When traveling for research, there are a host of concerns. There are the travel concerns such as visas and passports as well as living arrangements and transportation. Then then are research concerns such as internal ethics review, external ethics approval, and perhaps most importantly: finding participants. Traveling with funding from NSF Graduate Research Opportunities Worldwide (GROW) has been an interesting experience so far. I have been here for two weeks now and I have already learned so much. Particularly: how to make the most of international research opportunities.
I came to Australia with a plan to conduct a study based on our current research in the US. We are examining student interest in and access to STEM. The hope is to compare youth’s out of school science experiences and family science habitus in the two countries. While waiting to get approval from local schools who would like to participate in our study, I have been taking the opportunity to learn about the work being done here in Australia.
Meet the Faculty
The first step was getting to know the faculty. It is fascinating to listen to the types of research being done at the University of Newcastle. As an Education Faculty, they are struggling with issues similar to those we are working on in the US. Listening to the staff talk about how they are working to solve those issues is amazing. I have met someone working on increasing interest in engineering for girls in a mining community. I have met someone examining how watching tutorial videos changes how kids learn in school. I’ve also heard about how history is portrayed in museums, a Creative Industry Roadshow, and a Science and Engineering Challenge.
I thought the Science and Engineering Challenge sounded great. We’re doing a lot of engineering work as well. So I asked if it would be possible to tag along at an event. Not only was that ok, I am helping to run the Bridge Building Event on Monday. I also wanted learn more about the women in engineering project. So next month, I am joining one of their meetings where the students will be learning to code. I’ll be keeping my eyes and ears open for other opportunities as well.
I have been invited to sit in a few meetings where faculty are developing new research proposals. It is fascinating to learn how different teams approach the process. I learned about a request for proposals from the UN. They are looking for solutions to educational issues during times of crisis. During this meeting, I listened to the amazing connections the faculty have. They have resources across the world as well as in crisis prone areas where they are hoping to develop a solution. I will have to work hard to develop the sort of networks I saw in play in this meeting. I also learned about some really innovative solutions that people are using to solve problems already. One was the gravity light. For areas where solar isn’t an option, or it isn’t safe to go outside, you just fill a bag with rocks or dirt and let it slowly wind the light. When it hits the bottom, you just pulley it up again and start over. Brilliant.
When I applied to come to Newcastle, I started looking for conferences to attend. I am excited to presenting at the Australasian Science Education Research Association (ASERA) in two weeks. However, once I got here, I was invited to attend the New South Wales Secondary Principal’s conference. I was able to learn more about the issues principals are facing here in NSW. I also got to hear John Bell, the founding Creative Director of the Bell Shakespeare Company, speak about the importance of teachers and the arts. Mark Scott, Secretary of the Department of Education for NSW, spoke of his vision for NSW principals. They had a lot to say about that. Having never been a principal, it was interesting to hear both perspectives. Finally, Dr. Fischetti, who I am working with, spoke on the importance of a STEAM mindset.
Explore the Area
Finally, in addition to learning more about the faculty you are working with and the research being done in the university, it is vital to explore the area where you are located. You have to consider, you may never have an opportunity like this again. Visiting Australia has been on my bucket list since I was young. As a marine biologist, diving the Great Barrier Reef has been a dream since I was 14. Therefore, I am doing my best to take advantage of all the area has to offer in addition to getting my work done. For example, the principal’s conference was in Sydney last week. At the same time, Sydney was hosting an event called Vivid. So I went down for the conference a day early and experienced Vivid in addition to the conference. I have also booked a trip to dive the Great Barrier Reef and knock that off my bucket list. It’s also very helpful that the faculty I am working with is full of people with suggestions on how to get the most out of my time here.
These are just the few tips I have picked up in my first two weeks here. Do you have others that I’ve missed? Feel free to share below.
Until next time,