I have just graduated from the Royal Dick Veterinary College at the University of Edinburgh. As part of my studies we were encouraged to gain practical experience in different countries. Thanks to the NSTF travel bursary I had the opportunity to go lambing in Northern Ireland and do voluntary work at a spay clinic in Portugal.
Josianne Williams on NSTF Student Travel Bursaries
Our experience in participating in the NSTF School Contest for Young Scientists, the NSTF Science Expo and the Belgian Science Expo in Brussels was very positive, fun and at the same time a learning experience. During the Science Expo we learnt not only more about science but also other skills such as teamwork and how to communicate our work. In my opinion, the salient part was the satisfaction we felt when the project was completed. We were elated when we won the first prize for the School Contest for Young Scientists. Visiting Brussels and participating in the Belgian Expo was a blast for all of us. We had the opportunity to show our work to a wider audience and also the Maltese ambassador in Belgium. Visiting the Natural History Museum and the Atomium were also part of our journey. A traditional night was set up in which we could learn about other cultures and try their traditional food, whilst also showing Maltese traditions. Overall, it was an amazing experience and we recommend it to any student.
Marija Farrugia on the NSTF School Contest for Young Scientists and the Belgian Science Expo
I benefited from NSTF's science programs twice. My first experience was in the NSTF School Contest for Young Scientists, a science fair which triggered my love for science fairs. Since then I kept following the NSTF science programs, thanks to which organisation I was given the privilege of representing Malta in the European Contest for Young Scientists (EUCYS) 2011, after winning the NSTF Contest For Young Scientists. This huge experience opened the doors for me and in fact I later became a finalist in INTEL International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF) and Google Science Fair. NSTF's science programs are a great way to transform your inner geek into a future career."
Melvin Zammit on the NSTF School Contest for Young Scientists and the NSTF National Contest for Young Scientists.
I took part in the MEA twice, first in sixth form and then once again during my first year at university. Coincidentally I was representing Slovenia both years. The MEA is the perfect platform for anyone who is interested in politics and public speaking to be able to expand his knowledge on foreign policy and practise his debating skills. It creates the ideal forum for like-minded people to meet, discuss and also debate on various topics. I believe that the MEA helps you expand your skill set and prepares you for many challenges you will be facing during your university life.
Stefan Balzan on NSTF Mini-European Assembly
Mini European Assembly changed my life. It was the experience that introduced me to politics. Various meetings, discussions and on occasions even arguments helped me to understand that in life, and especially in politics, opponents, or possibly even those in your own group, may have different opinions. Mini European Assembly increased my interest in politics, both on a national and European level. It also gave me knowledge on the Council of Europe and the way that this institution functions. I encourage youths to participate in this initiative as it can open up a world of opportunities.
Matthew Bonett on NSTF Mini-European Assembly
Over the course of the 2012-2013 academic year I served as an advisor for the NSTF Mini European Assembly programme – an educational simulation of the Council of Europe. As a two-time past participant and award winner of the programme, I was well aware that this would entail months of hard work, public speaking, speech writing, and high quality debate. It was a privilege to be involved again this year as an advisor so as to pass the mantle to a new generation of motivated youth and share the expertise that I have garnered through my own involvement. I watched my team of four talented young ladies improve session after session and progress in not only speech writing and debate skills, but gain confidence and the knowledge to raise their points maturely and informatively. True, writing a resolution is never a walk in the park, yet their drive and charisma paid off. The team were awarded the Second Place Prize and a trip to Brussels and Strasbourg this Summer to actually see the European democratic process in action. The most valuable reward, however, was the ability to actively engage with hot topics, acquire a wealth of knowledge about a previously unknown country, and to truly have the chance to ‘learn by doing’.
Hillary Briffa on NSTF Mini-European Assembly
I took part in Mini European Assembly the first time in 1991 when still at sixth form in what turned out to be the winning team, discussing matters that were ahead of their times which we accept ungrudgingly today. After a second lucky stint in 1993, NSTS asked me to stay on as one of the organisers. The remaining undergraduate years paid off in unsuspecting ways and life has turned full circle more than once since then. Mini European Assembly launched my European career in more ways than one. It has also nurtured in me a strong sense of teamwork geared towards results and allowed us as students to showcase Maltese talent internationally. I highly recommend the experience.
