Melbourne Role Models

STEM speakers for your school

A curated suite of workshops and presentations developed and delivered by our world-renowned experts just for your secondary school students.

Have you ever wished you could have an expert explain exactly what gravitational waves are or why mathematics is useful to everyday life?

Or do you want to know about the future of careers in STEM and explore areas of science that might not even exist yet?

We're here to answer these questions with the Melbourne Role Models program: a free, carefully curated range of workshops and presentations designed to get high school students excited about STEM.

Sessions are free and give you the opportunity to work with an expert on a topic relevant to your school studies and your interests.

Visit the Parkville campus to explore the labs and workshops for an interactive experience. Our experts may be able to visit metropolitan schools, subject to class sizes and travel restrictions. Contact us at scifuture-students@unimelb.edu.au to discuss further.

How to request a Melbourne Role Model

  1. Find a session that’s the right fit for your students
  2. Read additional session information, including special requirements and target audience
  3. Complete the booking request form
  4. Nominate your preferred date/time
  5. One of our friendly Science staff will be in touch!

Request form

Workshop and presentations:

Science careers, skills and experiences

Communicating Science Workshop

About the session: No longer are scientists tucked away in their labs doing research on their own. They need to be collaborating with other scientists, applying for grants, advising government, guiding industry and leading the community in robust debate. Communication skills are essential for our future scientists. In this workshop, Julia and Jenny will look at the role of the scientist, what science communication means, and her top tips for ensuring that your budding science students understand how to make an impact in their future scientific careers.

Audience: Years 10–12 students but can be adjusted and customised for younger audiences.

Julia Cleghorn Jenny Martin

  • More about this session

    Duration: Can be scaled for different times to fit lunch, assembly, period or double period time frames – just let us know!

    Special requirements: This workshop includes video and media contact. While there are no special requirements in terms of space, AV with sound availability is needed.

    About the presenters:

    • For the past 10 years, Julia has worked to make science fun, interesting and accessible to students, government and the general public. Starting her career in TV, she wrote scripts, presented on-air and later became Series Producer of Network Ten’s kids science show Scope. Next she focused on writing, where she contributed articles to magazines such as CSIRO’s Double Helix Magazine. She has also travelled around Australia with the Questacon Science Circus, performing science shows and workshops to students in remote areas. Currently working for the University of Melbourne, she is now teaching communication skills to the next generation of scientists.
    • Known as Dr Jen on 3RRR Breakfasters and Einstein-a-Go-Go, Dr Jenny Martin has been talking about science on the radio for more than a decade. She designed and teaches UniMelb's science communication program, writes a popular science blog and is dedicated to helping scientists learn how to write and speak so that everyone else can understand them.

A visit from Science Gallery – where art and science collide

About the session: The world-famous Science Gallery team visits your school and gets your students thinking about the creativity of science – where art and science collide. Part of the acclaimed Global Science Gallery Network, the Gallery will showcase science in a way that your students have never thought about before, focusing on our understanding of science, art and innovation and shifting long established perceptions of art versus science.

Audience: This workshop can be customised for any year level from 7–12.

  • More about this session

    Duration: Can be scaled for different times to fit lunch, assembly, period or double period time frames – just let us know!

    Special requirements: A visit from Science Gallery includes rich media content and will require AV technology.

    About the presenter: Science Gallery curators
    One of the curators and educators from Science Gallery Melbourne will visit your school – think of it as a mini artist in residency session! Science Gallery Melbourne is a dynamic new gallery at The University of Melbourne and plays a vital role in shifting our understanding of science, art and innovation and engaging 15-25 year-olds with science by showcasing creativity in STEM.

    Part of an international network with Bengaluru, Detroit, Dublin, London and Venice, Science Gallery Melbourne involves, inspires and transforms curious minds through arts and science.

Game Changers - STEM careers in demand now and tomorrow

About the session: Did you know that by 2030 over 80% of all jobs will need staff to have skills in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM)? Join us as we take a glimpse into the future of STEM and how jobs are going to change. Find out what kinds of jobs are emerging, where the major breakthroughs will happen and what skills you need to develop to be ready to succeed in a shifting workforce. This career-focused workshop uses audience interaction and storytelling to help participants uncover career possibilities they may never have thought of before, get a sense of where jobs are heading when they graduate, and understand the relevance of STEM.

Audience: Years 10–12 students but can be adjusted and customised for younger audiences

  • More about this session

    Duration: Can be scaled for different times to fit lunch, assembly, period or double period time frames – just let us know!

