High school scientists inspired by introduction to the lab

By Rob Clancy, staff writer

High school scientist, Luvleen takes part in Hudson Institute's 'Young Women in Science 2022 program'.
Dr Saeedeh Darzi with Box Hill High School scientist, Luvleen

A squadron of high school scientists has spent a week at Hudson Institute exploring a future in STEM.

Young Women in STEM 2022 – Fast facts

    • Twelve year 10 students
    • Four schools including Wellington Secondary College (four students), Box Hill High School (three students), Brentwood Secondary College (three students), Pakenham Secondary College (two students)

    Year 10 students from secondary schools throughout Melbourne’s south-east spent a week at the Clayton campus, each matched with a female mentor, being shown the ropes of a career in medical research.

    It’s all thanks to the Young Women in Science program, made possible by the funds raised by Hudson Institute staff, students and supporters in this year’s Run Melbourne.

    For Luvleen Chand from Box Hill High School, it was a week of welcome surprises.

    “Just walking into the building, I saw so many young women – far more than men – and it was really inspiring,” she said.

    Science career for high school students

    Luvleen hopes to study Medicine or Biomedicine at Monash after VCE, so her time at Hudson Institute, in a team working alongside Dr Saeedeh Darzi in the Endometrial Stem Cell Biology Research group, was an eye-opener.

    High school scientist, Shazfa Shafeek joined Hudson Institute's 'Young Women in Science 2022 program'.
    Wellington Secondary College student, Shazfa Shafeek

    “I’d never even heard of pelvic organ prolapse, so to find out what it is and how many women it affects is really fascinating,” she said.

    For Shazfa Shafeek from Wellington Secondary College in Mulgrave, it was “10 times more interesting than a week at school”.

    “I’m interested in science in general and wanted to look at medical research,” she said. “It’s been an interesting week in the lab (with Dr Dongmei Tong and the Gastrointestinal Infection and Inflammation Research group) using pipettes and microscopes and imaging cells.”

    Van Khupno from Pakenham Secondary College ended the week with a new appreciation for researchers: “It’s very hard on your legs because you’re working standing up a lot of the time.”

    But she also saw plenty of positives: “I learned lots I wouldn’t have learned in the classroom, and it showed me that a career in science is something I‘d really enjoy.”

    High school scientists mentored

    As for the organiser, Dr Fiona Cousins, after missing out on running the program for two years due to lockdowns it was exciting to finally be able to run it, with 12 amazing students.

    High school scientist, Van Khupno joins Hudson Institute's 'Young Women in Science 2022 program'.
    Pakenham Secondary College student, Van Khupno

    “Our budding scientists were paired with 12 leading female researchers from Hudson Institute, from all of our five Centres, for hands-on lab time as well as group activities, including MHTP platform tours, lunch with the CEO and an embryology experience,” Dr Cousins said.

    “All of the students gave incredible presentations at the end of the week in front of their mentors, teachers and families.”

    “I can imagine it can be overwhelming to walk straight into a fast-paced lab environment, but all of the students got stuck in and were so keen to learn and explore the institute.”

    “It was an absolute pleasure to spend time with them all and I hope we’ve inspired them to continue their studies in science and have shown them what a potential research career looks like.”

    “Thank you to all of our mentors for taking the students under their wing and to Professor Hartland for making time in her very busy schedule to share some insights into what a female leadership role looks like…and sharing what she is currently watching on Netflix Dr Cousins said.”

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