Elena Peresso on NSTF Mini-European Assembly
Away from the books, the Mini European Assembly gives students and young people the opportunity to witness hands-on the decision-making process for Europe-wide legislation and resolutions. Besides meeting new people, its an excellent forum to acquire strategy, negotiation and communication skills.
Cyrus Engerer on the NSTF Mini-European Assembly
I first became acquainted with NSTF through the Science Art Contest when I was still in Year 6. My entry went on to become the logo of the School Contest for Young Scientists for the next few years, and naturally the very next year I went on to enter the Contest. I was hooked. Through the Contest, NSTF gave me the opportunity to learn and research a science topic I was interested in, to design experiments and to come up with my own solutions.
Five years later I had taken part in the Contest 3 times, winning it twice. The confidence it gave me, and the huge development it allowed me to make in my presentation and speaking skills was enormous. Further, NSTF gave me the opportunity to take part in no less than 3 other international ExpoSciences, which not only furthered my personal development but continued to open up my mind to new cultures and to the different possible approaches for the problems we all face in life.
It was safe to say that NSTF helped guide me into a career in science. But one of NSTF’s major strengths is the variety of opportunities it offers, and in Sixth Form I tapped into this by deciding to try out something completely new: The Mini-European Assembly. NSTF had already helped me work beyond my comfort zone and thus taking part in MEA felt like the right thing to do. Learning about foreign countries, becoming aware of common European issues and negotiating compromises with other teams was immensely interesting. NSTF gave me a brand new interest in politics and student activism.
NSTF made me realise we humans are multifaceted with varied interests, and that these interests are not mutually exclusive. Rather, it helped me merge them together and find a very specific niche at University. I went on to become an active member of the Malta Medical Students’ Association, serving in 2 positions on its Executive Board, developing a policy statement on Healthy Ageing, and currently helping to organise an international student conference in Malta. I credit NSTF with helping me discover more about myself, specifically my hidden strengths and for helping me unlock them and use them for the good of society.
NSTF gave me so much over the years, but perhaps its greatest gift, was curiosity. NSTF made me aware that there is so much knowledge out there waiting to be tapped. It taught me skills and gave me information in a completely different way from what I was used to at school. It inspired me to take the initiative, go out into the world and look for the facts myself, to discern the valid from the invalid, to be innovative and yet evidence-based, and ultimately to master the topics I cared about and to do something with them which was practical and real. For me, and countless others, NSTF made learning fun and astonishingly addictive.
Prizes: NSTF Science Art Contest Special Prize, NSTF School Contest for Young Scientists - 1st (2003), 1st (2005) & 3rd (2007), 1st placed team NSTF MEA (2008-2009), and NSTF MEA Elvia Agius & Gerald Montanaro Prize (2010-2011)
1. When did you participate in MSSF? In 2000, 2001 and 2002
2. What is your current profession? Resident academic at the University of Malta.
3. What were your topics at MSSF and how did you tackle it/ them?
In 2000: The question was “With the announcement this year by Prime Minister Blair and President Clinton of the sequence of the Human Genome, what do you think will be possible in the field of Genetics in the coming future?”.I discussed the possibility of having personalised medicine, better cancer screens and a bit about the cloning of Dolly and what the ambitions of scientists might be for the near future.
In 2001: the question was “With the announcement this year by an American Biotechnology Company, on their ability to clone human cells what do you think will be possible in the field of Genetics in the coming future?”. I decided to discuss different applications of such technology based on how ethically acceptable they were, since the easier it is to get ethical approval, the faster a technology can get funded and progress.
In 2002: the question was “Explain the science involved in Human Reproductive Cloning and why such a procedure may undermine our sense of self or identity”. I covered the basics of the procedures, the key scientists involved and the opionions of various stakeholders such as infertile couples, bioethics committees, etc.
4. What was it like to participate in MSSF?
The first year was a bit intimidating. I was among the youngest, with no similar experience, the number of participants was quite large and the topics discussed were mostly beyond my average reading interests. I had a lot of catching up to do from the O-level textbooks to cutting-edge science, especially in computing and local environment. I made quite a few new friends from the other 6th Forms and over the sessions the competitive nature of the MSSF started becoming more evident.
5. What changes did you see in yourself from the first session till the end?
During the first year I didn’t see much change. Everything was new and a bit confusing. However, by the end of MSSF (2000-2001) I realised the topics discussed by scientists were very different from what we did in class and over the next two years I got involved in more challenging discussion topics and tried to look way beyond the local science scene.
