Two sisters from Tauranga are taking what they have learned at the University of Waikato back to their local community.
Melanie and Hayley Walker both attended Bethlehem College in Tauranga.
The two sisters are part of the Golden Key International Honours Society, an international academic honours society that recognises students in the top 15 per cent of those studying their degree at the university.
Melanie is in her final year of a Bachelor of Science, majoring in molecular and cellular biology at the university. Older sister, Hayley, completed a Bachelor of Science at the university in 2019, and is now teaching science and biology at the secondary school.
Coincidentally, Melanie will also work with Bethlehem College students this year as part of her Capstone project. This project will fulfil the third year Work-Integrated Learning (WIL) component of Melanie’s degree.
Work-Integrated Learning requires all Waikato undergraduate students to complete at least one major project or work placement with a relevant workplace.
Melanie’s Capstone project is spectroscopy in schools. As part of the project, Year 13 students from high schools are invited to the university to see and experience using the spectroscopy equipment that is used in analytical chemistry to determine what molecules are present in a sample.
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 says Year 13 chemistry students do an internal project which uses spectroscopy data, but they never get to see the equipment in action because they don’t have it in schools.
“They can see the whole process and it helps solidify their learning,” Melanie explains.
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 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.”
Melanie is looking forward to working with the secondary school students and hopes to encourage them to study science at university.
“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.”