dynamics of the classroom, sometimes students clashed and others struggled to keep quiet. But through talking with the teacher and training provided by In2science you start to build a repertoire of skills not only helpful for placement but that can be used in everyday life.

What inspired you to study science and mathematics? I have always loved maths and science growing up, and for me studying engineering was the natural progression. It combines all aspects of science and maths and applies it to real world problems. It inspires me knowing what engineers can do to help improve the lives of many around the world.

What do you want to do after you finish university and why? Now the end of my degree is so close the true amount of career options that an engineering degree offers is making the decision a lot more difficult, but ultimately I would love a career that gives back to the community (possibly in the field of self-sustaining energy!).

If you could have an hour to chat with any scientist, mathematician or engineer, who would it be and why? I would love to have a sit down with Nikola Tesla; his innovation was far beyond his time and to be able to talk about all his theories and ideas would be an experience like no other.


Want to become an In2science mentor? Click here!

Meet a Mentor: Mitchell Griggs

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Mitchell GriggsMitchell Griggs portrait

What are you studying? I am in my final year of studying for my Bachelor of Biomedical Science at La Trobe University, I initially enrolled in a different course and have since transferred into this course.

Tell us about your In2science placement. I have previously been placed at Epping Secondary College, currently I am placed in a year 9 science class at Roxburgh College in Victoria. We are currently studying diseases and have just finished studying the periodic table. The class has a great range of students which presents some interesting challenges.

Why did you become an In2science mentor? Firstly, I firmly believe that science communication and scientific literacy is critical to a healthy society, encouraging students in their studies in science, and by extension learning overall, is a worthy practice. Secondly, science, technology, engineering, and mathematics underlie so much of our natural and man-made universe and has challenged and filled me with wonder throughout my life, the opportunity to share this enthusiasm is very rewarding.

What’s the best thing about In2science? In2science connects mentors with groups of students who have a demonstrated need, and effectively match mentors with their positions meaning that all involved can get the most out of the program. The increased social and educational equity is a great outcome, there are also plenty of other fun and rewarding interactions to be had for all involved.

What’s one of the biggest challenges about In2science? The program requires you to think on your feet, take initiative in the classroom and deal with challenging and perhaps confronting situations with students. Overall the range in abilities and levels of interest provides a context in which it is hard to measure the impact you are having, it is therefore important to stay adaptive and motivated; which can be a challenge.

What inspired you to study science and mathematics? As long as I can remember I have had a keen interest in these fields, after spending time working as a musician and in several other fields my search for challenge and meaning in my life and work led me to return to study, science was a natural choice for me as it is a never-ending source of challenges and affords many opportunities for me to draw meaning from my life and work.

What do you want to do after you finish university and why? I aspire to continue into post-graduate study; my primary ambition is to study medicine and eventually become a doctor. I also seek to continue my involvement in science communication and become more involved in public health and science engagement.

If you could have an hour to chat with any scientist or mathematician, who would it be and why? Charles Darwin due to his fascinating life story and scientific works, as well as his ground-breaking impact on the progress of science would make a very interesting conversation. I think he would be fascinated to hear about the progress in biology, genetics, and medicine his work influenced and enabled.


Want to become an In2science mentor? Click here!

Placement profile: Robotics at Mount Alexander College

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Rodrigo at Mt Alexander College

Rodrigo made a huge impact as a mentor in a robotics class at Mount Alexander College.

If the robotics class at Mount Alexander College is anything to go by, we will have robots helping in disaster zones in no time.

Science teacher Samara Kelly loves the hands-on creative process involved with robotics. “Students love to build things, and they love computers,” she said.

“Robotics is a way of teaching creative thinking and problem-solving in a way that students enjoy. Mount Alexander College has a huge focus on hands-on learning – we do a lot of practicals as part of the ‘Take Control’ student lead learning system.”

Robotics students meet future engineer

During Semester 2 in 2015, Samara welcomed Rodrigo Acosta into her classroom as an In2science mentor. Rodrigo is studying a Master of Biomedical Engineering at The University of Melbourne, with a focus on developing prosthetic limbs and designing solutions that can increase the level of healthcare in developing countries. Mentoring in a robotics class was the perfect match for Rodrigo.

Quote from Rodrigo: "I did nothing; only sat next to him and gave him the confidence to make mistakes."The first day at Mount Alexander College revealed the path Rodrigo would take during his placement, but in an unexpected way. “When Samara was taking the roll, a student called Samatar walked in late and angry,” Rodrigo recalled.

“He argued with Samara about being late and sat at the very back of the class with his headphones on. I immediately thought he was going to be a challenge because he showed no interest in being in the class.”

When the students paired up to begin working on their Lego robots, Samatar was left to work by himself. After introducing himself to other students in the class, Samara asked Rodrigo to give Samatar a hand as he was a bit behind.