6. What skills do you feel that you gained through MSSF?
Confidence, data analysis and presentation skills
7. What made you decide to participate again?
My wish to join LIYSF and visit London again.
8. How was your experience in LIYSF? What skills did you gain?
Magical! One of the best student seminars ever. There were students from all over the world, from so many different cultures and such varied science interests. We had the opporunity to visit some of the world-leading research centres in London, Oxford and Cambridge.
9. Has MSSF contributed to your career, and if so in what way?
Definitely! I had the opportunity to visit LIYSF twice, thanks to the MSSF. During LIYSF 2001 I visited the Jodrell Institute at Kew Gargens and then I applied for a summer placement there in 2006, working on orchid genetics. Then during LIYSF 2003 I met Prof. Stephan Beck who at the time was at the Sanger Institute, Hinxton and then I applied for a summer placement there in 2007, working on Type 2 diabetis-related proteins.
10. What would you tell 6th form and 1st year students at tertiary institutions to encourage them to join MSSF?
It’s good practice for the future, especially if you want to work in academia. If you get the chance to visit LIYSF, it will definitely change your outlook on science and most probably get you closer to fulfilling your dream in science.
11. Anything you wish to add.
As a 6th form student preparing for A-levels or a first year university student you will definitely be busy but dedicating an evening a month is a minimal investment of time and effort to get a chance to experience LIYSF and science abroad.
1. When did you participate in MSSF?
I participated in 2001-2002 and 2002-2003 when I was at sixth form at St. Aloysius College.
2. What is your current profession?
I am a doctor currently completing my training in anaesthesia and intensive care medicine.
3. What were your topics at MSSF and how did you tackle them?
In 2001-2002, I chose the Future of Genetics. It was the closest subject to Medicine, which I was planning to read for at University. I tried to make it an entertaining presentation, focusing on the weird and wonderful planned advancements in the field, without being too technical. For example, I remember finding papers describing the possibility of increasing muscle mass and definition without strenuous exercise through genetic enhancements.
The second year, I presented the Production of Paper – the chemical process from wood to the finished product. The subject intrigued me as my family’s business is in woodwork and I took the opportunity to learn more about the process.
4. How was your experience during MSSF?
I enjoyed my MSSF experience and was very happy with the professional organization and punctuality of the sessions. The guest speakers were very good. The opportunity for networking with students, the professionals and the judges was also encouraged after each session.
I do recall that sessions were usually held at St. Paul’s Street in Valletta on weekday evenings – in winter, it used to be quite scary walking back to the bus terminus at night in the dark! Valletta was much quieter in the evenings back then.
5. What changes did you see in yourself from the first session till the end?
At the first session, I didn’t really know what to expect, who would be there or how many people would attend. However, by the end of MSSF, I made a few good friends and was also enjoying the social aspect and networking opportunities.
MSSF helped me to practice and improve my public speaking, which has been an essential aide to my professional training. It has helped with my doctor-patient relationships when explaining diagnoses or management; it helps with presenting cases to my colleagues and with referrals to other specialities; it has become a tool I use regularly during my teaching sessions; and has been of great help during viva examinations!
6. What skills do you feel that you gained through MSSF?
As already mentioned, confidence with speaking in public is the most obvious benefit.
During the International Wildlife Research Week in Switzerland, I also had the chance to practice my research skills and learnt to make the most of limited time and resources while working on a project.
7. What made you decide to participate again?
St. Aloysius College is a school that actively encourages participation in extracurricular activities such as MSSF - that is what pushed me to participate in the first year. Having thoroughly enjoyed the local competition and the resultant trip to London, I decided to take part again in 2012-2013.
8. How was your experience in LIYSF?
The London International Youth Science Forum was a fantastic two week experience where I was exposed to the latest scientific knowledge. I shared this with science students from all over the world and the social programme, particularly the International Cultural Showcase, was great fun! The subjects ranged from mathematics to chemistry, from nuclear physics to forensic medicine. The sessions were varied including keynote lectures, scientific presentations from the participants themselves and visits to science establishments in and around London including the European Space Agency.
9. What skills did you gain from LIYSF?
LIYSF was a holistic learning experience. Aside from all the presentations and specialized visits which helped to increase my science knowledge, I also gained a lot in terms of soft skills – socializing, networking, choosing which sessions to go to, the importance of being on time and the appreciation for the opportunity to attend such an event.
