Our Candidate for the 2017 NYSF was James Walker.  James has provided us with a comprehensive report on his experience.
This may come as a surprise to hear but, after arriving at Burgmann College at the Australian National University with a new year freshness and being greeted by the sight of young adults in blue shirts skipping, running and screaming in uncanny unison, I honestly thought I was about to embark on the most confronting twelve days of my life! In fact, I called my parents that evening after driving down to Canberra from our Berrima home and vividly recall exclaiming my trepidation and, to an extent, initial apprehension about the whole National Youth Science Forum (NYSF) experience. However, I can safely say I have never been more wrong in my life! On returning to my friends and family at home and boarding school in late January, I have found it extremely difficult to express just how life-changing, fun, and utterly amazing the NYSF was. I realise that this report, rather words in general, will never fully encompass the NYSF experience, but I hope I can do it some justice by relating my unbelievable experience to the best of my ability.
Firstly, the hundreds of remarkable young men and women on the NYSF are what distinguishes it from other youth experiences. My initial uneasiness was quelled upon meeting my floor group, the Homer Heroes, on the first night. Never in my had I met such a like-minded, humour-driven, and intelligent group of adolescents and from all over the oceanic region: New South Wales, Queensland, Western Australia, Tasmania, and New Zealand just to name a few. The 15 minutes of nightly floor time was always a highlight of my day and they have forged unforgettable memories which will last with me forever (especially a spilt Milo dilemma).

No more than 12 hours later, I was introduced to a group as engaging, humorous, and gifted but with whom I developed an even deeper personal connection: my interest group. Hill, whose focus was upon food, agriculture, and plant and animal biology, was composed of the loveliest people you could imagine. In fact, I have become so close to them (we all still speak to this day) that it feels proper to name them all. From top left clockwise: Sharon (NSW); Erin (NZ); Nia (QLD); Mark (QLD), who was the best buddy I could ask for; Emily (QLD); Jeremy (NSW); Jaslin (ACT); myself; Aleina (VIC); Leon (VIC); Jade (NSW); Izzy (WA); Poppy (VIC); and Connie (VIC).

It was with this group that I visited some of the most scientifically stimulating sites in Australia including the Mulloon Creek Chicken Farms, the National Botanic Gardens, the Canberra Reptile Zoo, CSIRO, and the Jerrabomberra Wetlands.
Yet, I think the real magic of the NYSF lies within its ability to alter life courses. Entering the forum, I was uncertain about my future career path but veterinary science had always fascinated me. However, during our visit to the CSIRO, we were privileged enough to receive a talk about genetically modified cotton and mace wheat crops, which, through selective genetic breeding, increased resistance to common pestilences and increased overall yield. This field just felt ‘right’ from the start and now that I have conducted research into the university degrees available to enter the bioengineering field, I am more uncertain than ever about what I want to do in the future! All I know is that it will involve science.
We were also fortunate enough to receive lectures from some of Australia’s leading scientists such as Sally-Ann Paulsen, Dr Grant Wilson (Physiotherapy), and last but not least, Nobel Prize winner, Professor Brian Schmidt (Astrophysics). These men and women were extraordinary and I felt so lucky to have the chance to listen to their lectures and ask pressing questions. On top of this, I also received invaluable information about coping with Year 12, universities, scholarships, and other potential future scientific workplaces such as Lockheed Martin and IP Australia during the Partners Presentation and Expo.
Although I’ve outlined the scientific aspects of the forum (as would be expected), it would be careless not to mention all the activities which bonded my session and forged long-lasting friendships which I will cherish forever. Whether this involved the science relay quiz, the swing dance, the disco, visits to the National Museum of Australia and the National Art Gallery, Questacon, or the concert, I experienced some of the best moments of my life.
In no way does this report summate the greatness of NYSF; it really is indescribable. I hope I can explain the experience to a greater justice during my speech at my local Rotary club next month. My gratitude and appreciation for the Berrima District Rotary Club, especially for their amazing monetary support, is unparalleled. You really have changed my life. Thank you. Furthermore, I’d like to extend my thanks to District 9710 for my selection. The intellectual network I have established through the NYSF is priceless and I know they will shape my future. Thank you so much!
James Walker