ST Brigid’s College Year 10 students received a crash course in galaxy evolution this week thanks to a student-teacher connection that began more than 10 years ago.
The Lesmurdie school’s science curriculum team leader Darren McGoran started his teaching career at Mandurah Catholic College in 2003, and remembers one of his Year 11 physics students saying she was going to become an astronaut.
That student is now Dr Jacinta Delhaize, and with a PhD in Radio Astronomy and two years of post-doctorate research behind her, she said she is now technically qualified to become an astronaut.
Dr Delhaize visited St Brigid’s after Mr McGoran invited her to lecture his students from her base of research at the University of Zagreb in Croatia, however a visit to her home town coincided beautifully with Mr McGoran’s invitation.
“He contacted me and asked me to be I guess a scientist in schools remotely from Croatia, but he didn’t know I was going to be in Perth, so I contacted him when I knew I was coming and created a video for the girls explaining a bit about what I do,” she said.
“My research is on galaxy evolution, so how galaxies have formed and changed since the big bang to the present time, and looking at how they’ve changed in relation to the way they form stars.”
Dr Delhaize said talking to the students at St Brigid’s bought back memories of when she was in High School at the same age and said that she was proud to be a female role model for girls interested in science, something she says was sorely lacking in that period of her life.
“When I was that age there weren’t a lot of female role models in science, so I was really happy I could fill that role.
“I also think, in terms of science, engaging with the public is really important.”
Dr Delhaize also spoke about the importance of mental health in moving through high school and into university.
“I wish I could go back and tell 16-year-old me about stress levels and how hard the tertiary entrance exams at the time were,” she said.
“It’s really important for people to be responsible for their own mental health and speak to someone if they need to, it’s not a sign of weakness, because things get hard and it’s okay to acknowledge that.
Students Ellaby Hansen and Brinley Whittington said Dr Delhaize was an inspiration.
“I’ve never really thought about the galaxies and how far apart they are I guess, so I found it really interesting,” Ms Whittington said. Yeah I think this has motivated me to really study this year and going forward.’’
“I really enjoyed how Jacinta showed us the perspective of physics as a different language, and how it can help us understand so many other things,” Ms Hansen said.
“I’ve always been interested in physics but I think this has shown me for far you can take it.”
By Liam Ducey