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Checking the NYSF inbox is usually quite an expected affair, but at 10am on Thursday morning, a message popped up that was anything but. The message, courtesy of NYSF alumni Rory and Tobi, featured a rather awkwardly positioned sheep undergoing what we later found out to be a ram vasectomy.

Needless to say, the combination of whacky, unexpected science and a wholesome alumni update had us dying to know more. We jumped on Zoom to catch up with this dynamic duo. But, before the call began, Tobi had received an emergency call at his practice.

A patient was incoming.

We were on a time crunch, and the yarn these two had to spin was one we did not want to miss.

Echidna amputations and ram vasectomies: Welcome to the world of NYSF Alumni Tobi and Rory - content image

Rory (left) performing a ram vasectomy, and Tobi (right) treating a piglet at his veterinarian practice.

When asked about their time at the NYSF, Rory says it was an awesome experience. It was the first time he “got to go and hang out with some nerds.” This was especially impactful as he was from a small country town in Western Victoria, where no one at his school really cared about science. It was also where he got to meet Tobi, who is now one of his best mates.

Tobi shares a similar experience. He says, “The thing about the NYSF is that it's just an absolutely bonkers experience...It was such a good time the entire time. From day one, meeting everyone in our group and meeting like-minded people with a similar passion for science.”

They say their mate-ship arose from being two of only three people on their NYSF session who aspired to be vets. Together, they had a dream. They thought, “Wouldn’t it be awesome if we both got into vet school in Adelaide and went to uni together.”

And then, they did it.

Echidna amputations and ram vasectomies: Welcome to the world of NYSF Alumni Tobi and Rory - content image

Rory (left) and Tobi (right) at their graduation.

The two had stayed in contact after the NYSF. They'd supported one another through all the big milestones: receiving their ATAR scores, applying for university, and receiving their offers. However at this point in their STEM journeys, their paths deviated.

As a remote student in Year 12, Rory had to complete some of his studies online. Namely his Year 12 Chemistry and Maths Methods units. Rory says it was a challenge and “as a result, I didn’t get a particularly good ATAR. It was good enough to get me into uni, but it wasn’t good enough to get me into vet.”

Despite this setback, Rory enrolled into animal science at the University of Adelaide. The course offered a pathway into Veterinary Medicine for high-achieving students. And so, driven to follow his passion, Rory dedicated himself to his studies.

“I did well at university in my first year and got a reasonable GPA. But when the first round offers came out, I didn’t get the offer.”

As a result, Rory enrolled in his second-year animal science units to prepare himself for the year ahead. Two weeks before having to move back up for uni, while working in the paddock at his family's farm, Rory checked his email.

He’d received a third-round offer into Veterinary Medicine, and the rest was history.

Echidna amputations and ram vasectomies: Welcome to the world of NYSF Alumni Tobi and Rory - content image

Rory (pictured in the middle back row) at the 2016 NYSF Year 12 Program.

As soon as Rory had finished his story, Tobi was quick to jump in.

"Rory worked so hard for that. I remember you were just onto every single assignment. We would always be studying but you knew that you had to have that extra mark. I always find it quite impressive the way Rory did that because every given year, there's only zero to three spots available and with anywhere around sixty students trying to get across into the vet course.”

Over the next six years of their studies, Rory and Tobi continued to be best mates. For three of those years, they were also housemates. And now, after graduating in April this year, it's the first time they’ve been apart since.

With such an undeniable commitment to their studies, we were excited to hear about what had inspired them to pursue Veterinary Medicine. However, at this point in the interview, Tobi’s emergency client was about 60 seconds away. And so, he answered quickly before rushing back to work.

“I grew up in the bush. My dad had a house off the electricity grid, and my mum was a nurse. So kind of nature meets medicine there...Sorry, I've got to go!”

Rory smiled, “That's rural mixed veterinary practice for you.”

Echidna amputations and ram vasectomies: Welcome to the world of NYSF Alumni Tobi and Rory - content image

Tobi (pictured second from the left in the front row) at the 2016 NYSF Year 12 Program.

Continuing, Rory says his inspiration to become a vet came from his upbringing. Growing up on a farm around animals and animal production he remembers that the vet "was always sort of a revered figure when he came to our place.” He also says it felt natural to pursue Veterinary Medicine as it combined his experience working with animals with his passion for science and learning.

As our conversation started to draw to a close, we had one final question for the last man standing in our NYSF duo. A question inspired by that fateful photo that had first grabbed our attention in the NYSF inbox.

What has been the most unexpected or unusual thing you’ve encountered in your job so far?

Surprisingly, a ram vasectomy wasn't at the top of Rory's list, and his job is far more diverse than we could have predicted. 

“I've got several clients that have Kangaroos. I didn't envision myself working with Kangaroos as regularly as I do. Working with native Australian fauna has been an unexpected surprise that I've really enjoyed. On my first day I even did an amputation on an echidna.”

From wacky to wild to everything in between. Tobi and Rory have seen it all (with much more to come we’re sure). As we say our goodbyes, Rory gives some parting advice to NYSFers headed to the 2024 NYSF Year 12 Program in January:

“Don't say no to anything. Just do all the things. Lean into it. It's weird. You're going to think that it's weird, but be weird. Have a lot of fun.”