Students on summer scholarships gain ‘insight’ and ‘inspiration’

Published 09 February 2012

picseTwenty outstanding young people were the stars of an event this week that celebrated their achievements as recipients of summer scholarships that enabled them to see and experience the exciting work of the scientists who support our primary industries.

The event, at the University of New England, marked the culmination of this summer’s Industry Placement Scholarship program for students who completed Year 11 or Year 12 in 2011. The scholarships, managed locally through UNE, are part of the national Primary Industry Centre for Science Education (PICSE) program.

The students travelled to this week’s “reporting back” event from their homes throughout north-western NSW. Each of them spoke briefly about their experiences at a week-long Science-to-Industry Camp in December that took them to agricultural industries – and the scientific laboratories supporting them – throughout the region, and a five-day placement in January at one or other of those locations.

“This has been the biggest opportunity that’s ever been offered to me,” said Gregory Pearce, from Inverell, speaking to an audience of fellow students, parents, teachers, and industry hosts. Gregory, whose industry placement was with the Border Rivers-Gwydir Catchment Management Authority, said he was hoping to enrol in UNE’s Bachelor of Rural Science degree program in 2013. He added that he had also won a PICSE travelling scholarship last year – a scholarship that had taken him to a student camp in South Australia.

“I grew up on a farm and have always been interested in agricultural science,” said Georgia Rogan, who comes from a property near Tamworth. “This program has given me great insight into the options that are available. All the activities and industry visits during the camp were hands-on and allowed us to ask questions. And sharing the experience with the others on the camp made it even better. I’d encourage all interested students to apply.”

Georgia’s industry placement was at the “Glendon” poultry farm near Tamworth, where a highlight of the experience was seeing the day-old chicks arrive. She, too, won a PICSE travelling scholarship in 2011, hers taking her to a student camp at the University of the Sunshine Coast. Georgia’s proud father, Peter Rogan, who attended the “reporting back” session, confirmed that she had really enjoyed her involvement in the PICSE program, which she had undertaken on her own initiative.

Three girls – Kate Johnston from Moree, Alice Jarratt from Guyra and Briony Looker from Glen Innes – collaborated on an experiment in animal genetics at the Animal Genetics and Breeding Unit, UNE. “We had scientists continuously surrounding us and helping us out,” Kate said, and Alice called it “an inspirational experience”. “It helped to assure me that my future is in agricultural industry,” said Briony, who added that she’s intending to undertake a Rural Science degree program at UNE after completing her Year 12 studies this year.

The National Director of the PICSE program, Associate Professor David Russell, travelled from his base at the University of Tasmania to attend this week’s event at UNE. He explained that the program addressed “a crisis of human capacity”. “We need more young and enthusiastic people in science in agricultural industry,” he said.

Dr Russell emphasised the importance to students of “actually being there” when investigating opportunities for such careers. And Susanna Greig, the PICSE Science Education Officer at UNE, confirmed that the program helped students “to make informed career decisions after seeing for themselves the opportunities available to them”.

“These are young people who are really going places,” Ms Greig said after the students’ presentations.

THE PHOTOGRAPH displayed here shows Alice Jarratt with Associate Professor David Russell.