The 2022 NYSF Year 12 Program wrapped up* on Tuesday 25 January, following an action-packed 12 days of STEM discovery and personal development.
(*But it's not the end! In-person visits as part of the NYSF Connect alumni program will be scheduled when it is safe to do so!)
The Closing Event featured a ‘Meet the Chiefs’ panel, consisting of several Chief/Lead Scientists from around Australia, designed to help the participants understand current STEM priorities and opportunities in different parts of the nation and to inspire them as they go forward into their final year of school.
Following a Welcome to Country from NYSF Chief of Staff Charlotte, Chair of the NYSF Board, Kerri Hartland, began the session by revealing some record-breaking numbers for this year’s program, and extending a message of thanks to NYSF Partners and other supporters who make it all possible.
“The NYSF Year 12 Program is truly special, bringing like-minded people together to support a lifelong STEM journey."
“In 2022, the program hosted  participants, involved 22 NYSF Partners and provided 92 access and equity scholarships – all of which are new records."
“I want to say thanks to the many contributors who come together to make this great program a reality. Everything we do is underpinned by the support of our funding partners, volunteers and supporters. Without their help, we would not be able to provide the amazing opportunities that make this program so special.”
The impact of the NYSF on participants was shown in a heartfelt video created by NYSFer Irene during the program, as her entry into the NYSF STEM Communication Challenge. Irene’s animation beautifully captures the feelings of uncertainty and confusion that many young people face when considering their future careers, and highlights the positive experience the NYSF Year 12 Program was for her.
It was then time to ‘Meet the Chiefs’, with a panel discussion and live Q&A session featuring an all-star cast:
- Dr Cathy Foley AO PSM FAA FTSE - Chief Scientist of Australia
- Professor Hugh Possingham - Queensland Chief Scientist
- Dr Amanda Caples BSc Hons PhD GAICD - Lead Scientist of Victoria
- Professor Caroline McMillen AO FAHMS - Chief Scientist for South Australia
- Professor Peter Klinken AC FAHMS FTSE CitWA - Chief Scientist of Western Australia
The panellists shared their career journeys, provided advice to the participants, and discussed the importance of STEM and the many professional pathways available.
Professor McMillen provided an insight into a career as a scientist, encouraging participants to trust and believe in themselves.
“Science is a journey where you can take the opportunity to understand the unknown, take the world into that next step…you can generate leadership, you can begin to shape new policy…and [you can] add value to the community you’re working in."
“Sometimes when you are leading the way [in a new endeavour]…you will have to go through doubt, there is always doubt when you are thinking of something new or different, [when this happens] you just keep moving forwards…because that is where great science perseveres."
“You can never set out knowing where you will find yourself in your career, but when you’re drawn to something in science, you can trust starting off on the journey, and you can trust yourself to find that direction.”
Dr Caples added that a STEM education provides the basis for a variety of careers and can take you in many directions.
“STEM provides you with a toolbox that can take you in any direction…the framework that you get in a science degree…you can repurpose for different applications, the principles remain the same, it’s just the subject matter and the stakeholder groups that differ."
“My journey was non-linear…that’s the beauty of [STEM], it enables you to follow your passion, it enables you to change direction, and importantly, it enables you to create the future that you would like to see.”
Professor Klinken, the self-professed ‘Big Kev of Science’, displayed a contagious enthusiasm when discussing the STEM opportunities of the future, and reinforced the importance of STEM education.
“From renewable energy to remote operations and many others, there will be so many opportunities available in the future…and if you think I am enthusiastic and excited about it all, then you’re right!"
“The world has never changed at a faster pace, and as a consequence, STEM subjects are so important to keep pace with all these technological advances.”
Professor Possingham’s own journey showed participants how career pathways can open up in unexpected ways, and he left them with some valuable advice.
“My journey didn’t work out the way I thought. Rather than getting into Zoology, I took a toolbox of mathematics, and applied it to the conservation issues that I care about."
“People thought I was crazy when I said that to work in conservation I was going to use mathematical tools. But now, that’s what drives conservation."
“In the end, there is no wrong choice…pursue your passions and goals and everything will be fine.”
