BSSC Year 12 student, Hayden Parrott, has just returned from the Math and Science Scholars Forum (MSSF) in Michigan US, and returned home clear about the pathway he wants to follow in life.

MSSF is the international equivalent of Australia’s much-admired National Youth Science Forum (NYSF), which Hayden attended last January.

While Hayden, who is focused on maths and physics, engaged with students from all over Australia at NYSF, the real highlight of MSSF was meeting and working alongside students from many different cultures, belief-systems, attitudes and aspirations. Amidst all the differences, the common theme was a fascination and commitment to science.

“I was part of that international community for two weeks and everyone approached the challenges we were given differently,” he says. “During that two weeks I made friends I’ll probably have for life.”

Hayden was placed in a group with a Professor of Forensic Physics and worked on a model crime scene—which involved quite a lot of pretend blood! Students had to recognise, collect and analyse the data available, including traces left by ballistics and bombs, and in blood splatters and soil.

“To deal with the challenge we’d been set,” Hayden explains, “we used Newtonian mechanics, optics, fluid dynamics, quantum physics, refraction, and birefringence (fiber analysis and glass examination). It was amazing.”

Only five students from Australia were selected to attend the MSSF and they were required to travel independently to Michigan—a maturing experience, part and parcel of the ethos of the program.

“I now know that I want to be a physicist, but I don’t want to sit in a lab analysing data. I want to do things; make things. So I plan to study engineering as well,” Hayden explains. “Melbourne Uni has these Graduate Degree Packages that give you a Masters after five years. That’s my immediate focus—to get into that program.”

From there, Hayden will be working towards a career focused on making the world a better place. Preferably with a team working to deal with climate change.

“I really think nuclear fusion is the answer: the power of the sun in a nuclear reactor without the radioactive waste that fission causes. I think we can do it—and we have no choice: we just have to solve climate change and find a clean renewable energy source.”

In the meantime, Hayden is focused on getting the best ATAR he can to ensure a smooth pathway towards his goals.

When he arrived at BSSC at the beginning of 2018, he found there were numerous adjustments to make. This, however, suited him perfectly because Hayden thoroughly enjoys a challenge.

“I actually seek the discomfort of new experiences,” he admits, “so my first reaction was ‘gee, this is different—bring it on!’ I think I’ve flourished in this more mature environment—it’s setting me up for uni.

“At first, BSSC seems to have a more casual atmosphere, but that’s not the reality. There is an expectation of self-discipline and a uniform approach to education that you see dovetailing in everywhere.”

For Hayden, time management has been the greatest challenge, particularly stepping up to the demands of Year 12.

“If you want to do well, you have to put effort into the big things and the small things,” he says. The most important thing for me has been taking subjects I’m passionate about. Otherwise it’s just a chore—when it should be completely engaging.”

Hayden is really enjoying all his subjects and has found his teachers to be universally supportive and inspiring.

“Roy Preece has certainly fired my passion for physics and Jane Fong played a massive part in me going to NYSF,” he says. “Both Jane and Roy wrote references for my applications to MSSF.”

Asked if he has a hero in the scientific world, Hayden reveals he is a Stephen Hawking fan.

“He is still a genuine role model; an inspiration because he overcame the most incredible challenges.”

Despite the demands of Year 12, Hayden continues to play basketball and is part of BSSC’s Specialist Sports Program.

“I can’t play with the Diamond Valley Eagles this year, but I’m on the BSSC team and the local Beavers Basketball A-grade mens team.”

Hayden has also played guitar for many years and, at the end of last year, began teaching himself piano. When he takes a break from study he often finds himself at the piano, and has discovered that, for him, playing piano “soothes the soul”.

When asked what advice he would offer his 12-year-old self, Hayden says he wouldn’t want to change anything—good or bad.

“There’s a saying I like that goes something like this: ‘The stars don’t shine at night without the darkness’. I think the bad is there to help highlight the good.

“Failure is really important. You can’t succeed without failing,” Hayden insists. “I learnt this most clearly through basketball. You set goals, work towards them and deal with failure when things don’t work out as you hoped.

“I know failure switches some people off. But if you can use it to switch yourself on—well, the results can be amazing.”