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The National Youth Science Forum (NYSF) is a place to find your people and explore and expand your interest in science and technology. This is reflected in the experiences of our students on the program. Saad’s story, as a student who attended the NYSF Year 12 Program in January 2023, is no exception.

Saad inherited his passion for science from his father, an engineer, but was eager to follow his own path and initially dived into the world of astronomy.

“When I was really young, the first thing that I picked up on was astronomy. I started reading books about planets when I was about eight or nine years old. Then, around secondary school, I started studying more about physics. Classical physics didn't really attract me at the beginning but then when I picked up on modern physics I just fell in love with it."

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Saad, pictured far right in the front row, alongside other participants and student staff leaders from the 2023 NYSF Year 12 Program.

Midway through 2022 Saad moved to Australia from Iraq. Starting at a new school he was hesitant to speak up in class, but was shocked at the immense support he received from his teachers.

“When I first came here it was really shocking because the staff at school were really supportive. I had this specialist maths teacher and every time I had a question I would wait till the class finished to not disturb the class. I would feel embarrassed because he should probably be going home by now and I’m just asking these questions, but then after 2 weeks of doing that daily, he said that he’s more than happy to help, it’s really not a problem, and my job is to help you. It made me so much more comfortable to ask more questions and to engage with the staff in general.”

Having moved to Australia late in the year, Saad also almost missed out on applying for the NYSF, “My international student coordinator sent me a picture of the website and told me that I had to apply as it’s perfect for me.” He quickly put in an application, and was selected to attend the program in January.

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Saad, pictured standing second from the left, participating in a site visit on the 2023 NYSF Year 12 Program.

Reflecting on his NYSF experience, Saad says the online program was a highlight and enjoyed the ease of access.

“It was literally the best time of my life and I'm not even trying to exaggerate! It was a wonderful experience starting from the online sessions. I really enjoyed the online sessions – they were easy to do because I was feeling comfortable sitting in my house in front of the computer and at the same time being able to have scientists talk from different places.”

In the second week of the program, Saad travelled from Bendigo to Melbourne to join the other participants at the Melbourne STEM Hub. He credits the in-person program for helping him grow his confidence in meeting and talking to new people. In the past, Saad might have just stuck to himself and not tried to talk to anyone new, "I'll probably be shy. I don't want to bother them.” But because of the NYSF he made an effort to talk to as many people as possible, “It gave me that drive to go and actually start a chat with every single person.” This has become a habit after the program, and Saad says he loves that he “got the chance to get a new skill of socialising with people.” 

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Saad, left, alongside another participant from the 2023 NYSF Year 12 Program.

Saad is eager to continue his STEM studies after Year 12. While he plans to focus on quantum engineering, he is also excited to see what he can gain from doing science in general.

“I think what I could gain from doing science in general is just the ability to think differently. Each field in life teaches you a different style of thinking. So, for example, if you do philosophy, you wouldn't think as a person who does science. And if someone does music, he wouldn't think as a person who does philosophy nor science. So each thing that you study or you learn just gives you a new perspective of things”.

When looking towards his career he says he doesn’t think he’ll have a career directly based on his studies, “I'm probably going to see where I can go in business after my degree. Choosing a university major for me is about learning new things, but at the same time having new skills that will benefit me in a career”. However, he is excited at the prospect of combining business and STEM, “If I had a business opportunity related to my field of study that would be even more wonderful.”

We look forward to following Saad’s STEM journey, and wish him the best for his studies!