The Virtual Classroom

The Virtual Classroom is a schools engagement project that utilises technology to build capacity, raise awareness and motivation, and provide academic enrichment to schools with low rates of participation in higher education.

Bridges Connect provides relevant and sustainable content for schools using technology, such as the NSW Department of Education and Communities Connected Classrooms and Adobe Connect.

The series

The Virtual Classroom series takes students and their teachers on virtual visits to university campuses and puts them in touch with university researchers, academics and industry professionals. These videos increase students’ awareness, confidence and motivation towards higher education, with numerous sessions to support the curriculum and raise capacity through teacher professional learning.

The videos

Understanding the chemistry of life through visualising the molecular world

Professor Roy Tasker zooms down to the invisible world of molecules and imagines how they operate. Using high-resolution scanning electron microscopy, it is possible to 'see' individual molecules, move them around and build simple molecular machines. This allows us to see how nature uses molecular machines to produce living chemical systems and ask: 'Are we only our memories?'

Roy Tasker is professor of chemistry education at the University of Western Sydney and provost of its Hawkesbury campus. His passion is imagining the molecular world as a way of explaining everyday experiences such as cooking and eating, issues like climate change, and strange phenomena such as life itself. In 2011 Professor Tasker was awarded the Prime Minister's Award for Australian University Teacher of the Year.

Evolution, natural selection and complexity

Professor Michael Gillings discusses evolution and how it works, using the evolution of the English language as an example of how the simple processes of natural selection can arise.

Michael Gillings is professor of molecular evolution in the Department of Biological Sciences at Macquarie University. His research interests lie in the exploration of genetic diversity and the movement of mobile DNA between species. He convenes one of the largest first-year classes at Macquarie (human biology) with over 900 students per semester and supervises postgraduate research students working on a wide range of projects, including management of endangered species, tracking antibiotic resistance, and the effects of global climate change.

Where can science lead you? Not even the sky is the limit! 

Have you ever been curious about what causes thunder and lightning? Or wondered how nerves can transmit messages that cause us to sense and respond to the world around us? How we know what other galaxies are out in the universe? What surprises lie below the surface of the ocean? This talk looks at science and some of the myriad possibilities open to students who study science at school. 

Dr Fiona Ballard lectures at Australian Catholic University, teaching first- and second-year bioscience. She teaches human anatomy and physiology, biodiversity and pathophysiology. Fiona Ballard completed a BSc (Hons) and PhD at Sydney University, where she also taught human anatomy and physiology,biology, molecular biology and genetics for 11 years. 

CSI misunderstood?

Last time you watched CSI on TV, a murder was committed and solved in 60 minutes. The popular CSI shows are fiction – not a true depiction of what actually happens in 'real' crime scene investigations and the science behind them. Dr Alison Beavis looks at crime scene investigation – the recovery and analysis of evidence at the scene and in labs – and explains why fundamental science such as chemistry, physics, mathematics and biology are so important to forensic science.

Dr Alison Beavis is a senior lecturer in the School of Chemistry and Forensic Science at UTS. She is an analytical chemist and conducts research in forensic science. She is a senior member of the UTS Centre for Forensic Science and the Australian and New Zealand Forensic Science Society.

It's not easy being green

Judy Adnum talks about why it's not easy being green. Judy and her students will explore how events such as Chernobyl and the after-effects of the Japanese tsunami affect us and whether we should care.

Judy Adnum taught history to secondary students in high schools through rural and regional New South Wales for many years. She was a consultant with the Department of Education, talking to teachers about teaching civics and history, and has written  the Sydney Morning Herald HSC Study Guides for Modern History, chapters of commerce textbooks and articles for the Teaching History journals and edited resources for schools. Currently she teaches student teachers how to teach history. 

Why history matters to Australia's Asian future 

In exploring the importance of the economic and cultural orientation of Australia in the modern history curriculum, Professor Robert Lee argues that Asian history needs to be part of the mainstream of historical discourse. The study of history has transformed how we see the role of Indigenous people. Studying Asia is similarly crucial. Professor Lee reflects on some of the challenges the neglect of Asian history has posed for the geopolitical realities of the 21st century.

Professor Lee is professor of history and Director of Academic Programs of the Bachelor of Arts degree at the University of Western Sydney. He is interested in the transport history of Australia and Asia. He has published six major books, undertaken missions for UNESCO's International Council on Monuments and Sites and completed a study of Australia's transport and communications history for the former Australian Heritage Commission.

