ConocoPhillips Science Experience 2020

Chemical purification, exploration of animal research facilities, insect hunts and introductions to neuroanatomy were just some of the opportunities experienced by 23 high school students attending the ConocoPhillips Science Experience at the University of New England last week.

In this year’s program at UNE, held on 14-16th January, students from as far south as Sydney and Condobolin, north to Brisbane and from Coonabarabran in the west, got to work with scientists in industry and academia. From lab based-diagnostic testing to field-based insect sampling; pure science exploration to industry-based applications, students were given the chance to explore possibilities for careers in science that they may never have considered.

In addition to diving into the world of science, students were also able to experience university life, staying in Mary White Residential College for the camp. Students had the full on-campus experience, dining at The ‘Stro and Booloominbah, rock climbing at SportUNE, and exploring some of Armidale’s local natural beauty in the eucalypt woodlands at Dumaresq Dam. There was a fiercely contested trivia night, table tennis and soccer tournaments, and a high-stakes app game (Eggit!) challenge put forward by UNE’s Poultry Hub.

UNE Discovery program leader, Dr Kirsti Abbott, highlighted the significance of students coming together from around NSW to engage in science, technology, engineering and maths related fields.

“Students can’t be what they can’t see.”

And, programs like the ConocoPhillips Science Experience open up the wider world of science research and collaborations beyond a typical science classroom. The three-day camp at UNE encourages students to immerse themselves in campus life and tertiary science, and with the encouragement and support from experts in the field, build networks and inspire confidence to pursue their scientific interests into the future.

In challenging times such as this, with drought and bushfires continuing to grip huge swathes of the country, it’s more important than ever that members of our regional communities seize opportunities to come together to share ideas, passions and experiences, and to share in curiosity, investigation and problem solving.

Student feedback from the program highlights how valuable these experiences are for participants. Students commented on how enjoyable, interesting and fulfilling the camp was, and what close friendships they have made. Many of the students who attend were afforded the chance with the help of their local Rotary Club, who sponsor places. In January 2021, up to 30 places will be sponsored for the UNE ConocoPhillips Science Experience. For students going into Years 9, 10 & 11, it’s a great end to the school holidays. Keep your eye out for announcements of registrations for next year.

The ConocoPhillips Science Experience is a national program that gives students interested in science an opportunity to engage in a range of scientific activities across a variety of disciplines. More than 35 universities and tertiary institutions across the country take part each year, with more than 68,000 students having taken up the opportunity to date.