    Special requirements: Game Changers includes imagery to support story telling. While there are no special requirements in terms of space, AV technology is required.

    About the presenters: Zoe Wall, Dr Maddy Yewers, Amy Wilson, Remy Dovers, Andrew Barrow and Naomi Sheridan
    Zoe, Maddy, Amy, Remy, Andrew and Naomi are passionate about STEM and future trends. All experienced and compelling public speakers, they will inspire your students with their story telling that connects STEM skills with careers and relevance in real-world problem solving.

Why I love science – student stories and explosive demonstrations

About the session: Join a group of enthusiastic science students as they wow the audience with explosive science demonstrations, and heartfelt stories of their passion for science and experiences at University.

The students are currently studying a Bachelor of Science and part of a program called Science Delivery. The program aims to encourage students from regional and/or low SES backgrounds into science, technology, engineering and mathematics. The content of the show was developed by the students and includes rockets, fire, levitating beach balls, and the ever-popular Van de Graaf generator where a volunteer from the audience will see their hair defy gravity.

For two weeks at the end of the year, this talented group of students will be touring the show throughout metro and regional areas.

Audience: Year 7–8 students.

  • More about this session

    Duration: Can be scaled for different times to fit lunch, assembly, period or double period time frames – just let us know!

    Special requirements: Available November 2019, other times TBC, as these are real-life science students they do have to attend their classes and labs! This means they are available to visit high schools during uni break.

    About the presenters: Current Bachelor of Science students!
    These Bachelor of Science student presenters are from a wide range of backgrounds. They act as role models for the high school students by sharing their passion for science and reflecting on their personal experiences of university.

BioSciences

Professor Mark Elgar

Animal behaviour and evolution

About the session: The topic can be up to you and your students! Professor Mark Elgar can present on a variety of topics surrounding animal behaviour and evolution. Want us to cover a specific element of the curriculum? Just let us know and we can discuss!

Audience: Year 11 – 12 students

  • More about this session

    Duration: Can be scaled for different times to fit lunch, assembly, period or double period time frames – just let us know!

    Special requirements: While there are no special requirements in terms of space, AV technology is required.

    About the presenter: With a BSc (Hons) from Griffith University and PhD from the University of Cambridge (UK), Professor Elgar joined the University of Melbourne in 1991, where he is now a Professor. His research is in evolutionary biology, with a broad interest in how natural and sexual selection shape animal behaviour, especially animal communication. Professor Elgar tests predictions from evolutionary theory with bizarre, counter-intuitive and unfashionable examples of natural history, through field and laboratory experiments and comparisons between species. He is a strong advocate of including evolutionary thinking to human challenges, such as antibiotic resistance.

Dr Iliana Medina

Colours of the forest: the role of colour in nature

About the session: In this presentation Dr Medina will give an overview of all the strategies that animals use that involve colour. Colour is a charismatic topic that attracts a lot of attention, but many people don't know all the functions that this physical phenomenon has in the evolution of life! Dr Medina will present examples of her own research, including the use of colour in birds for controlling their temperature and in insects to protect from predators. All these diverse strategies have been the result of millions of years of evolution and have led to the amazing variety of colours that we currently see in nature.

Audience: Year 7 – 11 students

  • More about this session

    Duration: Can be scaled for different times to fit lunch, assembly, period or double period time frames – just let us know!

    Special requirements: In terms of AV requirements, we require a projector that can be connected to an Apple Laptop. Bookings on Wednesday or Thursday are preferred.

    About the presenter: Dr Iliana Medina was born in Colombia but has lived in Australia for the last six years. She is a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Melbourne and works with animal behaviour and evolution. Dr Medina is passionate about her field and enjoys sharing her excitement with other people that like nature!

Meet a biologist - explore the Biology curriculum with a researcher who works in the field

About the session: This workshop begins with an inspiring presentation from one of our engaging BioSciences researchers. They will use examples from their research to introduce one of the areas of study in the Unit 3 and 4 Biology curriculum. This will be followed by targeted questions/activities so that students can engage with the content required by the VCE study design.

If you let us know what VCE outcome you would like to cover, we’ll propose a relevant researcher and activity! We want to work with you to deliver an interactive and inspiring workshop that is relevant for your students.

Audience: Year 11 – 12 students but can be tailored for year 10 students.

  • More about this session

    Duration: Can be scaled for different times to fit lunch, assembly, period or double period time frames – just let us know!

    Special requirements: While there are no special requirements in terms of space, AV technology is required. As these are real-life PhD candidates, they can get busy during the uni semester. This means our researchers are more likely to be available November – February and June – July.

