January Sessions

The flagship program of the National Youth Science Forum, the January Sessions bring 400 young people to Canberra for a 12-day immersive science experience.

The NYSF program consists of a mix of scientific, formal, personal development, and social activities. These range from laboratory visits to sports evenings and from a swing dance to working on understanding group dynamics. All aspects of the program contribute to one or more of three central strands:

  1. STEM in action;
  2. STEM in society; and
  3. The next generation of STEM.

In STEM in action, students will be exposed to cutting edge research and development, talking with researchers and practitioners, and learn what it means to be a scientist, or an engineer. Though visits to laboratories in tertiary settings, students learn about the variety of ways that STEM is used in practice, and the range of careers that STEM study can lead on to.

Through the STEM in society stream, the role of STEM is placed in the broader social, economic and theoretical contexts, including the connection between STEM and the larger issues facing communities both in Australia and internationally. Students learn how STEM is providing solutions to problems facing society, as well as how STEM-related activity has contributed to past and present problems. There is also a focus on how to address barriers that limit participation in STEM as well as discussions on science in our everyday life, ethics, diversity and leadership. Presentations from our corporate funding partners and NYSF alumni contribute to the wider knowledge of life outside of academic research.

By showing students options on study and careers in STEM, the NYSF program both in January and in subsequent activities, contributes to building the next generation of STEM professionals and practitioners. As well as illustrating the range of study and career choice through engagement with our partners, students will begin to develop the STEM–specific skills required for lab activities and workshops, as well as the broader communications skills essential for collaboration, networking and leadership in a dynamic workforce. The importance of encouraging STEM participation by traditionally under-represented groups such as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, Australians from Culturally and Linguistically Diverse (CALD) communities, and people with disabilities is also discussed.

The NYSF January Sessions are delivered by participants in the NYSF Student Staff Leadership Program who have attended the NYSF in the previous years, and have been selected to train for the SSLP (see below).

Our speakers and lab visit hosts volunteer their time to present to the students about their area of expertise, and do so because of a commitment to future generations of professionals in STEM.

During the 12 days of the NYSF, students stay on campus at The Australian National University’s (ANU) Burgmann College in Canberra.

After the NYSF January Sessions

The NYSF runs a series of follow-up programs in the school holidays during the year after the January Sessions, called Next Step.

Held in the April and July School holidays, the Next Step program aims to showcase the facilities at our various partner universities and corporate partners in major centres. The universities design programs specifically for NYSF students, to extend and develop their knowledge of courses, facilities, scholarships and accommodation on the different campuses. Leading industries provide in-house workshops and tours of facilities and current research, which is not readily accessible to the public. Students are encouraged to participate in as many of these events as possible.

International Program

The NYSF has agreements with a range of organisations which allows the NYSF to offer 40+ places to students to apply for international programs that operate during the course of each year. Currently, the NYSF has agreements with:

  • Canada-Wide Science Fair
  • Euro-Science Open Forum (bi-annual)
  • National University of Singapore Science Summer Camp
  • International Science Summer School Heidelberg
  • Research Science Institute
  • London International Youth Science Forum
  • Stockholm International Youth Science Seminar

Initial information about the NYSF International Programs is available during the January Sessions. Students are selected after a competitive application process, which opens on the NYSF online system on 1 February, with all documents required to be submitted by 28 February.

Student Staff Leadership Program

Each year, NYSF selects 28 students from the current year's cohort of participants to return for training as Student Staff to deliver the following year's program. This confirms NYSF's aim to deliver a program for young people by young people. The Student Staff Leaders begin training as they enter year 12, and undertake an on-line training module, developed and delivered by Outward Bound Australia (OBA) on behalf of the NYSF. Students complete the units of competency during the year, alongside of year 12 commitments. The students also participate in a week-long training session in July, including a three-day trek in the ACT. By the end of the year, they will develop the skills and experience to deliver the January Sessions.

Social activities

Each year, the NYSF aims to coordinate or facilitate social activities that allow its alumni to connect with each other, and share life, study and work experiences.

Alumni are warmly welcomed to purchase a ticket to attend any of the special dinners held during the two January Sessions - the Rotary Dinner which features an alumni speaker, or the Science Dinner. In addition, alumni associations and groups affiliated with our university partners hold informal get-togethers during the year.

Contributors to the Program

Parliamentary Education Office


For the past 21 years the Parliamentary Education Office (PEO) has been educating schools, teachers and students about Parliament, at Parliament House in Canberra. A staff of educators manage a unique and dynamic learning environment, well supported by an in-house publishing team for print, video and multimedia resources.

Each year over 90,000 students participate in PEO role-play programs. The role-play gives students from all over Australia the opportunity to experience what it's like to be a parliamentarian or an official working in the federal Parliament.

The role-play explores the four main functions of the federal Parliament:

  • making and amending laws
  • representing the people of Australia
  • forming the government
  • scrutinising the work of the government.

Role-plays are facilitated by experienced educators and take place in a simulated parliamentary setting, complete with costumes and props.

The students from NYSF will participate in a simulated Senate inquiry, where students in the role of senators question the witnesses to become better informed about issues arising from a bill. The senators use the evidence gathered to recommend either that the bill be accepted, rejected or that appropriate changes be made. This will provide NYSF students a look into how the parliament can have an impact on their possible future careers in science and engineering.