University of Melbourne Magazine

Science school opening a boost for bright sparks

  • Blackburn School2

    Picture: Peter Casmento. Education Minister Martin Dixon, Vice-Chancellor Glyn Davis and school Principal Robert Newton with Year 11 students Jorge Pavilidis and Helena Kalfas at the opening of the Elizabeth Blackburn School of Sciences.

    A specialist senior secondary school for Victoria’s brightest science students, named after Australia’s first female Nobel Prize winner, has opened in Parkville.

    The $7 million purpose-built school was named in honour of Professor Elizabeth Blackburn AC, an alumna of the University and University High School.

    The Elizabeth Blackburn School of Sciences is in the University’s western precinct, next to the High School. It was officially opened in March by Victoria’s Minister for Education, Martin Dixon.

    The specialist Year 11 and 12 school will cater for 200 highperforming science students from across Victoria. Students have to sit an entry exam and undergo an interview to gain admission.

    The school was created from a partnership between the University of Melbourne, University High School and the State Government.

    Vice-Chancellor Glyn Davis says the students will be mentored by scientists from the university’s science faculties, its Bio21 Institute and other science, engineering and mathematics institutes around the Parkville Precinct.

    The school’s building has a five-star green energy rating. It will be heated and cooled by a geothermal system fitted by the University’s Geotechnical Group of the Department of Infrastructure Engineering. Students will carry out research on data generated by the building.

    Professor Blackburn (BSc(Hons) 1970, MSc 1972, Janet Clarke Hall) was awarded the Nobel Prize for Physiology or medicine in 2009. She is professor of biology and physiology at the University of California, San Francisco. In a video message at the school’s launch, she said she was deeply honoured that the school was named after her.

    She said the school’s location would enable students to have easy access to outstanding scientists. “There is a hub of tremendous minds and scientists in the Parkville Precinct and you will have the benefit of these great people as I did when I was there,” she said.

    Rob Newton, the Principal of University High School, says the new school represents a fresh approach to the study of sciences and to the link between secondary school and university.

    “This is an innovative way to help reverse the decline in the numbers of young people studying sciences at school and at tertiary level,” he says