Senior students reunite to share passion for science in agriculture

Twenty senior students from schools around the region visited the University of New England earlier this month to share their keen interest in the science that supports primary industries.

The full-day event, part of UNE’s Primary Industry Centre for Science Education (PICSE) program, brought together students who held PICSE Industry Placement Scholarships last summer and students who have applied for next summer’s scholarships.

The scholarships are part of the national PICSE program, which is addressing the shortage of scientists in agricultural industries by building relationships between school students, teachers, universities, and local scientists and employers associated with these industries.

Morgan Murtagh, a Year 12 student from O’Connor Catholic College in Armidale, worked with a UNE animal scientist, Associate Professor Julie Roberts, during his week-long industry placement in January. “The placement – and the preceding Science-to-Industry Camp – gave me an insight into the amount of work that goes into preventing disease in livestock and producing what consumers want,” he said.

“We also had the opportunity to look around the University,” Morgan said, “and that really confirmed my desire to study at UNE.”

Rachel Fenwicke, from Walcha Central School, worked at the Walcha Dairy during her industry placement, and tried her hand as milking, herding cows, fencing, and calf feeding.

Rachel, who comes from a Walcha beef property, said that she had always thought about agriculture as a career, and that her PICSE scholarship activities last summer had opened her eyes to agricultural industries other than beef. She said that, after a gap year in 2013, she’d like to study at UNE.

The reunion event, on Monday 2 July, gave the former scholarship holders a chance to renew friendships formed last summer, and to pass on their experiences to some of this year’s scholarship applicants. The day included hands-on experience in a UNE animal science laboratory, a visit to a goat farm, talks by researchers, and information about scholarships.

The UNE PICSE program has received more than 40 applications for Industry Placement Scholarships next summer. “This is the greatest number of applications ever received – and the quality of the applicants is of a very high standard,” said Susanna Greig, Science Education Officer for the UNE program. “Twenty of the applicants will be awarded scholarships, and we very much look forward to working with those students.”

Clicking on the PICSE logo above reveals a photograph of Susanna Greig (centre) with Rachel Fenwicke and Morgan Murtagh.