Welcome to ANU Science in 2015

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Congratulations to all of you who are joining us in 2015 – you’ve made a very wise decision!  We’ve been really busy over the summer, getting ready to welcome you all to science at ANU as well as hosting hundreds of students on campus who have been taking advantage of our teaching facilities over the summer.  We’ve hosted two groups of National Youth Science Forum students from all over the country and internationally, as well as the Science Olympiads and National Mathematics Summer Schools – that’s a total of over 600 of the smartest science students in the country, all coming to ANU to take advantage of what you are about to enjoy for the whole of your degree.

My most important piece of advice to all new students is to make sure you are as well prepared as possible to enjoy your first year at university.  O Week is full of opportunities to get you ready to hit the ground running, so make sure you take advantage of them.Multiple academic advice sessions are on offer during O Week in Melville Hall.  I urge you to go along and talk to an advisor about your subject choices and how to structure your degree; you’ll be surprised at the variety of courses you can put together in your timetable.  You can mix Physics with Psychology, Environmental Science with Earth Sciences or Science Communication with Sustainability.  You can even enrol in our new Vice-Chancellor’s course VCUG1001 –The Art of Computing.    We really want you to consider as wide a range of subjects as possible.  Don’t worry in your first year about which Majors or Minors you want to complete, it’s a year of exploration and discovery, so choose broadly across several disciplines. Do come and chat to us about your course choices, even if you have a good idea about what you want to study.

On February 12th we are running two sessions of our ‘Degrees Don’t Grow on Trees’ talk, which gives lots of useful tips on how to navigate your way successfully through the first year.  Our science ambassadors will also be taking groups around the teaching rooms and labs – so there’s no excuse for getting lost on your way to class!  For information and times for all these activities and details on how to go into the draw for an iPad mini – just go tohttp://cmbe-cpms.anu.edu.au/study/science-essentials.

Last year someone asked me “why should I come to ANU to study science?” and it made me reflect on just what it is that makes ANU so special.  What I believe sets us apart is the easy access students have to world class academics which, when combined with relatively small class sizes, results in a research-led education not possible at most other universities.  Add on the advantages of having national research facilities on your doorstep and access to the key decision makers in Australia, it becomes easy to see why we are ranked so highly.   Our new science precinct was made possible by $165 million of government funding – and demonstrates the national importance of our research capability.  Never before has the future of the world depended so heavily on science and technology.  Whether it’s food security, renewable energy, climate change or disease prevention, we will be depending on your generation to navigate the challenges and develop the skills needed to understand and find the answers to some of the world’s most pressing concerns.

As well as our new Biology and Chemistry precinct, in 2015 we will have completed the final stage in the formation of a major new Health and Medical Science Precinct.  The John Curtin School of Medical Research, the ANU Medical School and the Research School of Population Health will be united in one area, encouraging different approaches across health and medical science teaching and research.  We’re looking forward to an exciting year in the Astronomy space (no pun intended) – not only are we the leading Australian participant in the billion-dollar international Giant Magellan Telescope project but we are also supporting and housing the Australian Instrumentation Technology Centre – a world class facility for developing and testing astronomical instrumentation which will open up many career doors.  It’s an exciting time to be studying science.  And studying at ANU takes it to another level.

I wish all our students, new and continuing, a successful and challenging academic year.  We are here to help you succeed and will do everything we can to ensure your scientific journey has the best possible outcome, for you personally and for the world in general.

Professor Barbara van Leeuwen is the Director, Science Education in the ANU College of Medicine, Biology & Environment and ANU College of Physical & Mathematical Sciences