High school student Izayah Davies has been inspired to follow his dreams to study medicine after meeting Nobel Laureate Professor Brian Schmidt at an Indigenous summer school at Canberra’s Australian National University.
Izayah, a young Bardi Kija man from Broome in Western Australia, was one of 19 Indigenous students across Australia selected by their school principals to attend the program focused on science, technology, engineering, mathematics and medicine.
Students combined classroom lessons with field trips to the Questacon National Science and Technology Centre and the ANU Mount Stromlo Observatory, where Professor Schmidt, who is also the ANU Vice-Chancellor, introduced the students to astronomy and astrophysics at the University.
“I met Brian Schmidt – the Man,” Izayah said.
“I’ve read about him in textbooks at school. He’s the man who figured out the universe’s expansion rate and I always thought, ‘Oh I’m never going to meet him – he’s some Nobel Prize winner’.
“But I met him and got a photo with him. So that’s one off the bucket list. It was really amazing to meet him.”
Izayah said he loved visiting ANU.
“It’s been fantastic. I’ve never been on a university campus before and I really like it here,” he said.
“It’s a really nice environment to study in. There’s a lot of pressure in high schools, but here it’s so much more relaxed.”
Izayah wants to study to become a general practitioner and work in the community where he grew up.
“I think it’s very important to have indigenous doctors working in remote communities so we can help our mob up there and make sure everyone’s happy and healthy,” Izayah said.
“I think I’d have a good understanding of how that mob grew up because we grew up in that kind of community too.
“As an Indigenous person, I think it’s important to give back to our community to help each other out because we need each other right now.”
Izayah said he had particularly enjoyed learning about genomic medicine at The John Curtin School of Medical Research.
Anne Martin, Director of the Tjbal Higher Education Centre at ANU, said the intense week-long program aimed to encourage, influence and inspire young Indigenous students from across Australia to think about their future careers.
“The ANU really has a national responsibility to these students and we don’t want them to be struggling when they get midway through Year 11 or 12 with their career path,” she said.
“If these 19 students have a wonderful experience here, then they’ll go back and talk about it in their communities and that will hopefully spark the interest in other people too.”