18 May, 2018
The 2017 NanoCamp and DiscoveryCamp again saw high numbers of applications from Year 12 and 13 secondary school students.
The five-day, all-expenses-paid residential programmes give students an opportunity to learn about nanoscience through lectures and lab experience with MacDiarmid investigators. This year the programmes were run by Principal Investigators Dr Natalie Plank (Wellington, Discovery), Dr Geoff Willmott (Auckland, Discovery), and Dr Michel Nieuwoudt (Auckland, Nano).
DiscoveryCamp doesn’t always stop at the end of the week. Eteroa Lafaele was one of four DiscoveryCamp alumni who spent summer 2016/17 working in MacDiarmid labs. Eteroa says attending the 2012 DiscoveryCamp changed her life.
“In college I was hooked on chemistry. It was the year before university and all you heard was ‘plan now for your future!’ Summer camp came around and my mind was still set on chemistry. But it was a session about computer science that won me over.
“My mind exploded. No joke, the feeling was like I had a crush!” she laughs. “I actually ditched my group and walked around the computer science department and there were all these old school computers. I looked into their displays and I promised myself that I would be up there with the computer science greats.”
She’s now over halfway to her goal, studying a double major in Software Development and Computational Intelligence at Auckland University of Technology, and plans to be a software engineer. Eteroa believes that science, technology, engineering, and maths are the perfect industries for our innovative Pacific people. “It’s important for Māori and Pacific students to be in the STEM industries because there are opportunities just flowing from this industry. The world is changing, and I believe we should change with it.
“I’ve been going to decile 1–3 schools in South Auckland to promote STEM. Now I want to go home and do the same thing in Cannons Creek. I want to give back to my place. I want to introduce the kids there to computer science because as a last resort they all go for sports – but they need a backbone to fall back on after sports. It’s on my mind every time I come home and visit.”
Eteroa spent the summer working on developing redox batteries for remote island communities.
Danielle Sword (Muaūpoko) is another DiscoveryCamp alumni (2013) who came back to do the summer studentship. She says that DiscoveryCamp helped her feel that science was something she could do at university.
“My DiscoveryCamp supervisor was encouraging about me going ahead in the science field at uni, especially in chemical science. So I stayed with science and have done biomed, so a bit of biology and chemistry.”
She spent her summer studentship working on gold nanoparticles and DNA nanoflowers.
“The job really related to my project and the techniques I’d done in class. I got to meet the top supervisors and PhD students – and they chatted to me about opportunities for me for my masters. It was a good door- opener. And I got paid for it!”
Danielle is now thinking of a career in pharmaceuticals or immunology.
Redox batteries for remote island communities
AUT (CS and Maths)
Aptamer conjugated to gold nanoparticles
University of Otago (BSc Psychology)
Aptamer conjugated into gold nanoparticles and DNA nanoflowers
Victoria University of Wellington (Biomed Sci)
Biosensors for medical implants
University of Canterbury (Engineering)