Two sisters, who have been recognised by an international academic honours’ society for their excellence in science, are taking what they have learned at the University of Waikato back to their local community.
Melanie Walker is in her final year of a Bachelor of Science, Majoring in Molecular and Cellular Biology at the University. Her older sister, Hayley, completed a Bachelor of Science at the University in 2019, and is now teaching science and biology at the secondary school they both attended, Bethlehem College, in Tauranga.
The Walker sisters are part of the Golden Key International Honours Society, an international academic honours society that recognises students in the top 15% of those studying their degree at the University.
In a twist of coincidence, while Hayley now teaches at Bethlehem College, Melanie will also work with Bethlehem College students this year as part of her Capstone project, which will fulfil the third year Work-Integrated Learning (WIL) component of her degree. All undergraduate students at the University of Waikato undertake a WIL learning experience to develop their skills for employment.
Melanie will be helping to bring the subject of spectroscopy alive to Year 13 chemistry students at Bethlehem College. Spectroscopy is a key experimental technique that is used to determine the structure of molecules. However, the equipment is far too costly for schools to offer, so students don’t normally get the chance to work “hands-on” with it.
More than 100 high school students will visit the University as part of the project this year.
“When I went to school, I had no idea what you’d do in science at university," says Melanie. "At school you don’t do a lot of practical hands-on learning. It’s good to get the students to come here so they can see what we do, talk to us and learn what University is like."
Melanie is looking forward to working with the secondary school students and hopes to encourage them to study science at university.
“They can see the whole process and it helps solidify their learning,” she says.
Melanie says when she was in high school she was unsure which study path to pursue.
“I knew Hayley had done science and I really liked biology, so I decided to follow in her footsteps.”
Hayley was in her final year when Melanie started studying science at Waikato. Hayley also completed the same Capstone project.
“I actually helped her with it,” says Melanie. “Since I had just finished high school, I could help Hayley to determine what level she needed to be teaching Year 13 students at.”
“I love that science challenges your thinking and allows you to think deeply about subjects. It’s learning about how the world works because that really is what science is.”