LIYSF also had sessions where students could present their own research. I felt I missed out on this aspect, since MSSF in Malta is based on discussion of current topics and not on presentation of original work. However, I still learnt a lot from listening to the other participants and was amazed to see how advanced some of the ideas were.
10. How was your experience in IWRW?
International Wildlife Research Week was different from LIYSF. Being based in the Swiss Alps is a complete contrast to central London!
The aim of IWRW was to complete a small research project during our time close to the Aletsch Glacier. We were placed into teams and had to come up with a research question, do the research, present it to the group and complete the write up. This was then published in a booklet.
I enjoyed the hands on aspect of this project and the backdrop of the Swiss Alps was fabulous. I was involved in looking for lichen diversity and size at different distances from the glacier. It allowed me to appreciate the fact that one does not need a lot in terms of time and resources to complete a useful project.
11. What skills did you gain at IWRW?
As I said, IWRW made me realize that with the right focus, a project can be completed with limited time and resources. I use these skills in my profession particularly when completing clinical audits.
12. Has MSSF contributed to your career, and of so in what way?
The ability to be comfortable talking to an audience, to present ideas clearly and to network with peers are skills that I started developing at MSSF and which have been useful to me in my working life. I believe that soft skills are essential for a successful career.
13. What would you tell 6th form and 1st year students at tertiary institutions to encourage them to join MSSF?
MSSF is an excellent opportunity to learn and practice important skills that are not formally taught, such as public speaking, debate techniques and networking.
It also looks good on your CV and at interviews. It shows you are aiming for complete development as a person and not solely focusing on your academic commitments. If you win, that is a plus and you can make the most of the international experiences offered.
I participated in the first edition of MSPF in the year 2013-2014, during the second year of my studies in the Bachelor of psychology Honours at the University of Malta. I had spoken to another student in my course, Svetlana Gatt, who was also interested, and although we barely knew each other at the time, we decided to team up. We went on to become good friends and place first in the competition! Participating in MSPF definitely helped enhance my critical thinking skills as we were encouraged to look at the topics with a critical eye, a skill that served me well for my assignments and dissertation. Also, I learnt to look at topics which at first glance appeared unrelated to psychology from a psychological perspective. Additionally, the competition gave us the opportunity to improve our research and presentation skills, as well as to receive and handle criticism during a presentation. After placing first, I participated in a student exchange between Dutch and Maltese students, during which I participated in a number of activities such as talks, cultural visits and workshops, all related to the theme Identity and culture. MSPF has been a great opportunity to enhance my critical thinking skills, meet new people and make new friends.
We were all very excited when our Chemistry teacher told us that we could participate in the NSTF Science Days in Gozo. Our teacher suggested that we could work on a project about nurdles. When we researched the topic, we discovered that nurdles are what plastic looks like before it is moulded into familiar objects. Due to shipping mishaps, nurdles are usually found floating on the oceans where they are ingested by marine organisms causing them harm and they also land on our beaches causing pollution.
We went to Ramla Bay to find evidence of these nurdles and to our dismay we realised how polluted the sand was. We decided that there is a solution to this problem and so we designed an experiment to separate the nurdles from the sand by simply adding water to the mixture. The nurdles float on the water while sand sinks. This makes it easy to remove the nurdles from the sand.
Thanks to NSTF, not only did we learn from our project, but also from other students’ work that was being exhibited. It was an amazing learning experience and we are looking forward to participate next year.
Denise Buttigieg, Maya Apap and Danielle Grillage
My experience in Malta Student Science Forum was one which aided my growth in many different aspects. Throughout the programme, I had to prepare my own presentation together with my partner James on a physics topic which was definitely beyond our comfort zone. However, we were motivated to face the challenge head on and worked on our research for weeks to be able to deliver a satisfactory presentation. I was able to build on my public speaking greatly as even throughout other sessions we were made to ask questions to and debate with other participants delivering presentations. Such benefits made the experience a win on its own, however having placed second we also got the opportunity to be part of the International Wildlife Research Week throughout which I trekked the Alps and wrote a scientific report based on the work I did on the inhabitants of the running mountain water. Due to the very fulfilling experience MSSF provided me with I was more than happy to join the Science Coordination team the following year when the opportunity presented itself. I helped in organising the programme which gave me certain responsibilities and I gained a lot of satisfaction from seeing different students grow very much in the way s I did the previous year. I would definitely recommend joining any of the NSTF programmes as they go beyond that done in the classroom, and provide students with many different skills.