Summer Nano in Wellington

Summer Nano in Wellington

Every summer, a group of top science students from across the country is hosted at one of our six partner organisations. Participants are selected from a large number of applications (55 were received this year) based on their academic standing, a written essay, and recommendations from their science teachers.

The 2012 contingent comprises students from Auckland (5), Hamilton, Gisborne, Nelson (2), Christchurch, Dunedin, Porirua, Lower Hutt (2), and Miramar. Participants from outside the Wellington region stay together at Te Puni Village, one of Victoria’s Halls of Residence.

The daily programme features interactive sessions focused on cutting-edge research topics in nano-science and nano-technology, including demonstrations of modern nano-fabrication methods and state-of-the-art equipment. Besides seeing the facilities at Victoria, the students are spending one day at the Gracefield sites of Industrial Research Limited and GNS Science.

Gabrielle Young, from Chilton St James in Lower Hutt, said that it was giving her “a more realistic view of what it’s all about. It’s not just white coats and labs all the time.”

“We had a cool lecture from Elf Eldridge (a PhD student) about nanotechnology and biological systems, and we extracted DNA from strawberries, which I didn’t know you could do.  All the tutors have been really nice, and answered all our questions, explained stuff clearly.”

The science sessions are facilitated by MacDiarmid-Institute Principal Investigators, with crucial help from their PhD students and postdoctoral fellows.

“The interaction between the visiting students and our researchers has been very stimulating to both”, says Prof Uli Zuelicke who has been in charge of organising NanoCamp this year. “Thinking of ways to describe to bright high-school students how we approach our science quite often provides a new angle for how we academics view very fundamental issues.”

In addition to the full and varied science programme, an equally exciting schedule of social evening activities has been organised by local members of the MacDiarmid’s Emerging Scientist Association (MESA). And with the weather cooperating marvelously, the visit to Carter Observatory was especially successful.

“These young technologists are New Zealand’s future.”, says Prof Shaun Hendy, who is a Deputy Director of the MacDiarmid Institute.

“The high technology sector is the fastest growing part of the New Zealand economy, yet it is hampered by a shortage of scientists and engineers. I hope that the experience these young people had during their week at the MacDiarmid Institute showed them that cutting edge science and technology is alive and well in New Zealand and that it will encourage them to stay and build their careers here.”