“I thought ‘great, this is going to be tough’,” Rodrigo said. “I sat down and introduced myself. Samatar was a bit cautious to start with, but when I told him I was from Mexico we started talking about Mexican soccer players. From then on he trusted me, I was on his side.”

“Samatar was starting from scratch, and I could see how unsure he was. Every time he took a piece, he double checked with me that he was putting it in the right place. I kept nudging him to try and see if it worked – if it didn’t, it was easy to fix.”

By the end of the class, Samatar had almost caught up with the other students. “He was very happy, but more importantly, proud of his work,” Rodrigo said.

“I did nothing; only sat next to him and gave him the confidence to make mistakes.”

Samara, robotics teacher at Mount Alexander College

Samara Kelly, robotics teacher at Mount Alexander College

Helping one = helping all

Samara has appreciated the attention Rodrigo was able to provide Samatar. “I could relax more, confident knowing that Samatar was getting the help he needed, which lead to a much more ordered classroom environment,” Samara said.

“Their relationship has grown really strong and Samatar’s confidence in this class has sky-rocketed due to the encouragement he got from Rodrigo. He’s the reason Samatar is so focused in class. We’re both going to miss having Rodrigo around.”

Samara said the partnership between Mount Alexander College and In2science is extremely valuable. “The experience and knowledge that external mentors bring to the school adds another layer of depth to student learning,” she said. “They help students explore real-life applications of science knowledge and provide excellent examples of how awesome a life in science is beyond school.”

Meet an In2science school: Auburn High School

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Kathryn Sobey is no stranger to In2science.

Kathryn Sobey, former In2science mentor and Science Domain Leader at  Auburn High School

Kathryn Sobey, former In2science mentor and Science Domain Leader at Auburn High School

As a former In2science mentor – and now the Science Domain Leader at Auburn High School – Kathryn has been a fantastic supporter of the program, experiencing the impact the program can have both as a volunteer mentor and as a teacher.

Kathryn was an In2science mentor at Footscray City College in her second year of university. “It was so formative in cementing my desire to be a teacher,” she said. “It was my first opportunity to see the classroom outside of a student’s perspective”.

As very proactive mentor, Kathryn was keen to make the most of her placement. “My placement teacher let me lead the class one day,” she said. “That was great, and an amazing opportunity that I don’t think I would have experienced anywhere else.”

A love of learning led her to pursue a career in teaching and she hasn’t looked back. “I love the intellectual challenge that being a teacher brings,” Kathryn said. “I can’t think of another profession where I would get the opportunity to practise problem-solving, critical thinking, creative thinking, resilience, leadership and innovation like teachers get to.”

Having In2science mentors visit Auburn High School has had an influence on both students and teaching staff alike. “We have loved having mentors in our classrooms to promote thinking about the deeper ideas of science and the world around us,” Kathryn said. “Teachers learn a lot when they are able to talk about what they do. It’s great to have the opportunity to do this with a mentor, someone who has fresh ideas and a fresh perspective. It can be both clarifying and gratifying to share your craft with someone else.”

Kathryn Sobey talking with studentsAuburn High School has hosted In2science mentors throughout 2015, with six mentors from Swinburne University of Technology visiting the school over two semesters. It is a relatively new school, having opened in 2014, and currently has around 300 students. The school has a culturally-diverse student population and run bilingual classes in French and Chinese.

“We are very proud of the diversity we enjoy within our school,” Kathryn said. “I love walking down the corridors to the tune of staff and student chatter in Chinese, French, Vietnamese, Hindi and Amharic.”

The cultural diversity at Auburn High School has led to some unique opportunities for mentoring. “It has been wonderful to host some Chinese-speaking In2Science mentors who have been able to step in and assist in this highly specialised role,” Kathryn said. “The mentors were able to go through the content at a slower pace with the students, which has been a huge benefit.”

Meet a mentor: Rachael McCullough

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Rachael McColloughRachael McCullough

What are you studying? I’m studying a Bachelor of Science at The University of Melbourne with a major in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, and a concurrent Diploma in Mathematical Sciences. I like both my courses because it’s an uncommon pairing! I love being able to identify connections between biology and maths because I feel like there is still a huge barrier between them.

Tell us about your In2science placement: This is my first semester as an In2science mentor! I spend an hour and a half every week in a year 8 science class at Maribyrnong Secondary College. The class is all boys, which is unique, and I’ve also had the chance to work with a student teacher in the classroom. Tossing lesson plan ideas around with another student has been a great learning experience. The balance between my science knowledge and her expertise in behaviour management made for a great joint teaching style that I think we both learnt something from. I also love my class; they’ve got so much character! Sometimes they’re a challenge to keep under control but they are easy to connect with and even say hello to me in the schoolyard, i.e. they think I’m cool!

Why did you become an In2science mentor? One of my mathematics lecturers spoke very highly about the program during a lecture last semester. She mentioned that she had been an in2science mentor in the past and got a lot out of it. I love her teaching style and idolise her quite a bit so thought I would apply to be in the program as well.