    About the presenters:

    Adam Smarts
    Cane toads were introduced to Australia in 1935 to control a pest beetle and have since had devasting effects on ecosystems particularly on predators that ingest their poison. Adam’s research is using targeted gene flow to slow the progression of the cane toad invasion across the north of Australia and reduce the impact of this invasive species on native ecosystems.

    Ana Leitao
    Ana is studying the function of elaborate coloured feathers and song of the Lovely fairy-wren, an ideal model system in which females are the most colourful. Ana is seeking to understand which evolutionary processes are maintaining this ornamentation and uses genetic techniques to determine the paternity of chicks.

    Bruce Edley
    Chytrid fungus and habitat destruction have been the drivers for amphibian decline across the world. Bruce’s project included surveying sites that were historically inhabited by Growling Grass Frogs (Litoria raniformis) in Victoria before this fungus appeared in Australia. Using the present/not-present data from field work, modelling was used to determine what habitat variables were suitable for Growling Grass Frogs to persist.

    Dionne Argyropolous
    Dionne researches the genetic characteristics of malaria caused by the malarial parasite Plasmodium falciparum in the Bongo District, Ghana. She is comparing the transmission, distribution and possible of the disease. She is focusing on parasites that cause asymptomatic infections – where the person infected with malaria does not show symptoms. Studying this is crucial because the number of new cases of malaria has decreased by 18% since 2016, but the number of infections has been maintained at approximately 216 million.

    Her project involves using selectively neutral molecular markers (microsatellites) to genotype the parasites. From here, she can calculate allele frequencies and determine the population structure, among other measures.

    Ellen Cottingham
    Feral cats kill more than a million Australian birds every day. Ellen’s PhD research is modifying a feline virus to suppress pregnancy by controlling specific genes. Ellen aims to develop a viral vaccine to control feral cat numbers in Australia.

    Oakley Germech
    Traditionally male birds are more aggressive, fighting each other for territories and mates. However female birds can also engage in battles, but this is poorly understood. Oakley is researching the evolution of aggression between the sexes in an Australian bird species, the superb fairy-wren.

Computational Biology

Professor James McCaw

Infectious diseases – are we prepared?

About the session: Human populations remain at risk from infectious diseases. In the 20th century, influenza pandemics struck four times, the most severe in 1918-19 when 40-100 million people died in just 9 months. Today, influenza continues to pose a threat, as do emerging diseases such as Ebola and Zika. Vector borne diseases like malaria remain difficult to control. Perhaps surprisingly, mathematicians play a central role in developing public health control programs and evaluating their impact. Mathematicians contribute to the design and development of new drugs and intervention strategies, and work with epidemiologists to better predict the timing and nature of outbreaks.

In this presentation Professor McCaw will explore how mathematics helps us understand and control disease transmission. He will tell his story as a mathematician - working with government to prepare Australia for the ‘next pandemic’, travelling to Mongolia to help assess their response to the 2009 ‘swine flu pandemic’, and working with laboratory scientists to understand how new drugs are used to attack parasites and viruses.

Audience: Year 10 – 12 students, but can be adjusted and customised for younger audiences.

Mathematics and Statistics

Dr Anthony Mays

Is this your card?

About the session: Many magic tricks have a mathematical basis. In this talk, Dr Mays will go through several card tricks and discuss the underlying mathematical structures, all of which are quite simple once you learn the trick! This talk is suitable for a large number of students in a lecture hall/auditorium.

Audience: Year 7 – 12 students.

  • More about this session

    Duration: Can be scaled for different times to fit lunch, assembly, period or double period time frames – just let us know!

    Special requirements: While there are no special requirements in terms of space, AV technology is required. If the session will be held in a large venue, a document camera would be helpful so that the students in the back row can follow along!

    About the presenter: Dr Mays is the Outreach Fellow in the School of Mathematics and Statistics at the University of Melbourne. He came to the academic life late, having earlier been a stuntman in movies/TV and working in a bread factory before completing a science degree! After a short stint in the private sector working for an engineering consultancy firm, he returned to start a PhD in random matrix theory, which is the combination of probability theory and linear algebra. After finishing his PhD, he took up a post-doctoral position in Paris, applying random matrix theory to wireless communications, and then returned to Melbourne. Anthony is also a talented juggler!

Dr Anthony Mays

Magic maths workshop

About the session: Many magic tricks have a mathematical basis - many of which are quite simple once the trick is revealed! In this workshop, Dr Mays will demonstrate some mathematical card tricks and challenge the students to deconstruct them. This requires the students to think critically about what they've seen (or what they think they've seen), as well as apply some mathematical thinking to the problem. The workshop is suitable for up to 25 students in a classroom-sized venue.

