Trying things outside of what I was studying gave me opportunities
It's obvious when we see it written, but hearing the term "volcanologist" had some expecting a Star Trek theme to the NYSF 2018 Session B Rotary and Alumni Night. Alas, there were no space vulcans, but there were some similarities to Jules Verne's sci-fi world from 1950s classic, 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea in the keynote presentation.
Dr Rebecca Carey is a Senior Lecturer at the University of Tasmania (UTas) and a real life volcanologist, studying the volcanoes of the world both above the land and under the sea. She attended the NYSF in 1997, and returned as keynote speaker for this event with an audience of more than 300 NYSF 2018 students, alumni and Rotary representatives.
More than 11,500 participants have attended the NYSF since 1984, with many going on to inspiring careers in science. As part of the January NSYF program, the Rotary and Alumni Night invites past program participants to talk about their experiences since attending the NYSF program. It is also an opportunity for local and visiting Rotarians to engage with the NYSF program during its delivery. Some 20,000 volunteer hours are provided to the NYSF by Rotary members across Australia each year, assisting in the student selection process or during the program, hosting home visits or supporting through mentor relationships.
A presentation from local Rotaract representative outlined the opportunities available through Rotary's youth arm, targeting 18-30 year old people.
NYSF alumna then Katie Gray talked about her study and work experiences including a project on solar cells, a summer scholarship, and attending conferences and making presentations. In 2017 she moved to Sydney, then found herself volunteering at an NYSF program for year 7-8 students in Adelaide and loving teaching. She told the students, “We don't need to focus on one career. We can focus on the multiple, fulfilling opportunities out there. You are the ones who work hard enough to be presented with these opportunities.”
Now Katie is settled in at Quantium after a summer internship working with data, product trends, insurance, marketing, business strategy, coding and science - and while she doesn't want to be a teacher ... "Maybe I can just volunteer for NYSF’s STEM Explorer program for rest of my life,” she joked.
William Nak is 2010 alumnus and is using his science experience to solve Australia's housing affordability crisis - by growing avocado in a laboratory. The PhD project he has taken on since graduating from a science degree at University of Queensland involves manipulating gene expression in the avocado. The goal is to develop a spray which will turn off the genes to trick the plant into growing differently.
Melody Dobrinin is 2008 NYSF alumna who boasts Google, Cambridge and a start-up on her resume since her time at NYSF. Melody talked about passion - specifically the overuse of the word during high school and early career and the preference to explore, observe, dream and take action.
Melody said that her international Rotary Exchange was a life changing experience but deciding between a career in musical theatre and medicine led to a degree in speech pathology ... followed closely by the certainty of not wanting to be a speech pathologist. It led however to linguistics research and a stint as a project manager at Google working on Australia's version of the Google Assist App from London. Melody is also the founder of start-up, Noshable, an app to help those with food intolerances find local options.
“Trying things outside of what I was studying gave me the opportunities, and led me on a path to some pretty cool things.”
The evening's keynote speaker Dr Rebecca Carey finished the night with a presentation that left the audience in awe, inspired for what the possibilities a career in science can bring. Dr Carey shared video of the floor of the ocean shot by a driverless vehicle at the site of a 2012 volcano eruption. Research in this area is so new that discoveries are made with every visit to the sea floor - new species, deeper valleys, new eruptions and rock formations incorrectly mapped by satellites.
The conversion between the value of Australian and US dollar forced Rebecca to take on a job in Hawaii while studying there. This led to unique experience which couldn't have been gathered anywhere but Hawaii - a risk turning out to be an investment in her future career. It has taken 15 years and two ARC fellowship grants which finally led to a permanent academic position at the University of Tasmania, a role with a satisfying combination of teaching and research.
Dr Carey advised the students to actively seek our mentors, engaging with their work and understanding it. “Challenge yourself and learn new skills when you’re young while people are available to help you. As you get older, there are less people to help you!”
The evening finished with networking in the foyer of the Advanced Engineering Building where the NYSF 2018 students had the chance to meet alumni and Rotary volunteers.