School students gain science experience in UNE laboratories

Published 14 January 2010

sophiecharalambousSchool students from northern NSW, and from as far afield as Parkes, Gol Gol (near Mildura), and Queensland’s Sunshine Coast, are gaining hands-on science experience in laboratories around the University of New England this week.

The students, who are all entering Year 10 this year, are participants in “The Science Experience” – a program coordinated by the Science Schools Foundation during January at more than 30 universities and other tertiary institutions throughout Australia. At UNE, the program is running from Tuesday 12 to Thursday 14 January.

The Science Experience enables participants to meet scientists and engage in a wide range of science-based activities.

“It’s designed to show students going into Year 10 that science can be exciting,” said Associate Professor Jim McFarlane, Director of The Science Experience program at UNE. “There’s been a serious, world-wide decline in the number of students preparing for careers in science, and we need to help young people understand the vital role that science plays – and the opportunities for science-based careers – in so many aspects of today’s society.”

“Although some of the participants can be a bit sceptical at first, they all end up finding the event enjoyable and enlightening,” Dr McFarlane said.

“It’s expanded my horizons,” said Marie Laurie from Sawtell. “I didn’t know anything about subjects such as criminology – but now I’m interested.”

“We’re country kids,” said Sophie Charalambous (pictured here) from Narrabri. “It’s a great experience for us because we don’t normally have access to a lot of this technology.”

Glen Luckett from Ashford said he was enjoying the experiments – and also the swimming and other sports activities available at Sport UNE of an evening. And staying at UNE’s Mary White College gave him an insight into student life at university, he said.

The three-day program for The Science Experience at UNE has included practical sessions – led by UNE scientists – on forensic science, physiology, chemistry, and molecular and micro-biology, as well as talks and demonstrations titled “The life of birds”, “Forensic handwriting analysis”, “The code of life”, “Forensic DNA evidence”, “Research on small mammals”, and “A chemist’s view of energy”.

For more information on The Science Experience, go to:

THE PHOTOGRAPH displayed here, taken in a UNE microbiology laboratory, expands to show Sophie Charalambous, from Narrabri, taking a mouth swab for microbial analysis.