Fonterra scientists inspiring the next generation


A team of six scientists from Fonterra’s Research and Development Centre (FRDC) headed along to the Girl-Powered Workshop on recently to ‘wow’ local students with science.

The event aims to engage young women in STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering and mathematics), and inspire them to consider a career in these traditionally male-dominated areas.

Rafea Naffa and fellow scientists from FRDC presented and conducted experiments in front of around 70 primary and intermediate-aged girls at Massey University.

Rafea Naffa and Fonterra colleagues demonstrating science at Girl-Powered Workshop.

With the support of FRDC, Rafea and the team added the “chemistry edge” to the workshop, exploring gases, gas transformation and changing colours.

“Young people like science, but they need someone to really advocate science in the right way – in a simple, fun and safe way in order for them to appreciate and get involved with it. Fonterra has the labs, the resources and the scientists – so, it's just a matter of reaching out”, says Rafea.

For Rafea, the show is just one part of a wider scheme to advocate for science through shows and workshops. Earlier this year, Rafea and the crew from FRDC ran a show at Te Manawa museum. “The show was really well received, and more than 700 people attended”, says Rafea.

Young people like science, but they need someone to really advocate science in the right way – in a simple, fun and safe way in order for them to appreciate and get involved with it. 

Rafea Naffa, scientists, Fonterra’s Research and Development Centre

When he started working at Fonterra Rafea says he started doing the shows with a team of two people, and now the team has grown to six.

“We’re just trying to contribute by encouraging the community to appreciate science. And hopefully, this will be reflected in the children of the next generation. If we show them the importance of science, we might find some kids who decide to take it on as a career.”

Through 2021 and 2022, they’re aiming to engage with local schools through school visits and continue to run regular science shows at Te Manawa Museum. They also have plans to reach out more to schools in rural areas.

Rafea Naffa showcasing the fun side of science for young school students.

Presenting at Palmerston North’s Te Manawa Museum’s After Dark event.

Rafea has always had a passion for science, and for sharing it with the community, even before joining Fonterra. The shows started small, for his daughter’s classroom at school, and grew from there.

“I went to my daughter's school because I was invited as a scientist to talk about science… I just took with me a couple of experiments, and I executed them and they loved it! The school then asked me back to do a bigger show – I did a show for the whole school. Then, I was approached by Te Manawa Museum to interact more with the community”, says Rafea.

In 2020, Rafea was granted funding from the Earle Creativity Trust, to bring science to the public and give children the opportunity to explore it. Rafea says would like to thank the trust for “making the science shows at the Museum possible, alongside Fonterra and Te Manawa Museum”.

When Rafea joined Fonterra, he says he found people who share the same passion for science and Doing Good Together in the community. “Fonterra and FRDC have always been engaged with the community the same way I do as an individual.”