Unearthing Angkor's secret history

Angkor, Cambodia, was capital of a sprawling medieval empire that encompassed much of the Indochinese peninsula between the 9th and 15th centuries. Dr Dan Penny explores the timing of and reasons for Angkor's decline and eventual collapse.

Dr Dan Penny is co-director of the greater Angkor Project, which has been investigating the demise of Angkor, using micro-paleontological techniques (pollen and spores from higher plants and ferns respectively, and algae, particularly diatoms). He is an environmental geoscientist with an interest in environmental change and its impact on society and on the Earth's system. He is currently producing high-resolution records of abrupt climate events in north-eastern Cambodia and off the coast of Vietnam, and considering the interaction between social and natural resilience to climate change.

The romance of numbers

Professor John Croucher demonstrates the wonderful world of numbers and how they affect our everyday lives. Sport, medicine, business and law are just some of the fields in which numbers play a vital role in making informed decisions through the use of scientific method.

Professor Croucher, one of Australia's most prominent statisticians, is professor of management at the Macquarie Graduate School of Management and a visiting professor at the University of London and The Divine Word University in Papua New Guinea. He conducts courses in statistics and quantitative analysis as applied to business situations. Professor Croucher has presented football on television, wrote a newspapaer sports column and has lectured at the Australian Institute of Sport in Canberra to elite athletes and coaches on how statistics may be used to determine optimal strategies.

Infinity and beyond

The concept of infinity has intrigued mathematicians and philosophers for thousands of years. Many of us were taught that infinity is the biggest number. But what is infinity really? Is there anything bigger than infinity? How many 'different kinds' of infinities are there? What do mathematicians really know about infinity? Dr James East's exploration of such questions leads to some  less familiar branches of mathematics, such as set theory and topology. Some parts of the talk are more suitable for older students.

Dr James East is a professional mathematician and amateur philosopher. He obtained his PhD in pure mathematics at the University of Sydney, and subsequently held teaching and research positions at La Trobe University and the University of Sydney. He is now a member of the Centre for Research in mathematics at the University of Western Sydney, where he is a lecturer in pure mathematics. His main research interests lie in algebra and infinite set theory. 

That's so random! 

When describing real-world problems via mathematics, there are two main classes of model: deterministic processes, which can be repeated to give the same results every time, and stochastic (or random) processes, which might change each time they are observed. For example, we are able to describe the motion of the Earth around the sun with a high degree of certainty, whereas it's impossible to predict the result of even a single coin flip. Dr Stephen Woodcock explores the computer-intensive methods used to analyse mathematical models and the application of this branch of mathematics to commerce, biology and engineering.

Dr Woodcock is a lecturer in the School of Mathematical Sciences at the University of Technology, Sydney. Prior to this, he was a research fellow at the University of Glasgow in Scotland and worked in private sector consultancy in London. His primary research interests lie in the application of mathematical models to describe biological and ecological systems. 

Telling a story with statistics

We use statistics to help all sorts of predictions, from the best place to build a new hospital, to which team is likely to win the grand final. In this talk, Dr Stephen Bush looks at examples of where statistics can be used to tell familiar stories in new ways – such as how to use statistical methods to better understand the role of genes in the severity of parasite borne disease. 

Dr Bush is a lecturer in statistics in the School of Mathematical Sciences at the University of Technology, Sydney. Before joining UTS, he worked at the Australian Bureau of Statistics as a research officer, and investigating the use of data to optimise marketing strategies in the private sector. He completed his PhD in the design of efficient experiments that can measure how people make choices, and how people trade-off between different priorities when making choices.

Groundbreaking robots

Professor Michael Heimlich looks at how dedicated engineers designed and built a robot and introduces programs that students can become involved in to kick-start their engineering skills and passion.

American-born Professor Michael Heimlich worked in Silicon Valley in the United States for almost 10 years. He moved to Australia to teach at Macquarie University, where he started the FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC) at Macquarie University. From that one team, FRC and other FIRST programs in Australia have become hugely popular.

From chasing tornadoes to stalking tigers

Holly Kaye-Smith talks about passionate media workers and their extraordinary film and photography adventures, including her own experiences and her recent documentary about exploitation and overconsumption in the fashion industry.

