Secondary students from around Victoria enjoy Biomedical Sciences Day

Fifty nine Year 10 and 11 students from across regional and rural Victoria and socioeconomically disadvantaged areas of Melbourne got a taste of university life at the third annual Biomedical Sciences Day, presented by the School of Biomedical Sciences and the Gene Technology Access Centre (GTAC) on Friday 8 September.

Year 11 student Tarsha Hawley experiments with slides, aided by University of Melbourne student Aaron Lim.

After an introduction from Deputy Head of School Professor Danny Hoyer, covering his own fascinating life journey to biomedical academia, the students heard from current SBS PhD candidates who talked about the courses they are undertaking, the diverse research topics they are pursuing and life on campus.

The students also learnt about Access Melbourne, a program that supports students from rural or regional areas in gaining entry to undergraduate courses at the university. Each year, 20 per cent of domestic undergraduate places at the university are reserved for Access Melbourne applicants, inclusive of students from financially disadvantaged backgrounds.

One major component of the day was a tour and talk at the fascinating Harry Brookes Allen Museum of Anatomy and Pathology, usually closed to the public. Here, students could view real tissue specimens and historical anatomical models, providing a unique insight into the human body.

The other main component was a hands-on lab session where students worked alongside SBS volunteer student mentors and researchers in the GTAC laboratories to photograph specimens using light, fluorescence and scanning electron microscopes. They then digitally modified their images and submitted them for a special school version of the Under the Coverslip: Biomedical Science Meets Art’ competition with the purpose of showcasing the beauty of scientific imagery as well as the importance of research work.

The 59 students came from schools in Melbourne’s west and rural areas around Victoria, some as far away as Mildura in the state’s north-west.

Tarsha Hawley, a Year 11 student and science enthusiast from Mildura Senior College, was fascinated by the Harry Brookes Allen Museum and having such access to human bones and tissue.

“I found the museum really special as I’m so curious about the human body. I also love the idea of hands-on lab work and a job in which you see something different every day,” says Tarsha.

Year 11 student Tarsha Hawley at the Harry Brookes Allen Museum. 

Year 10 students Lani Mott and Keniesha Ryan are the only two in their biology class at Tyrrell College, located in Sea Lake – a small town in the Mallee district of north-west Victoria.

Like Tarsha, the girls loved the museum but also enjoyed the insights from the PhD candidates and were thrilled by the breadth of research topics covered.

The girls were accompanied by their biology teacher Lana Durie and their mothers Jacqui Mott and Danni Ryan who also work at Tyrrell College. The three women expressed that they would be delighted to see the girls move to Melbourne to pursue tertiary studies in STEMM.

“Today, the girls saw the huge range of choices open to them for study and career. They got to see what life is like on campus, the hustle and bustle of city life, and the great variety of disciplines to pursue.”

In addition to the staff at SBS and GTAC, the day was made possible by the generous contributions of a range of slides, often specially prepared, from Ian Birchall, Aaron Brice, Brid Callaghan, Tina Cardamone, Ellie Cho, Michael Christie, Roger Curtain, Li Eon, Svenja Fritzlar, Prajakta Govi, Billie Hunne, Victoria Morrison, Zachery Moore, Katherine Munro, Catherine Palmer, Jo Russell, Lidia Troglic and the many lab heads and supervisors who spread the message. The GTAC microscopes were augmented by several units lent industry partners who also assisted in the labs: Naish Millerick from Thermo Fisher Scientific Australia provided an EVOS FLoid Cell Imaging Station and Sen Han from Olympus provided a pair of Olympus CX33 Biological Microscopes.

The day could also not have worked without the invaluable help of the SBS students who lent their time. Thanks to Q&A panellists Kirsty Mangas, Sarah Baines and Joshua Newson and to lab mentors Florence Lim, Emily Crisafulli, Emily Selig, Jiachen Xuan, Joshua Deerain, Kimberly Thek, Laura Fielden, Madeline Nicholson, Michelle Lee, Sher Maine Tan and Aaron Lim.

A date has been pencilled in for a fourth annual event in 2018.