This has been an amazing adventure

Clement Chang, NYSF 2018

The National Youth Science Forum is a residential program giving senior high school students a broader understanding of diverse Science Technology Engineering and Maths career options and encouraging them to continue their studies in these fields. In 2018, The University of Queensland hosted one of three NYSF sessions. Clement Chang shares his science story.

When I first heard about the National Youth Science Forum (NYSF) from my school, I was intrigued. I have always been fascinated about science and was eager to explore the incredible opportunities and the diverse range of applications of science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) in the modern world.

On 9 January 2018, I departed for Brisbane to attend Session B at The University of Queensland. Coming from Adelaide, I was overwhelmed by the size of UQ’s St Lucia Campus (and still am!) and was thrilled to meet so many like-minded students from all around Australia. I was not expecting to meet such an awesome and diverse range of people, and these people have become a part of my family.

I was paired with Regan Kelly, my buddy who turned out to be such a meme. To our great pleasure, we were placed in the Earth and Environmental Science interest group, Darwin. From our chant about saving the planet to our jellyfish costumes at the disco and my group making a song about me always being late, I will never forget these guys.

Each day our interest group, Darwin, left Emmanuel College early in the morning and travelled to a variety of locations. Some notable visits included a trip to the Moreton Bay Research Station on North Stradbroke Island, where we were required to record data and observations of marine organisms at intertidal waves and investigate the factors influencing a mangrove ecosystem. We also visited the Toohey Forest EcoCentre where we analysed water samples to identify both macroscopic and microscopic organisms such as tadpoles, freshwater snail and seed shrimp, among others.

I also had the opportunity to visit the Centre for Advanced Imaging and the Queensland Brain Institute as part of my elective STEM visit.

I had the chance to experience the magnetic field around a 7 Tesla MRI scanner, and saw a researcher dissecting a mouse brain to remove the hippocampus, which is responsible for creating new memories.

We went to the Queensland Parliament for a mock committee hearing on the topic ‘To Introduce Nuclear Power in Queensland’. At Brisbane City Hall we had a formal Science Dinner and the opportunity to talk to PhDs, NYSF alumni, and 2017 Australian of the Year Professor Alan Mackay-Sim!

Other notable activities at the NYSF included lectures from highly-revered professors and doctors, a swing dancing lesson, science relay quiz, a video conference with Rolf Landua from CERN, and a science disco. These STEM talks and social activities made my time in Brisbane more interesting, unique, and much more fun.

Prior to attending NYSF, I wanted to pursue a career in neuroscience.Through my various STEM visits I now know that this is the career that I want to pursue, and the NYSF has allowed me to consolidate my future ambitions. Going into NYSF, I wanted to broaden my horizons in STEM, but I didn't realise I would return home more self-aware and more determined than ever to succeed in my career pursuits.

I would like to thank the Rotary Club of Norwood of District 9520 for endorsing my application, especially Alyssa Moran, and Peter Poulton and his wife Jill Poulton, for providing everything I’ve needed to get through the application process, for helping me with interviews and for being such an incredible support.

The NYSF is really a program like no other, and I was privileged to be a part of it.

From being briefed by the Staffies (student staff leaders), to the countless riddles, the amazing STEM visits, and of course, the NYSF chants, I think it is safe to say that this has been an amazing adventure and a wild ride. To the Staffies and my fellow young, brilliant scientists who I had the pleasure of sharing the NYSF experience with, I cannot thank you all enough. I could not have asked for a better group of people to spend the 12 days with.