Holly Kaye-Smith is a filmmaker, university tutor and PhD student. She has also worked as a freelance graphic designer, assistant director for SBS News, and directed documentary films and music film clips.

Saving the world with insects

Dr Tanya Latty shows how insects and other creepy crawlies can solve the world's problems and talks about entomological research students can do from their own homes.

Dr Latty grew up in Canada, chasing and keeping various creepy crawlies such as insects, reptiles, and amphibians. Her university studies took her to the Canadian Rocky Mountains, where she spent summers bushwalking in some of the world's most remote wilderness areas. She graduated with a PhD in beetle behavious from the University of Calgary, and moved to Australia in 2008 to study ants, honey bees and slime moulds.

Be an agent of change

Ben Dessen talks about his conservation work – saving orang-utans – in the jungles of Borneo, and how they are affected by deforestation, habitat destruction and the palm oil industry. He also explores about how students can get hands-on experience working with animals in their local area and ecosystem.

Interested in wildlife from the time he got his first pet snake at age six, Ben Dessen has worked for many wildlife organisations. One of his projects involved spending 100 days living in the jungles of Borneo to help raise awareness of endangered orang-utans. He is now studying for a Bachelor of Natural Science, majoring in animal science.

Movie magic in the classroom

Jack McGrath explores how film-makers use visual language to communicate with their audiences, demonstrating the visual language of shots, camera angles and effects that are used by film-makers to tell dramatic and entertaining stories. English isn't just about spelling and grammar - film making is a valuable tool in developing literacy and critical thinking in the classroom. 

Jack McGrath has directed several short animated films and shown his films at various film festivals in Australia and internationally. He lectures in animation at Sydney College of the Arts at the University of Sydney. Teaching the technique and theory behind animation and filmmaking, Jack works across a wide range of animation mediums including 2D, 3D, stop motion, special effects, pixilation and the newly discovered glass animation 'glass-Flame-mation'. He also conducts animation and film-making workshops in partnership with the Social Inclusion Unit at the University of Sydney. 

Poetry as a prompt to think and feel through sounds 

This talk discusses the sonic atmospheres evoked by Australian poet Martin Harrison. Harrison’s poetry frequently refers to the sounds of the Australian bush. The sonorous and rhythmic qualities of language are also a key part of his poetics. Dr Tom Lee focuses on several of Harrison’s poems which feature sounds of wildlife and discuss what it means to think and to feel through sound.

Dr Tom Lee is a Sydney-based writer and academic who works as a tutor in multiple undergraduate subjects at University of Western Sydney. His poetry, prose fiction and criticism have been published in a number of journals. He recently completed his doctoral thesis on the prose fiction of the late WG Sebald and his research interests are concerned with relationship between writing, reasoning and expression. A selection of his writing is viewable at

Ways in to writing imaginatively

How do you write if you're not feeling inspired? Is writing all talent and no sweat? Dr Jane Messer looks at practical ways in to writing creatively and how to move from the first idea – or no idea at all – to a completed story. She considers strategies for word play, freeing up ideas, researching ideas, free writing and writing to plan.

Dr Jane Messer is a senior lecturer in creative writing in the Department of English, and program leader for the writing programs in the Faculty of Arts at Macquarie University. She is also the founder and supervising editor of the department's writing students' e-journal, The Quarry. Her books include the novels Night by Night, Provenance and the forthcoming Hopscotch. Her philosophy about writing is to go out and live life so that you have something to say. In her pre-teaching life she worked as a storeman and packer, fair hand, street newspaper seller and fruit picker, before moving into book publishing and events management.

Responding to, and writing about, literature while finding your own 'voice'

When we study and analyse literary texts it is easy to forget the part we each play – or can play – in crafting a written response in which our own 'voice' comes through as much as our demonstrated knowledge of the text. Dr Karen Lamb explores how to make the traditional form of the essay work in a more satisfying and creative way.

Dr Lamb is working on a biography of Australian novelist Thea Astley. She edited a book of Australian short stories Uneasy Truces, wrote the first critical monograph on Peter Carey, The Genesis of Fame, and has reviewed books in Australian newspapers and magazines for over 20 years. She currently teaches literature at the Australian Catholic University in Sydney.

What's my iPad doing on stage? 

