From investigating the effect of phone radiation to studying the local koala population in an effort to improve conservation practices, John Therry Rosemeadow student, Riley Tonna, has a heart and mind for science. His dedication and hard work in his Science studies have seen him awarded a prestigious Victor Chang School Science Award.
Named after the late cardiac surgeon and pioneer of modern heart transplantation, Dr Victor Chang, the awards seek to celebrate gifted young scientists and encourage an interest in science among secondary school students, with the aim of promoting pursuits in the field of science as viable and interesting career paths.
Riley is one of just 11 Victor Chang Award recipients selected from the Campbelltown area this year – his award was presented by Dr Inken Martin from the Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute and Campbelltown City Councillor, Karen Hunt (on behalf of the Campbelltown Mayor) at a special ceremony at the Campbelltown Arts Centre last week.
Nominated by his teachers for his tenacity, commitment and achievements in science at school, the Year 11 student said he was “very excited” to be given this recognition, and was quick to research Victor Chang and his work as a result.
“As I learned more about the Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute, I realised how important the institute is and how significant an impact Victor Chang has had on the study of heart disease. I feel very honoured and privileged to receive this award and I hope to build on this achievement in the future” — Riley Tonna, John Therry Rosemeadow student and Victor Chang Award recipient
“I enjoy science very much. I like that it’s alright to be curious and ask questions that no one has the answer to, because it gives me the chance to discover it for myself. The process of investigating something that is unknown is very exciting and I thoroughly enjoy it,” Riley said.
Riley is studying three Science subjects for his HSC – Biology, Investigating Science and Science Extension. For Science Extension in the year ahead, he is planning to study the local koala population in an effort to improve the effectiveness of local conservation efforts. His major research to date has explored the effect of radiation emitted from mobile phones on seed germination, to provide insight into the risk of phones to male fertility and in developing testicular cancer.
“The study on seed germination to model the risk of developing testicular cancer from phones was a very interesting investigation. I chose this topic because I have an interest in radiation and its effect on the endocrine system, and I wanted to investigate this myth I’d always heard that testicular cancer could be formed from mobile phone radiation,” he said.
Science Coordinator of John Therry, Dr Aidan Johnson, said Riley is a passionate science student very deserving of this acknowledgement.
“Riley is a diligent, enthusiastic and dedicated student, who regularly seeks feedback and reflects on his work to continue to improve. It has been a pleasure to see Riley's confidence in his scientific ability grow, especially now as he embarks on his exciting research project for Science Extension” — Dr Aidan Johnson, Science Coordinator, John Therry Rosemeadow
“John Therry Catholic High School is regularly involved in the Victor Chang School Science Awards. It provides a great opportunity to promote science and publicly recognise the great work being done by our students,” Dr Johnson said.
Riley will now join other Victor Chang Award recipients from across NSW on a tour of the Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute in Sydney – allowing the students to learn first-hand from world renowned scientists, see the remarkable work its researchers do on a daily basis, and gain a deeper understanding of how rewarding a career in medical research can be.
As for his plans post-school, the keen learner is hoping to study physiotherapy or a course in sport and exercise science at university.
“I have a strong interest in both sport and science, and I hope to combine the two in the future,” Riley said. “I understand this will take a lot of hard work and dedication, and I believe I am up for it.”
Now in its 15th year, the Victor Chang School Science Awards seek to foster growth in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) subject areas. For more information, visit the Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute website.
Feature image: John Therry Rosemeadow student, Riley Tonna, pictured at the Victor Chang Awards evening with his proud teachers – Dr Aidan Johnson (Investigating Science and Science Extension) and Ms Jo-Anne Donaldson (Biology).