Science students report on their agricultural industry experience

Published 10 February 2010

PICSIE PROGRAMIndustry Placement Scholarships awarded to 21 school leavers this summer have given them an insight into the variety of career opportunities that are available to science graduates in primary industries.

The scholarships enabled each of the students to attend a five-day “Science to Industry Camp” based at the University of New England and extending to agriculture-related businesses and laboratories throughout the region, and to complete a five-day “industry placement” working with professional scientists.

The students spoke about their Industry Placement Scholarship experiences during a “reporting back” session at UNE on Monday 8 February introduced by the Chancellor, Richard Torbay, and attended by parents, teachers, school principals, and academic and industry participants in the program.

Dr Torbay explained that the Industry Placement Scholarship scheme was administered by the Primary Industries Centre for Science Education (PICSE), a national program that has its NSW activity centre at UNE. He said that the program addressed the need for more scientists in agricultural industries, and was designed to inform science students going on to tertiary studies about career opportunities in agriculture.

Susanna Greig, who manages the PICSE activity centre at UNE along with Professor Brian Sindel and Associate Professor Robin Jessop, said that she had “thoroughly enjoyed working with this group of outstanding and capable students”, and that through the scholarship program the students had developed “a deep understanding of the broad range of opportunities available to scientists in agriculture”.

The students spoke about their experiences as holders of PICSE Industry Placement Scholarships – scholarships that had taken them into agricultural science laboratories at UNE, out into the field, and to laboratories and agriculture-related businesses in Armidale, Tamworth, Gunnedah, Narrabri, Glen Innes and Guyra.

As well as students from throughout the New England and North West regions of NSW there were two from interstate: Eliza Walton-Hassell from Pingelly in Western Australia and Melissa Jones (pictured here) from Nambour in Queensland. “Coming to the UNE camp has really opened my eyes,” said Melissa, who will be completing her final year of school studies this year at Burnside State High in Nambour. “It’s given me the chance to see what’s happening in the broad field of agricultural science. Visiting agricultural businesses was a good opportunity to see science in action.”

Eliza, who had been thinking of undertaking a Bachelor of Rural Science course at UNE next year, said her experience in UNE’s PICSE scholarship program had confirmed her decision to come to Armidale to continue her studies.

Ellie Noon from Guyra, who worked for five days at UNE with parasitologist Associate Professor Lewis Kahn, said a highlight of her experience had been “working with people who are passionate about agriculture”. Ellie, who hopes to begin rural science studies at UNE next year, said one of the most valuable outcomes of her scholarship experience was her new understanding of the range of jobs available.

THE PHOTOGRAPH of Melissa Jones displayed here expands to include Ann Frizell (left) from O’Connor  Catholic College in Armidale, and Chloe Murphy from St Mary’s College in Gunnedah.