Students share summer scholarship experiences

Published 20 July 2010

kelliecaitlinMore than 20 students preparing for tertiary study met at the University of New England last Friday to share their enthusiasm for science and their interest in the contribution of science to agricultural industries.

For many of the students it was a reunion with fellow recipients of a scholarship that – last January – took them on informative visits to industry sites and agricultural research laboratories, and enabled them to work with scientists on individual research projects. For others – applicants for the next round of scholarships – it was a chance to meet former scholarship recipients and get a taste of what they could experience in January 2011.

The Industry Placement Scholarship program is administered by the national Primary Industries Centre for Science Education (PICSE), which has its NSW activity centre at UNE. Targeting talented science students who are about to embark on university studies, the program aims to inform the students about the wide range of scientific careers available in local primary industries.

The participants in last Friday’s reunion event travelled to UNE from throughout the New England North West region. Caitlin Berecry, a Year 12 student at Calrossy Anglican School in Tamworth who took part in this year’s summer scholarship program, said that she would “highly recommend” it for students interested in a scientific career. “It really gave me an idea of what I want to do,” she said. “I learnt a lot, and it was good to get a scientific-career-oriented perspective on local industries.”

Caitlin’s industry placement allowed her to spend five days at the Animal Genetics and Breeding Unit on the UNE campus, investigating factors related to fertility in animal breeding. At this stage, she’s thinking of doing a Rural Science degree at UNE after taking a break from study in a gap year.

Kellie Smith, who is in Year 12 at McCarthy Catholic College in Tamworth, did her industry placement at Tamworth’s Joe White Malting, investigating the effects of different varieties of barley on the malting process. Among other things, she said, working on the project had helped her with her HSC Biology and Agriculture studies. And the industry visits had, she added, introduced her to so much about “science in industry” that she hadn’t known before.

Susanna Greig, the UNE-based Science Education Officer for the NSW PICSE program, said that the students taking part in Friday’s event had been “challenged to solve problems using the tools of engineers and surveyors”, had “investigated UNE’s new micro-CT scanning facility”, and had “learnt about a range of postgraduate research projects undertaken at UNE”. They had also met former PICSE scholarship recipients who were now studying at UNE, she said.

“PICSE is a national organisation with six activity centres around Australia,” Ms Greig explained. “A bonus for teachers and students involved in the program is that we can offer them travelling scholarships so that they can see science working in industry – providing insights into career opportunities – beyond their own backyards. Between the 26th and 28th of July, students from across Australia who have completed PICSE Industry Placement Scholarship activities will be travelling to Canberra to tell industry leaders and politicians about the impact that their scholarship experience has had on them.”

THE PHOTOGRAPH displayed here shows Kellie Smith (left) and Caitlin Berecry at UNE on Friday.