La Trobe science inspires Tall Poppies

Victorian senior secondary school students keen to become Tall Poppies in Science have been learning how to image and then 3D print bionic ear bones with the help of La Trobe postgraduate students.

With their young mentor scientists they studied how the tiny cochlear bone helps us hear and how X-rays are used to create 3D models without the need for surgery.

Others have been using atomic force microscopy to get up close and personal with the scientific intricacies of their own hair follicles.

'Some students are really surprised that there are women doing this kind of science – that it's not just old men in lab coats,' says mentor Hannah Coughlan, a nanotechnology PhD student at La Trobe and the CSIRO.

Yes, you can!

'It's all about letting them know that anyone can be a physicist and anyone can do research,' she said.

The Growing Tall Poppies program is the brainchild of teacher and scientist Dr Eroia Barone-Nugent, who is also an Adjunct Associate Professor in La Trobe's College of Science Health and Engineering.

Coming from a teaching background, she saw girls dropping out of physics because they couldn't see the relevance of physics to their lives. 'But doing more science, especially physics, makes them more scientifically literate and work ready, she says.

Real science

'What our program focuses on is the decision point for Year 10 and Year 11 students. Coming from a teacher's point of view I understand what motivates kids at that age.'

Dr Barone-Nugent stresses four main messages for students: 'You are capable of doing science, there are careers in science, scientists are real people – and science can change people's lives.'

The schools involved in the just completed program were Catholic Regional College in Melton and the Academy of Mary Immaculate in Fitzroy.

The next program is in early December. It features four new projects on robotics and synchrotrons.

For more information, or to get involved, click here on the Growing Tall Poppies Website.

TOP OF PAGE: Catholic Regional College student Ken Dumandan with a 3D printed cochlear bone.(Photo by Michelle McFarlane La Trobe University)