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Inspiring others to pursue science

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Bachelor of Science student, Liam Hewson recently joined the New Zealand International Biology Olympiad Executive Committee.

When a group of 24 of the nation’s sharpest young biology minds descended on Otago to spend 10 days vying for a place in New Zealand’s International Biology Olympiad team, they had someone by their side who been through it all before.

Bachelor of Science (Botany and Chemistry) student, Liam Hewson recently joined the New Zealand International Biology Olympiad (NZIBO) Executive Committee having continued his participation in support for the programme years after finishing high school.

He attended his first camp as a student in 2017 and has stayed on ever since, mentoring other young people to continue on to careers in science.

“Part of it is about giving back but a larger part of it is about exposing students to the larger biological world and challenging them to explore it.”

Liam says being a part of the NZIBO as a teenager was pivotal in shaping what he has gone on to study. He hopes to one day become the Prime Minister’s Chief Science Advisor.

As part of the NZIBO programme around 450 students take a selection exam, with 250 students then selected for a September to February online tutorial programme which covers most of a first-year tertiary biology course.

Following the tutorial programme, students tackle a theory exam and camp attendees are selected. At the end of the training camp four students are selected to compete in the International Biology Olympiad – being held virtually from Portugal this year.

The camp was an intensive study programme where students visited departments across Otago University, learnt practical skills, participated in research seminars and took field trips to the Otago Museum, Orokonui Ecosanctuary and the Portobello Marine Science Laboratory.

"This was the first time that the training and selection camp was held in Dunedin and both the students and NZIBO executive were impressed by the quality of learning, range of experiences and the aroha from all involved – massive thank you to all involved! Camp students are super excited about coming to Otago to study.”

NZIBO Chairperson Dr Angela Sharples says the purpose of the programme is to promote biology as a valuable and beautiful subject.

“We know that there’s an ever-decreasing number of students doing science. We want to open their eyes to the breadth and depth of biology and the importance of biology and health science to New Zealand.”