Exploring what we think of when we refer to 'technology' and drama, Dr Rachel Perry draws on various productions to illustrate creative ways of embedding technological elements within their design and presentation – examples include the use of projections on shirts to reveal hidden voices for a schizophrenic character or to create mood, and the streaming of vision live from tablets used by other actors. 

Dr Rachel Perry lectures in drama education at the University of Technology, Sydney. Recent research has focused on teacher development in drama as well as facilitated action research as a process to support local volunteer parent committees. She is currently exploring possibilities of the connected classroom (video-conferencing) as a means of connecting and supporting students learning through drama.

The science and practice of neuropsychology

Neuropsychology is a broad and exciting field of science which seeks to describe and explain the complex relationship between brain function and human behaviour. Dr Jeffrey Rogers explores our current understanding of some common neuropsychological disorders and the types of research-informed interventions being used in clinical practice.

Dr Rogers has recently joined the Australian Catholic University as a lecturer in the School of Psychology. Dr Rogers has worked clinically across a variety of settings in Western Australia and New South Wales, including child and adult brain injury rehabilitation, and adult and older adult mental health care. His teaching and research interests reflect the diversity of these experiences, and include investigations of outcome after brain injury, cognitive rehabilitation in severe mental illness, and service enhancement and promotion initiatives.

Medical information technology

Dr Liviu Constantinescu presents an entertaining overview of the medical information technology field, introducing students to a wealth of new approaches and technologies which will transform the way we think about our health. Topics covered are mobile health, personalised medicine and pervasive healthcare.

Dr Constantinescu is a biomedical IT researcher at the University of Sydney. He graduated with a PhD in computer science, as part of the Biomedical and Multimedia Information Technology (BMIT) Research Group at the School of Information Technologies, University of Sydney. He has worked in medical research since 1998, transitioning from IT support to lead developer and scientist positions. His research focuses on the convergence of information technologies and biomedicine, aiming at improving the practice of healthcare through state-of-the-art networking and software development methods. 

The importance of failure

Thomas Edison is renowned for his ingenious inventions, indeed he is still one of the most prolific patent holders of all time. He is also arguably the world's most prolific failure, with over 3 million pages in his journals of ideas that didn't always work. By exploring a range of so called 'failures' – from the Post-it note, to Steve Jobs career path, to Lego – this talk explores the importance of failure, and what we can learn from it, in order to bring about success.

Jonathon Allen is an associate professor of design in the School of Humanities and Communication Arts, and Provost of Penrith Campus at the University of Western Sydney. From 2008 to 2010 he was Associate Head of School (Industrial Design) in the School of Engineering at UWS, and has previously lectured at Loughborough University, UK, Massey University in New Zealand and Monash University. 

Living healthy

Have you ever been scared that you feel too young to be deciding what you do for the rest of your life? Vita Christie talks about how the career path you foresee may not be exactly where you end up – but that a lot of options open up when you have a tertiary qualification.

Vita Christie is a nutritionist who is passionate about living healthily and contributing to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health. Since 2010 she has worked at the Poche Centre for Indigenous Health, where she is now project manager. Having travelled extensively over the last decade, she noticed the disparities in access to healthcare for Indigenous peoples across many cultures. She joined the Poche Centre as she felt it was a good opportunity to combine her knowledge about health and nutrition and her passion about inequality of access in Australia.


Helping people find their voices

Ever wondered what 'psychoacoustic evaluation' really is? How fast is a high-speed larygoscope? Dr Cate Madill explains what kind of people might get help from a speech pathologist, what it's like to work in a voice research laboratory, and the careers that speech pathologists can have.

Dr Cate Madill is the director of the Voice Research Laboratory at the Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Sydney. She conducts experimental and applied clinical research into the mechanism and processes that change the voice. Dr Madill's research involves the use of voice-measurement equipment, including high-speed larygoscopy, ultrasound, respiratory, electrophysiology and acoustic measurement and psychoacoustic evaluation.

I am a psychologist

Kelli-Marie Moses explores the world of a psychologist in private practice. She takes you through her personal journey from high school and her study path and explains how no one day at work is ever the same.

She is a registered psychologist, concentrating on supporting and helping children, teenagers and adults through counselling.

 Kelli-Marie Moses completed a double degree in psychology and education at the University of Sydney, then completed an Honours Thesis which involved exploring adolescent coping and decision-making styles. She has worked with diverse needs across a number of school settings and at a medical centre. She completed postgraduate training in art and play therapy techniques.