PLC Sydney hosts inaugural International Science Conference

..bringing together students from around the world in a shared science and cultural experience.

Albert Einstein and Marie Curie both went to school somewhere. They both had their interest kindled and their bright minds stimulated. We do not yet know what will become of the young science students of today.  We do know that we want to spark their minds.

This is why PLC Sydney was proud to host the 2023 International Student Science Conference, held at PLC Sydney as part of our 135th Anniversary celebrations.

The aims of the conference were to bring together students from around the world in a shared science and cultural experience, to increase the students’ science understanding, and also to enable them to appreciate scientific challenges from a global perspective and to assist them in forming friendships and building networks.

Throughout the conference week students visited places of scientific and cultural significance. In addition, a key part of the conference was the school presentations, where student delegates presented their findings from experimental research investigation they had conducted.

The theme for the conference was Bright Minds Think A Light.

Please read about the highlights of the conference from some of our Science student leaders: Anshita Baijal, Alyssa Krestovsky, Chloe Kwok, Anabelle Lau, Bethany Rand, Alessa Ratnavadivel, Mariana Vasiliou, and Madeleine Vaughan (Yr 10 - 12)

Conference Highlights

The first day of the International Student Science Conference (ISSC) 2023 began on Friday 12 May with the long-awaited arrival of international students. After arriving earlier in the day from their flights, the students made their way to PLC Sydney, where groups of students had organised their STEM version of The Amazing Race .

The night began with a meet and greet in the MSR with ex-student Julia Cummins as the guest speaker. Julia inspired students with her journey taking her Year 10 SRP onto the world stage at the 2022 Stockholm Water where she was a finalist. Julia’s speech encouraged students like ourselves to continue our passion for STEM and feed our curiosity.

Following a welcome from Dr Burgis and dinner, the students were organised into teams for The Amazing Race, where we had a chance to meet the students in our teams. The rest of the night involved running around the school, solving clues and completing challenges ranging from creating 1-minute dances of scientific concepts to the Can-Can or exhibiting centripetal force. Each team was a winner on the night and was gifted with an Aussie goody bag with treats like TimTams. After leaving PLC Sydney with an enjoyable first day, we arrived at the Youth Hostel ready for the next day packed with activities.

On Saturday, the international students were split into mixed groups and were taken on a tour of Sydney delivered by PLC Sydney students. This provided an opportunity to get to know each other better and gave the guests an understanding of the history of Sydney. The tour began by walking across the iconic Sydney Harbour Bridge and then admiring the view from Observatory Hill. We then walked through the Rocks and toured the Rocks Discovery Museum which taught us about the rich culture of the area. After walking through Circular Quay and stopping at souvenir shops, we walked around the Sydney Opera House and then learnt about Australia's unique flora in the Botanical Gardens.

We then arrived at PLC Sydney’s Open Day and Fair, where students were encouraged to indulge in the various rides and games and eat delicious food from a food truck before watching the light show and the fireworks. On the bus ride home, we enjoyed singing along to many songs before having a good night’s sleep ahead of our trip the next day.

On Sunday, we started the day with a ferry trip to Taronga Zoo. This ferry provided delegates with a different and very beautiful view of Sydney Harbour. When at Taronga Zoo, we were split into groups and taken on tours by guides. To end the trip, many students bought souvenirs from Taronga’s Gift Shop to remember the wonderful time they had spent there. After the zoo, we returned to the Youth Hostel for a few hours of free time. Some spent this time talking with new friends or calling home, and a large group of us went into the city to buy treats for one of the delegates' birthdays.

"The aims of the conference were to bring together students from around the world in a shared science and cultural experience, to increase the students’ science understanding, and also to enable them to appreciate scientific challenges from a global perspective and to assist them in forming friendships and building networks. "

Dr Paul Burgis, PLC Sydney Principal.

We then arrived at PLC Sydney to watch and learn from each other in Cultural Presentations. The international students presented us with food and trinkets from their countries and gifts that others were free to take or trade. We then moved to the MSR where we played traditional games from each country like Kabbadi from India, Taiwanese dancing, or the iconic Nutbush from Australia. Sunday was the best way to end the first leg of the conference. We went to sleep that night eager for the three days of avid learning ahead of us.

