"I have always loved physical sciences and maths and knew from middle school that a career involving those was where I wanted to be. Attending the NYSF made me absolutely sure."
After landing a position in the graduate program at the Department of Defence, NYSF 2009 alumna Stephanie Otte offers some great advice to students and tells us about her study/career journey so far.
"Hi! My name is Stephanie Otte and I attended the National Youth Science Forum (NYSF) in 2009.
I first heard about NYSF when I was in Grade 10. One of my best friends in the year above was going, and when he came back everything he told me sounded so great that I had to apply myself. I was so excited when I got selected, as I knew other people applying and how tough the competition was.
I have always loved physical sciences and maths and knew from middle school that a career involving those was where I wanted to be. Attending the NYSF made me absolutely sure. With the others in Maxwell, we got to see some great things like the Parkes Observatory, ANSTO, and SMEC dam labs. The opportunities after the program to visit partner universities were great as well. They did make my choice of university a lot harder though!
After the university tours, it was a toss up between engineering at UNSW or UQ. I ended up at The University of Queensland studying a dual degree in Engineering and Arts. UQ was only 2 hours from home, and it allowed me to study my other passion for Japanese as well. There weren’t sessions outside of Canberra when I went through, so I’m glad people can see the great facilities Brisbane has to offer. Like a lot of people I changed majors before starting second year, from electrical to mechanical engineering, and picked up a second major in writing for my arts degree in third year to go along with the Japanese (strange combination I know).
I ended up there a little longer than expected and graduated at the end of 2017 with both of my bachelors degrees. In 2018, I started a graduate position with the Department of Defence in the Capability Acquisition and Sustainment Group. I had never forgotten being shown around ADFA while I was at NYSF and seeing all the cool things the engineering students there got to work with. It definitely opened up my mind to the civilian side of the Defence Force (no fitness requirements!). I’ve been lucky enough to work on the Tank program where I got to attend Exercise Chong Ju and ride in an M1A1 Abrams, as well as work with the Army’s Unmanned Aerial Systems projects where I work with drones from the tiny Black Hornet to the Shadow 200. They’ve even let me test some of the smaller ones!
I still keep in contact with quite a few of the friends I made at NYSF including the staffies, and I made some new friends just from walking around with NYSF merch. There’s even a few people at work who went to NYSF in different years, so it certainly helps build relationships. We’re all planning to attend the science dinners coming up.
Advice to past, present, and future NYSFers? Don’t let failure keep you down. You were chosen not just because of your smarts, but because of your passion and drive for STEM and a desire to make a difference. Uni, work, and life in general, can be challenging. If you stumble, remind yourself why you chose this path and don’t be afraid to ask for help. If you keep at what you love, you’ll get there, in the end, no matter how long it takes."