Success stories: Meet our 2021 Australian Science Olympiad Summer School students

In any other year, the Australian National University campus would be overrun with bright young students from across Australia as they work towards a place in the International Science Olympiad. This year, students met virtually with tutors and had everything they need for the two-week intensive school arrive on their doorstep. We took five minutes to chat with a few of the emerging leaders taking part in this year’s Australian Science Olympiad Summer School.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Natalie Le

Chemistry

I currently take three sciences at school, so being able to forge all these connections between the three and realising that a more thorough understanding of one subject equates to a better grasp of the other two as well is really quite exciting. My teachers recommended I try out the Science Olympiad Exams so I participated in an after-school Olympiad training class offered by my school, sat the Australian Science Olympiad Exams in August, and here I am!

Even though there are so many programs in place, I feel there still isn’t enough visibility for women in STEM. In the future, I would like to join the many other (but still not enough!) female STEMgineers in inspiring and encouraging more girls to consider STEM as a viable career path. In doing so, hopefully we can move as a society towards greater gender balance in the many places where women in academic careers remain underrepresented.

I’m currently considering a career in astrophysics, medicine, or, thanks to summer school, potentially something chemistry-related. I’d also love to be able to participate in an international exchange program for the opportunity to study abroad and experience new environments.

Oliver Cheng

Chemistry

I was offered a position at the Chemistry Summer School on the basis of my ASO Chemistry exam. I was quite surprised to have enjoyed the exam after sitting it; I was expecting a somewhat monotonous experience, but the exam was very different from school assessments! It opened my eyes to how science can challenge you to think about things from a different perspective.

Technology has always been a major interest of mine and I am interested in how tech and automation can be used in the medical and biomedical industry. From making it easier to access routine medical help to folding proteins, I’d love to be one of many involved in a project in these sectors.

We learnt about the Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders) in French, who provide medical help in places of unrest, conflict, or disaster; if go down the medical route I’d definitely consider applying and volunteering with the organisation.

Matthew Denipitiya

Physics

I’ve done both the Big Science Competition and Science Olympiads in the past! The Australian Science Olympiads Exams are a great challenge to throw yourself at. Give the free practise questions and papers a go and take part.

As the world develops and we see more and more pollution and greenhouse gases emitted, I’d love to find a way to make processes more efficient and less polluting. From cars that are sustainably fuelled, to less wasteful ways to grow food, so that we can protect the planet. Making connections between different theories and disciplines of science is my favourite part, everything is connected somehow, from ions to cell membranes to the way we move.

I haven’t got many concrete plans next year; I want to study science at university, but I have no idea what I’d focus on. In the past I’ve wanted to be a biochemist, a marine biologist, an astrophysicist, and a forensic scientist. I’ll see where I settle.

Onesimus Hewett

Physics

This is the first time engaging with ASI programs. I love science because a single discovery contributes to a model of the universe for all of humanity. There are always discoveries to be made, and it always seems like there are mysteries to be solved. It’s like a giant jigsaw puzzle working from the inside out. At this stage, I really enjoy the learning and discovery process, but I think I may pursue physics and mathematics.

One problem that needs to be solved in my lifetime is that of global warming, any discoveries, or developments that I make in improving efficiency (lowering emissions) or create alternatives will help in this international goal. It’s hard to tackle a specific field at this point still, I just hope that summer school gives me more skill to help deal with these future challenges!

Ravon Chew

Biology

The Biology Summer School was the first academic invitational I’ve received. When I first got into something that seemed so far away for someone like me, it was a surreal experience. I love how science allows us to uncover the secrets held before our eyes, to systematically test and eliminate hypotheses, and to better the lives of many. It fascinates me how we can use science to discover so much about our world—from the smallest elementary particles to the ecosystem and cosmos. I always thought STEM competitions were a fun challenge, and participated in several. The Big Science Competition was engaging, but it was ultimately participation in Australian Science Olympiads that landed me a spot in Summer School.

Currently, I’m interested in investigating epidemiological modelling relevant to the COVID-19 pandemic. Apart from working with animals and plants, I would love to help advance research into human interaction and impact on the biosphere.

The Biology Summer School gave me opportunities to explore Biology in greater depth. I never liked Biology as a school subject [but] Biology at Summer School was completely different. It was the first subject that I felt was completely on pace. I had the opportunity to learn so many things that I would otherwise not be able to learn, and I’ll really treasure the notes I took during the program.

There are many fields of research I wish to experience if possible: marine biology, linguistics, psychology, modern physics to name a few. It’s all very daunting, but I’ll start with going to university and learning as much as I can. I also aspire to learn many new languages, and experience cultures around the world.

Olivia Anderson

Earth and environmental science

I love STEM for its “ah-ha” moments. Those times when everything clicks, and a small part of the world makes sense, are extremely satisfying. I did both the Physics and Earth and Environmental Science Papers for the Australian Science Olympiad Exams, and was accepted into the Earth and Environmental Science Summer School.

I’m not quite sure what I want to do in the future, so I’d be happy to contribute to solving almost any STEM-related problem – from privacy issues to natural disaster preparation and climate change – it looks like finding a problem won’t be the issue, just the fixing!

After school, I want to study Chemistry, Maths, and maybe Programming, at university. My other goal is to one day use the Spanish I learnt in school – preferably before I forget all of the grammar rules!

Kevin Wang

Chemistry

There is a saying in STEM: ‘the more you know the more you realise you don’t know’, but for me that is exactly the defining quality of STEM. What I really enjoy about STEM is the underlying logic behind STEM subjects, and how logic and hard facts actually enable imagination and discovery as we try to grapple with the workings of the universe.

Ideally, I would like to solve the problem of antibiotic resistance in my lifetime. If antibiotic resistance persists as a major problem, the world may enter a ‘post-antibiotic’ era and drastic measures would need to be taken.

The Australian Science Olympiad was a really enjoyable experience – I sat the chemistry exams and joined the Summer School based on my performance in the exams. I am aiming to pursue a career in the medical sciences – I am especially interested in chemistry, pharmaceuticals and of course, medicine in general.