This year’s National Science Week celebrations at Matthew Flinders Anglican College were everything our Year 10 and 11 girl students with a passion for science could have wished for!
The College hosted its second annual Inspiring Women in Science and Health (I-WiSH) conference on Tuesday, 16 August, featuring six leading women researchers and their doctoral students from the University of Queensland and the University of the Sunshine Coast.
More than 40 Flinders students embraced the opportunity to learn about cutting-edge, real-world research projects and to be mentored in how to devise and pitch a science-based initiative to a panel of judges.
See photos from the event in the gallery below.
The Flinders I-WiSH conference was led by the College's Head of Pastoral Programs and researcher, Dr Louise McCuaig and Secondary Science Teacher Emmie Cossell.
The College’s aim was to address the under-representation of young women in the sciences and demystify and reveal the future pathways on offer.
Flinders Year 10 student Heather Brown gave I-WiSH a glowing review!
“It was so amazing!” Heather said. “I highly recommend it for younger girls as well. I went in with an open mind and I heard so many amazing things. It makes me very excited to explore science.”
Flinders Year 11 student Lara Swenson attended the inaugural I-WiSH conference in 2011, and was thrilled to be invited to mentor the Year 10 students this year.
"I had the privilege of working with a group of five Year 10 students who continuously impressed me throughout the day with their passion and curiosity for the science on display and their eagerness and ingenuity in approaching challenges,” Lara said.
“I am so glad that this event has been able to continue and another group of girls have been inspired.”
I-WiSH Reflections from Flinders Staff and Guest Speakers
Dr Louise McCuaig said the doctoral students and leading researchers were energised by the curiosity and creativity of the participating Year 10 and 11 students.
“It was extraordinary to witness the sheer joy and engagement of all our I-WiSH participants,” Louise said.
“Flinders students were not only inspired by the exciting studies our guest researchers are undertaking, but by their grit, empathy and commitment to making the world a better place,” she said.
“It was rewarding to offer students authentic opportunities to explore, debate and critically reflect on the personal and professional journeys of the outstanding visiting role models.”
The event's keynote speaker was Naomi Fitzpatrick, an Old Flinderian (Class of 2013) and a PhD student at the University of Queensland who is also an associate lecturer in nutrition and dietetics at the University of the Sunshine Coast.
Naomi said, “It was refreshing and wonderful to be surrounded by such unfiltered excitement, passion and creativity about science. It brings passion back into my work as well.”
Fiona Cheung, a doctoral student in developmental biology at the University of Queensland said I-WiSH was a “wonderful event”.
“It provided an opportunity for us to meet and share stories with female researchers from different scientific disciplines,” Fiona said. “And it was a delight to work with the enthusiastic, highly motivated, and utterly creative young women from Flinders.”
Leila Fathi, a PhD candidate and accredited practising dietitian in human movement and nutrition sciences at the University of Queensland said it was “an absolute delight” to work with the students. “I was incredibly impressed with the students’ insight, curiosity, creativity and teamwork skills, and know that they all have bright futures ahead of them,” Leila said.
Dr Lisa Buckley from the School of Public Health at the University of Queensland said, “It was such a lovely and inspiring event, and wonderful to hear the creativity and consideration the Years 10 and 11 students offered throughout the day. “There was passion, thoughtfulness, empathy and teamwork!” Lisa said. “I was especially impressed with the way they were thinking out of the box and wanted to use research to inform practice! It was also lovely to hear from such amazing women in research!”
I-WiSH REFLECTIONS by Flinders Secondary Science Teacher Mrs Emmie Cossell
Mrs Emmie Cossell said the I-WiSH conference provided the perfect mix of challenge and wonder for the students.
The program invited I-WiSH presenters to conduct snappy pitching sessions, known in the research world as a ‘three-minute thesis’, to share highlights from their fascinating projects.
Students learned of cutting-edge discoveries and research on topics as diverse as galaxies and dark energy, to nutrition science and paediatric wellbeing, the impact of toxins on germ cells, restoration of coastal ecosystems, countering blue screen impact on macular degeneration, and fighting dementia through exercise.
Students also engaged in interactive coaching and change-maker strategising, getting up close and personal with real-world science and health work that matters to all Australians.
What were some of the 2022 I-WiSH highlights?
Emmie: “The wide-ranging topics and incredible leaps that are occurring in science hooked our students and they quickly became passionate advocates for the research they chose to pursue for the day. “I was proud of their engagement and the pure enthusiasm they displayed in their pitch. “I even teared up a couple of times just out of pure pride for what our kids can do in such a short period of time and with such energy."
What worked well in the program schedule?
“The advocacy campaigns and ideas were incredible. The creativity and critical thinking displayed in the students' pitches were well-researched and innovative. “I also think the day was perfectly challenging; students weren't just there for science; they were learning future skills as well."
What did the students enjoy about I-WiSH?
“Our students loved the connections they were able to make between the science they are studying and the real-world projects that are occurring. They felt that they were able to have a voice in advocating for the great research that is currently happening just down the road from us, at the University of the Sunshine Coast and at the University of Queensland in Brisbane.
“They found the day both interesting and inspiring, with many students interested in continuing to network with the PhD students who presented on the day.”
CONFERENCE PROGRAM AND GUEST PRESENTERS
The guest presenters from the University of Queensland included dietetics researcher Professor Helen Truby; astrophysicist Dr Rossana Ruggeri; marine ecology and coastal engineer Dr Alice Twomey; and senior postdoctoral researcher and Research Fellow of the School of Biomedical Sciences (SBMS) Dr Cassy Spiller.
And from the University of the Sunshine Coast was lecturer Dr Mia Schaumberg who is an Old Flinderian and graduated with the Flinders Class of 2006.
The event's keynote speaker was Naomi Fitzpatrick, a PhD student at the University of Queensland and an alumni of Old Flinderian (Class of 2013).
And judging on the panel was Dr Angela Carberry, Manager of Health Planning and Intelligence at Central Queensland, Wide Bay, Sunshine Coast PHN, who is also an alumni Old Flinderian (Class of 2002).
Joining Angela on the judging panel were UQ and UniSC doctoral students Fiona Cheung, Leila Fathi, Vicki Bennion and Isabel King, who had all hoped their respective projects would provide the inspiration for our change-maker teams’ advocacy.