For the sixth time in a row Indian senior high school students had a chance to participate in the Professor Harry Messel International Science School (ISS for short) at the University of Sydney in Australia. Talented science students from eight countries (that included Australia, China, India, Japan, New Zealand, Thailand, United Kingdom and United States, each of whom won a University of Sydney Physics Foundation scholarship) attended the 2-week lectures and activities event at the ISS2017, as it is popularly referred to. The awarded scholarship completely covers the entire 2 weeks of the Science School for each of the students.
“Future Power” was the theme this time, covering a wide array of fields that included Fusion, Fission, solar power, wave power, power from biogas, electricity grids and storage devices apart from most current research efforts and out-of-the-box thinking in fields of materials science tackling energy-related problems being faced today. The one word that comes to mind when describing the ISS is “quality”. Whether it is do with the lectures, the hands-on activities, the engineering challenges, the design and planning of the entire 2-weeks of the science school or the local arrangements, there is satisfaction all round, with any mishaps or problems that arise each day (of which there are several!) handled in a sensitive and satisfying manner. Experts in the particular fields from around the world give the lectures. Pitched at 1st or 2nd year undergraduate level the students are drawn into the beauty and intricacies of the subject areas, which this time (given the ISS theme of Future Power) also included a multi-disciplinary fare of policy and social as well as environmental considerations.
To give a background to India’s participation in this, one of the oldest of international science schools (since 1962), the journey began in 2007 when Indian students participated in the Sydney International Science School for the first time. Raman Research Institute, upon request from the University of Sydney School of Physics, agreed to facilitate the selection.
This year, the sixth year of participation for Indian students, was a particularly memorable one with one of the students, Poorvi Hebbar, having been chosen for the top and coveted Len Basser award for Science Leadership at the science school (as did Nruthya Madappa, the very first time that Indian students participated in 2007).
The Australian Minister for Industry, Innovation and Science lauded the Indian participant saying:“Poorvi Hebbar, attending from India, was selected from the 132 high-performing senior science students at the school. The students, including five Indigenous students, come from schools from all states and territories who have been joined by 46 from China, India, Japan, New Zealand, Thailand, the UK and the USA. She has been described as being a quiet achiever, who is diligent and very innovative in her ideas, always showing great interest in the lectures and activities and easily and openly sharing her knowledge and enthusiasm, inspiring her peers and drawing their respect.”
As many as 30 talented Indian students have been to the Sydney International Science School over the years, facilitated by the Raman Research Institute. The themes of the past six ISS that were attended by Indian students have covered topics such as Ecoscience, Light and Matter, From Genes to Galaxies, Nanoscience, BIG: Big ideas, big experiments, big challenges — big science.
No doubt the next ISS to be held in 2019 will be eagerly awaited. It is going to cover humanity’s adventures in space and promises to once again thrill and fire the imagination of the those lucky few who will be there!