Student science presentations from attending schools were fascinating and inspiring, demonstrating a wide range of excellent scientific research from very different areas of science.

On Monday, we received an address from Professor Veena Sahajwalla, an internationally recognised materials scientist, engineer and inventor. She discussed with us her inspiring and unique work opportunities and discoveries, green manufacturing, as well as the new model of the 4 R’s of recycling: reduce, reuse, recycle, reform.

This was followed by the student science presentations from the attending schools. These presentations were very fascinating and inspiring, demonstrating a wide range of excellent scientific research from very different areas of science. A visit to the University of Sydney was another highlight for all, where we were split into groups to explore different areas. It was incredible to view Egyptian Mummies at the Chau Chak Museum, as well as visit the Ainsworth Interactive Collection of Medical Pathology. We were all amazed to see the various opportunities for further studies in Science here, especially through the specific courses.

Our visit was completed with an incredible workshop in the Biomedical Engineering Faculty with lie detector tests, viewing the robotics centre and seeing a new method of water conservation. I think we can all agree we were excited to see the self-driving golf carts which were being tested and could drive across campus! Our day concluded with dinner at Spice Alley, where we all enjoyed catching up together on the various experiences and moments from the day which we value so much! We enjoyed laughing together on our walk back to the hostel.

On Tuesday, we received an address from another keynote speaker from UNSW, Professor Ziv Hameiri, who introduced us to the future of Australia: solar energy. We then applied the information he had given us to build our own solar cars from scratch! This workshop was definitely a challenge, but a great opportunity for us to bond with our teammates to use our problem-solving skills and existing physics knowledge to build the fastest solar car.

After lunch, we listened to more student science presentations which were again compelling and engaging. This was followed by another workshop from Dr Carolyn Hogg on analysing the genomics of woylies. As we all observed the genetic patterns of the species, we all agreed that we had learnt a great deal from this lesson. Finally, the day was wrapped up with an authentic Australian barbecue and bush dance. This session not only allowed us to share our culture with fellow delegates but also fostered great bonding as many of us skipped along to the rhythm of traditional folk songs.

On Wednesday, we received an address from Professor Katherine Belov who taught us about her work in genomics, immunogenetics and conservation genetics. She gave us incredible insight into her numerous discoveries relating to Australian animals, particularly talking about devil facial tumour disease (DFTD) in Tasmania Devils and how increasing genetic diversity is key to helping these animals.

This was followed by a continuation of student science presentations, in which we heard from Stella Matutina Girls' High School on 'Relationship of Different Types of Natural Colouring to the efficiency of Dye-sensitised Solar Cell', the Doon School on 'The Bouncy Ball' and the Hutchins School on 'An Investigation into Triboluminescence'. All of these presentations showed the students’ hard work and dedication to producing astounding and impressive projects.

After lunch, we visited the Sydney Institute of Marine Science (SIMS) and were guided by Professor David Booth and his team on a tour around the institute, being shown how the place was run and getting to see the fascinating species of White’s Seahorses. Professor Booth also offered his extensive knowledge of marine life in the area and methods for reducing threats to their lives.

We then headed to the city for a delicious dinner at the Crowne Plaza and made our way to our final event of the conference which was the much-awaited PLC Sydney 135 Year Anniversary Concert, the perfect way to end the conference. The night was filled with spectacular musical performances, and everyone was captivated by the talent of students all around the world. Our last night at the YHA was filled with laughter and bittersweet goodbyes as we farewelled our new friends from the past week.

135th lights and fireworks celebration at PLC Sydney on Open Day.

The ISSC 2023 was an incredible experience to be a part of and was definitely an unforgettable one. This conference could not have been possible without the coordination from Mrs Hendriks who was part of planning a majority of the logistics of the event, the assistance from the science faculty and the work of all of the teachers and students from all around the world! We are all immensely grateful for this opportunity and look forward to the next one!