Professor Possingham also provided an insight into how to deal with conflict in the STEM sector: "never attack a person, only argue a point", in response to a question by NYSFer Jennifer who asked the panel if there was any wisdom or lessons that they have learned throughout their careers that would apply to Year 12 students.
Dr Foley, Australia’s Chief Scientist, brought the panel session to a close with some powerful and inspiring words for NYSFers.
“This is always an uplifting, inspiring gathering for me… what you’ve done over the last couple of weeks is so important…it is a life-changing experience…something that will impact you forever."
“What I ask you to do, is to never give up on science. Sometimes it’s going to be tricky…but you should feel empowered to be able to put forward your ideas…and whatever career you choose, you will be able to make a difference…STEM is humanity’s superpower!"
“Don’t feel afraid to reach out…try things which may be a bit different, because that’s where opportunities are, and also where you can also make a really good contribution."
“I’m looking forward to seeing where you all end up and what you choose to do, and I hope that this has given you a bit of a taste of what’s there for the taking. The world is your oyster.”
It's not easy to pick the areas of STEM to highlight in each state when there are so many, however, we asked our panel to give it a go:
- Dr Foley, AUS: The one I’m really working on hard is with quantum and it’s pretty homegrown. That’s all come out of physics and top-end science and it's going to have an extraordinary impact on us - I’m really excited about it and we’re in the front seat. Mathematics and statistics are the other areas that are important!
- Professor Klinken, WA: There are huge opportunities in STEM, building on huge traditions from 65,000 years ago. We’re going through the 3rd and 4th industrial revolutions together. WA is incredibly well-positioned to transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy. Perth has become the world centre for remote operations.
- Professor Possingham, QLD: At the moment 57% of Australian employed engineers are trained overseas. We are drastically short in engineers and they basically run the country. Also, a vote for mathematicians or statisticians - they are really important and give you an enormous advantage no matter what career you are in. The other thing is agricultural science. The one thing we need is good and healthy food and we need to be able to sustain it forever. Agricultural scientists are one of the most employable graduates in the country.
- Professor McMillen, SA: The Australian Space Agency is located in SA in Lot 14 with careers that go beyond the traditional views of careers in space. One I like is the new thinking about plants in space. We have one of the largest agricultural research enterprises that's now turning its attention to growing plants in space. I’m really entranced by what space carries for us and civilisation in the future.
Signing off for another year of the NYSF Year 12 Program, NYSF Chiefs of Staff Charlotte, Rahn and Tish delivered an emotional farewell to all the participants (featuring Dr Seuss quotes and a virtual dance party!) and reminded them that this is not the end of their NYSF journey.
“The opportunities do not stop once this closing ceremony has concluded…get involved in Alumni events, and keep a hold of the friends, connections and networks you have made through the program…you may find yourselves going to university together, or maybe even connecting with each other to your next job opportunity.”
“Goodbye for now, but not forever…you are now, and always will be, NYSFers.”
NYSFer Isaac gave thanks on behalf of the 2022 NYSF Year 12 participants.
"You've all been amazing in every definition of the word. Without you, the NYSF wouldn't have been as life-changing as it ended up being. You have changed our lives and I don't know how any of us could ever repay you for all the memories and good times you gave us. I would also like to thank the NYSF Staff for shifting the NYSF online due to Covid. Without you, the NYSF wouldn't have been able to run. I would also like to thank you for getting all of the speakers who were able to teach us all so much and changed our view of STEM. I know that I and many others have learned so much about the future."
"I would also like to thank the students - the people who did this forum with me. You've made it so amazing with all your questions that sometimes felt like you were reading my mind. Words can't express how much fun and enjoyment I've got out of this program, and I can't wait to talk with all the other students for years to come."
BUT WAIT! THERE'S MORE!
Like Student Staff Leader Tish said, "Goodbye for now, but not forever..."
NYSF Connect webinars, alumni events, STEM challenge announcements, and in-person STEM visits are all happening later in the year. So, stay in touch, and keep your eyes on the NYSF socials because we aren't done yet!
Thank you to the NYSF Corporate Team, our Funding Partners, the many volunteers, in particular the Student Staff Leadership Team and Rotary Australia, and our supporters around Australia.