Audience: Year 7 – 12 students. Can accommodate approximately 25 students.

  • More about this session

    Duration: Can be scaled for different times to fit lunch, assembly, period or double period time frames – just let us know!

    Special requirements: A classroom-sized venue is required. If students can each bring a deck of cards or share between 2-3 students, this would make the workshop more enjoyable for the students.

    About the presenter: Dr Mays is the Outreach Fellow in the School of Mathematics and Statistics at the University of Melbourne. He came to the academic life late, having earlier been a stuntman in movies/TV and working in a bread factory before completing a science degree! After a short stint in the private sector working for an engineering consultancy firm, he returned to start a PhD in random matrix theory, which is the combination of probability theory and linear algebra. After finishing his PhD, he took up a post-doctoral position in Paris, applying random matrix theory to wireless communications, and then returned to Melbourne. Anthony is also a talented juggler!

Professor Arun Ram

Maybe I could be a mathematician - a story of growing up alongside Vinyl, CD, MP3 and YouTube Red

About the session: Professor Ram is an internationally recognised mathematician and an inspirational teacher. In this unique presentation he tells a series of stories, interweaving mathematics and music. Humorous, educational, personal, often all at once, these collected stories illuminate the remarkable journey of an enquiring mind who became a mathematician. A mathematical mixtape from a lifelong road trip.

Audience: This presentation can be customised for any year level from 7–12 – the more time we have to prepare, the better!

  • More about this session

    Duration: Can be scaled for different times to fit lunch, assembly, period or double period time frames – just let us know!

    Special requirements: Professor Ram’s presentation involves immersive music content, so a sound system that can connect to a laptop is ideal. We are also more than happy to visit the venue beforehand so that we can tailor the presentation to the venue!

    About the presenter: Arun Ram grew up in a small town in New Mexico, USA – leaving for Boston to attend MIT. After deciding that he needed a lifestyle which enabled him to travel and sit in coffee shops - he found it best to get a PhD in Mathematics! After obtaining his PhD from University of California San Diego, he held a sequence of junior positions before landing at University of Wisconsin in 1999. In 2008 he moved to University of Melbourne where the mathematics, the weather and the city suit him well. His passions are beauty, music, languages, cultures and people.

Dr Anthony Mays

Really big numbers

About the session: We start with numbers that are large, but still human-size, such as the population of Australia and the world, and we discuss the need for approximations. Then we move on to much larger numbers such as Avogadro's constant, the number of atoms in the universe and a googol, numbers which require introducing exponential notation. Next, we move on to truly large numbers, like Graham's number, which is motivated by a discussion of Ramsey Theory.

Dr Mays will then get the students involved - the students will do some simple Ramsey theory problems to motivate why people consider such large numbers.

Audience: Year 7–12 students.

  • More about this session

    Duration: Can be scaled for different times to fit lunch, assembly, period or double period time frames – just let us know!

    Special requirements: Students will be handed two documents and will require two different coloured pens/pencils. While there are no special requirements in terms of space, AV technology is required.

    About the presenter: Dr Mays is the Outreach Fellow in the School of Mathematics and Statistics at the University of Melbourne. He came to the academic life late, having earlier been a stuntman in movies/TV and working in a bread factory before completing a science degree! After a short stint in the private sector working for an engineering consultancy firm, he returned to start a PhD in random matrix theory, which is the combination of probability theory and linear algebra. After finishing his PhD, he took up a post-doctoral position in Paris, applying random matrix theory to wireless communications, and then returned to Melbourne. Anthony is also a talented juggler!

Dr Anthony Mays

The mathematics of juggling workshop

About the session: The practice of juggling has a very mathematical basis and has attracted the interest of many mathematicians over the years! In this workshop, we start by discussing the first juggling maths theorem (by Claude Shannon, the inventor of information theory) and then move on to modern juggling notation, as used by real jugglers. We finish off by counting how many juggling patterns there are. Time permitting, we also discuss some related topics like robotics and unicycling.

Audience: Year 7–12 students.

  • More about this session

    Duration: Can be scaled for different times to fit lunch, assembly, period or double period time frames – just let us know!

    Special requirements: If students wish to try their hand at juggling, they can bring hand-sized balls to the workshop (optional). While there are no special requirements in terms of space, AV technology is required.

