Meet a mentor: Rachael McCullough

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  • October 9, 2015

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.