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Taking science to school students at Wellington Science Fair

06 September 2023

Windows Square
Windows Square

This year's NIWA Wellington Regional Science & Technology Fair kept Michelle Christensen and Yasmin Liu from ESR’s Forensic Business Group extra busy, as they decided which aspiring local scientists would receive the coveted ESR Prize.

ESR is delighted to have been associated with the Science Fair since it began in the 1990s, with the ESR Prize having ignited scientific passion among countless local school students. This year marked the first since 2019 in which the Science Fair was able to occur without COVID-19 restrictions, a stark contrast to the online only fairs of 2020 and 2021. The Science Fair was able to return to the Hub at Victoria University’s Kelburn Campus, with all exhibits together again in the one large space.

“It was great to see all the exhibits back together, so you can appreciate just how much incredible innovation and imagination there is among contestants,” says Michelle, Senior Scientist and Forensic Toxicologist.

Fellow judge and Senior Scientist Yasmin agrees.

“We were proud to represent ESR. It was amazing how many of the students know what value ESR brings to New Zealand communities, and the awesome careers they could potentially have here one day as scientists.”

2023 ESR Prizes were awarded to:

  • Isabelle Aduna (Wellington Girls College): Riding the Waves
  • Elodie Dent (Muritai School): How drinkable is our water?
  • Maggie Dinniss (St Mark's Church School): It runs in the family or does it?                
  • Anais Mancencal Sellier (Seatoun School): Your Tiny Body Guards
  • Meenakshi Ramaswamy (St Oran’s College): for The Ink Case.

So what advice do Michelle and Yasmin give to children and young people interested in science and technology?

“Follow your passion and don’t think ‘I can’t’,” says Michelle. “If you have a flair for cooking or like observing rocks while tramping, you already are ‘doing’ science. Talk to your whānau and teachers about your interests so they can help you grow.”

Science literally runs in the blood for Michelle and her family – they are after all keen participants in the revolutionary ESR WellKiwis study led from right here in Wellington, which is contributing to global understanding about immunology and how viruses spread.

“The world needs more scientists,” says Yasmin. “It’s awesome to see how many there will be in Wellington in a few years, judging by the popularity of this year’s NIWA Science Fair!”

“We’re looking forward to seeing a whole lot more amazing ideas at next year’s Science Fair,” says Michelle.

You can find out more about the NIWA Wellington Regional Science & Technology Fair here