Students and staff from The University of Western Australia will today be honoured for their involvement in a program that helps high school students experience and produce world-class research.
The Learning Links program - a partnership formed in 2001 between UWA and Shenton College - allows students from age 14 to do work experience with or be mentored by professors, PhD students and other University experts as they conduct high-level research into areas such as science, maths, languages and arts.
To illustrate the program's success, soil monitoring research conducted by Cameron Gardner, a 15-year-old Year 10 student from Shenton College, has generated interest in China - which is vitally interested in soil health to help feed its 1.3 billion population - and provided a soil monitoring example for WA farmers.
Cameron used the Monitoring Soil Science Program, a global soil science education initiative developed by UWA's SPICE* program, to investigate the dominance of mites and springtails in land use at the University's Future Farm at Pingelly, 140km south-east of Perth. He also assessed the arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi in roots of bioassay plants.
The project was supervised by Winthrop Professor Lyn Abbott, of UWA's School of Earth and Environment, and later shown to WA farmers as an example of what they could achieve when trying to understand the impact of management practices on their own soils. Cameron also presented his research at a science fair in China, where he was awarded a certificate of excellence.
"The Monitoring Soil Science Program was initially for schools but now it's a project for farmers as well," Professor Abbott said. "We are using Cameron's study to show farmers how to study and understand living organisms in their own soils."
Shenton College Principal Michael Morgan said Learning Links gave gifted students and those who wanted to explore ideas or conduct high-end scientific research the kind of support and level of inquiry that the high school was unable to offer on its own.
"UWA is a wonderful environment to really nurture that higher-end learning," Mr Morgan said.
As a result of research done under the UWA program, many of the school's students had won prizes at science competitions around the world, including three gold medals and a silver medal at last October's Beijing Youth Science Creation Competition - the world's largest science competition of its kind.
Shenton College teacher Warwick Matthews, who is one of school's Science Learning Links Coordinators, described the students' work as world class. "That's a direct outcome of the quality of the learning experience they have with UWA," he said.
UWA academics, students and staff will be recognised for their excellence and contributions to the Learning Links program at a public ceremony in the University's Sunken Garden at 4pm today. Awards will be presented by Mr Morgan and University Acting Vice-Chancellor Professor Bill Louden.
*SPICE is a secondary teachers' enrichment program formed through a partnership between The University of Western Australia and the WA Department of Education.
Winthrop Professor Lyn Abbott (School of Earth and Environment) (+61 8) 6488 5551
Michael Morgan (Principal, Shenton College) (+61 8) 9488 2100 / (+61 4) 18 945 742
Michael Sinclair-Jones (UWA Public Affairs) (+61 8) 6488 3229 / (+61 4) 00 700 783