Science students report on industry experience

Published 11 February 2009

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Fifteen senior high-school students from Armidale, Tamworth, Gunnedah and Warialda spoke at the University of New England this week about their recent experience as participants in a program that provides an insight into science-based career options in local agricultural industries.

The event, on Monday 9 February, was the climax of the national Primary Industry Centre for Science Education (PICSE) program in this region for 2008/09. The PICSE program, designed to address a decline in the number of skilled young people entering agricultural science courses and careers, has its NSW hub at UNE.

During the “Student Reporting Back Session” on Monday, the students spoke about their experiences to an audience comprising industry partners, UNE officials and participants, teachers, and parents. The Chancellor of UNE, Richard Torbay, who is Speaker of the NSW Legislative Assembly and Member for Northern Tablelands, opened the session after welcoming the guests. Dr David Russell from the University of Tasmania, who established the PICSE program in 1999, spoke about plans for the expansion of the program, praising of the organisers of – and the participants in – its UNE-based component.

Susanna Greig, who – together with UNE’s Associate Professor Robin Jessop – manages the NSW PICSE program, said that the students, chosen through an application and interview process, had each received a PICSE Industry Placement Scholarship. She explained that the scholarship had enabled them to attend a five-day “Science to Industry Camp” in early January, when they had visited industry sites and agricultural research laboratories in Armidale, Tamworth, Walcha and Glen Innes to learn about the science supporting primary industries. “Then, between the 12th and the 23rd of January, each student completed a five-day industry placement, working in primary industries or with agricultural research scientists,” she continued.

In reporting back, the students spoke about what they had learnt during their visits to local primary industries, the inspiration provided by their industry-placement mentors, and the camaraderie they had experienced within the student group. The program helped many of them to plan career pathways. “I recommend that all those interested in science careers in industry should apply for a PICSE scholarship,” one of the students concluded.

The Vice-Chancellor of UNE, Professor Alan Pettigrew, the Pro Vice-Chancellor and Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, Professor Margaret Sedgley, and the Head of the School of Environmental and Rural Science, Professor Iain Young, participated in Monday’s event.

Ms Greig said that the NSW hub of PICSE had been established at UNE in 2007, and had successfully conducted its inaugural program in 2007/08. “Following that initial success, the program has been expanded to include more schools and industries throughout the region,” she said.

THE PHOTOGRAPH of Susanna Greig (right) and one of the students – Georgie Robertson – displayed here expands to include the Hon. Richard Torbay MP, Speaker of the NSW Legislative Assembly, Member for Northern Tablelands, and Chancellor of UNE.