    About the presenter: Dr Mays is the Outreach Fellow in the School of Mathematics and Statistics at the University of Melbourne. He came to the academic life late, having earlier been a stuntman in movies/TV and working in a bread factory before completing a science degree! After a short stint in the private sector working for an engineering consultancy firm, he returned to start a PhD in random matrix theory, which is the combination of probability theory and linear algebra. After finishing his PhD, he took up a post-doctoral position in Paris, applying random matrix theory to wireless communications, and then returned to Melbourne. Anthony is also a talented juggler!

Physics

Dr Christian Reichardt

Going to the ends of the earth to study the beginnings of time

About the session: The cosmic microwave background bears the imprint of the universe just after the Big Bang and has been a crucial tool in our quest to understand how the Universe began and what its future holds.

The pursuit of the cosmic microwave background has driven us to the coldest and driest desert on the planet: the high Antarctic plateau! Over the past two decades, we have built telescopes at the South Pole to study the cosmic microwave background. Dr Reichardt will discuss what it’s like to work at the South Pole, and what we are learning about the Big Bang.

Audience: The presentation can be tailored to a variety of audiences, including Year 7 – 12 students, subject teachers and parents.

  • More about this session

    Duration: Can be scaled for different times to fit lunch, assembly, period or double period time frames – just let us know!

    Special requirements: While there are no special requirements in terms of space, AV technology is required.

    About the presenter: Dr Reichardt is a cosmologist who observes the cosmic microwave background to study how the Universe began and what it is made of.  Two of the big questions he seeks to address are: can we detect the gravitational wave echoes of the rapid expansion of the Universe during inflation, and why is the expansion of the Universe accelerating?  He currently works on the cosmic microwave background experiments at Chile and the South Pole.  Dr Reichardt conducted his PhD work at Caltech, and then completed a stint at UC Berkeley before coming to the University of Melbourne in 2014.

Professor Andrew Melatos

Modern physics careers: new paths from biology to finance

About the session: The days when physicists donned a white coat and disappeared into a lab following their studies are over. Modern physicists are playing a vital role in transforming key aspects of the modern economy, including finance, biology, data science, robotics, construction, and the environment! Learn about these fulfilling opportunities and the latest statistics on what our Physics graduates go on to achieve.

Audience: The presentation can be tailored to a variety of audiences, including Year 7 – 12 students, subject teachers and parents.

  • More about this session

    Duration: Can be scaled for different times to fit lunch, assembly, period or double period time frames – just let us know!

    Special requirements: While there are no special requirements in terms of space, AV technology is required.

    About the presenter: Professor Melatos is a theoretical astrophysicist. He joined the University of Melbourne after completing a PhD at the University of Sydney and working for five years as a researcher in the USA.

Professor Andrew Melatos

Physics and art: visualising emergent behaviour in complex systems

About the session: The emergence of patterns in complex systems, where many agents interact via simple rules, is a major unsolved mystery in physics. This talk will explain how art-science collaborations involving public participation can illuminate the phenomenon of emergence in everything from an ant colony to turbulence in a flowing river!

Audience: The presentation can be tailored to a variety of audiences, including Year 7 – 12 students, subject teachers and parents.

  • More about this session

    Duration: Can be scaled for different times to fit lunch, assembly, period or double period time frames – just let us know!

    Special requirements: While there are no special requirements in terms of space, AV technology is required.

    About the presenter: Professor Melatos is a theoretical astrophysicist. He joined the University of Melbourne after completing a PhD at the University of Sydney and working for five years as a researcher in the USA.

Professor Andrew Melatos

The Dark Universe: Einstein’s Gravitational Waves

About the session: One of the century's greatest scientific discoveries, opening up a new era in astronomy!

Audience: The presentation can be tailored to a variety of audiences, including Year 7 – 12 students, subject teachers and parents.

  • More about this session

    Duration: Can be scaled for different times to fit lunch, assembly, period or double period time frames – just let us know!

    Special requirements: While there are no special requirements in terms of space, AV technology is required.

    About the presenter: Professor Melatos is a theoretical astrophysicist. He joined the University of Melbourne after completing a PhD at the University of Sydney and working for five years as a researcher in the USA.

Eligibility

  • The sessions are recommended for students in years 7-10 and years 11-12 VCE students.
  • Minimum class sizes apply.
  • Schools are encouraged to visit the University of Melbourne Parkville campus. Role model visits to schools can be arranged subject to minimum class sizes and travel restrictions.

Contact us

If you have any questions about bookings, eligibility or the sessions, contact us at scifuture-students@unimelb.edu.au