Next wave of scientists given a taste of uni life

14 Dec 2021
Credit: Indooroopilly State High School

The Faculty of Science and the School of Biological Sciences recently hosted a series of hands-on workshops to help high school students hone their scientific research skills.

Experience Ecology and Senior Science Skills Day workshops were attended by thousands of students from schools across Queensland, who experienced fieldwork and lectures at the St Lucia and Gatton campuses in October and November.

Dr Gurion Ang, who developed and delivered these workshops collaboratively with current biology undergraduate students, said the events were a tremendous success, with many students walking away with newfound knowledge, skills, and enthusiasm for exploring further education in science.

“This is the third year we have held Experience Ecology,” Dr Ang said.

"The feedback we’ve received from students about these workshops is that they found them to be an engaging introduction to studying ecology while having a taste of uni life.

"Teachers attending the workshops also indicated how effectively they fulfilled mandatory aspects of the senior biology syllabus.

Credit: Indooroopilly State High School

“From our perspective, it was great to be able to work really closely with the students, and see their genuine interest in the workshops and how they embraced the content in a way that we think will provide a great foundation for a future in science and research.”

The Senior Science Skills Day hosted hundreds of year 10 students who have elected to study at least one senior science subject from schools throughout Queensland, including schools from UQ’s Widening Participation program.

These workshops provided them with scientific research skills needed for their research assignments in years 11 and 12.

“Our aim was to improve students’ performance and confidence in their senior science studies, and increase the likelihood of them successfully completing those subjects,” Dr Ang said.

“Students participated in four workshops, which focused on building their scientific research skills in the areas of scientific creativity, inquiry, literacy, and analysis.”

The Experience Ecology workshops provided year 11 biology students with the chance to complete practical field skills in ecology and were complemented by a data analysis workshop, both of which are crucial components for two of their internal assessments in year 12.

“The first workshop, facilitated by current UQ ecology and zoology students, saw students learning and developing their skills in data collection for field ecology research,” Dr Ang said.

“They learned about calculating species diversity, classifying ecosystems, and appraising the use of varied surveying techniques when assessing different ecosystems.

Credit: Indooroopilly State High School

“The other workshop which I facilitated gave students an insight into the analysis and interpretation of ecological data.

“We used an authentic sample data set and showed students the best practice for processing and analysing complex ecological data, but at a level most suitable for senior students.”

Feedback from the participants s was very positive with many - praising the UQ student facilitators for the way they engaged everyone and provided valuable advice for their future studies.

“Dr G’s (Gurion Ang’s) way of teaching was incredibly informative and interesting, not to mention humorous,” one student said.

“I haven’t had as much fun as I did that day in a long time.”

“The best aspect for me was the fact we were taught in a way that wasn’t too advanced but also made us feel like university students,” another student said.

“Having the chance to visit both campuses was also really exciting.”

More workshops are planned for 2022 as UQ supports the uptake of senior science subjects by Australia’s next wave of scientists.