What’s the best thing about In2science? There are obvious benefits to having an extra teaching aid in the classroom to talk about life at  university, answer questions, extend students’ learning and engage less interested students, but I am going to be a little self-absorbed and mention the benefits for the mentors. I’ve found gaining an insight into how science is taught in high schools extremely informative. I’ve been able to see ‘behind the scenes’ of a science classroom, something that you don’t see when you’re a high school student yourself. For anyone passionate about science and considering going into any area of science, science education is paramount. In2science allows our country’s future scientists, researchers, teachers and communicators to see the teaching of science in action so that we can make informed decisions about how best to improve it.

What’s the worst thing about In2science? I think it can be difficult for new mentors to know what they’re meant to be doing in the classroom. The flexibility of the program means that mentors can take on a huge variety of different roles, but when the classroom teacher is also new to the program and doesn’t really know what it’s all about either, the first few placements can make mentors feel a bit superfluous.

What inspired you to study science and mathematics? I was raised on hearty servings of Sir David Attenborough documentaries and episodes of Carl Sagan’s Cosmos in a house that had a telescope in one corner, a hand-made metal detector in the other, and a bookcase so full of mathematical and scientific history that the shelves were buckling. So it’s still a real mystery where my interest in science and discovery came from.

What do you want to do after you finish university and why? That is a very good question. I’ll let you guys know when I figure that one out.

If you could have an hour to chat with any scientist or mathematician, who would it be and why? Brian Cox, because I would like to see his smile in real life.

Meet a mentor: Shaurya Nagpal

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In2science mentor Shaurya Nagpal outside Mill Park CollegeShaurya Nagpal

What are you studying? I am studying a double degree in Engineering (Electrical and Electronic Engineering) (Hons) and Business (International Business) at RMIT University. I like my course because it provides me with insights into both the engineering and business industries. The problem solving skills I learn from the engineering side are transferable to the business side which is useful. Every day in class we go through a different problem which constantly challenges me and keeps me engaged.

Tell us about your In2science placement: So far I’ve been involved in two placements at Mill Park Secondary College. In2science has now become something to look forward to during the week. I like to think that I’m showing the students that working in a STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) field is more interesting than they may have previously thought.

Why did you become an In2science mentor? I believed In2science would be a great way to share my experiences and help develop my own communication and public speaking skills. I quickly realised my contributions had the potential to change the students’ outlook on STEM. Hopefully this will lead to more scientists, engineers and mathematicians in the world.

What’s the best thing about In2science? The most enjoyable experience I have had so far was helping a student grasp the concept of photosynthesis, which was tripping them up.

What’s the worst thing about In2science? When you have no idea what’s going on. The first class I was in was studying biology. Let’s just say biology is my Achilles heel!

What inspired you to study engineering? My work experience at GM Holden In year 10 consolidated my interest in engineering. Can’t say much more about it because secrets and stuff.

 What do you want to do after you finish university? After university I would like to become a business advisor for technology companies. It’s a constantly changing field so there will never be a boring day at work.

 If you could have an hour to chat with any scientist/mathematician, who would it be and why? Nikola Tesla, for inventing alternating current electricity supply systems and because he was a badass!

Meet a mentor: Shelley Haslett

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Shelley Haslett

Profile picture of mentor Shelley HaslettWhat are you studying? I’m doing a Bachelor Applied Science (Food Technology and Nutrition) at RMIT University. I really enjoy studying food because it is something really important that we deal with in our everyday lives, often without thinking about it. I love to cook and eat: understanding the science behind cooking takes it to a whole new level of delicious!

Tell us about your In2science placement: I am in my second semester at Glen Eira College. I have really enjoyed getting to know the students and hearing about the things they are interested in. It has also been a really great experience to join in on the practical classes and help the students to really think about what is going on, not just follow the instructions on the sheet.

Why did you become an In2science mentor? I became a mentor because it sounded like a really good opportunity to be involved in the community. I also felt that if I had had a peer mentor in my high school science class I might have actually paid a bit more attention and realised how interesting, fun and relevant science actually is to our everyday lives.

What’s the best thing about In2science? The students. It is so great to see young people who are enthusiastic about the possibilities in their future, science or not.

What’s the worst thing about In2science? When the classes are on something I have no idea about! Like geology – I don’t ever remember taking a geology class, but now I have. The students taught me a lot!

Who inspired you to study science? My inspirations are Heston Blumenthal and Jamie Oliver: Heston because he does some amazing, crazy, fun things with food, and Jamie because he’s really into sustainability and giving back to the community.

What do you want to do after you finish university and why? I really want to be involved in the development of food products that are sustainable from the moment they are planted to the moment they are eaten. This is so important because of the expanding population and decrease in farming land – basically I want to feed the world.

If you could have an hour to chat with any scientist, who would it be and why? Jane Goodall. She has been so immersed and passionate about her work for such a long period of time. She would have some amazing stories to tell!