Show me the money: How a Ph.D. chemist is helping corporate America team  up with K-12 STEM education programs
Mar31

Show me the money: How a Ph.D. chemist is helping corporate America team up with K-12 STEM education programs

We hope this blog is making it abundantly clear that a chemistry degree qualifies you for a lot more than you might think. I mean, who knew a chemist could land a job at a Disney theme park where he could use his chemical knowledge to help make, for example, a more corrosion-resistant artificial skin? It seems, therefore, that a reasonable approach to discovering your chemistry dream job is this: Figure out what you’re passionate about and what gets you out of bed in the morning. Then find a job that lets you do that. (Word of caution: Not every job you can dream up will be able to pay the rent, so that’s something important to keep in mind). This seems to be the approach Zakiah Pierre is taking in pursuing her career. Although she started grad school thinking she’d go into forensic science, along the way she discovered she was really passionate about “mentoring and paving the way for our future engineers and scientists.” The more she got more involved in mentoring students, the more she became convinced that a science career that allowed her to have an immediate impact on students was the right path for her. That line of thinking has led her to where she is today with Change the Equation, an organization focused on improving science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education for every child, with a particular focus on girls and students of color. One of the ways CTEq strives to accomplish its goals is by identifying innovative programs to advance STEM literary in the United States, measuring the success of these programs through research and analysis and replicating them in communities that need them most. This is where Zakiah comes in. As a research associate, she gathers data regarding the condition of STEM learning state-by-state and nationwide and assesses the impact of STEM learning programs that receive corporate support. By evaluating the success of various programs, she helps CTEq make a solid case for why companies should continue funding them—and expanding them to new, underserved sites. She also writes reports that let their partners know about the needs in STEM learning, with the hope that changes in policy will be made to address those needs. In addition to research and writing reports, Zakiah also blogs about science education news and programs and occasionally represents the organization at meetings around D.C. on a variety of STEM education topics. In the future, Zakiah hopes to expand her role to writing short briefs for peer-reviewed journals on current issues in K-12 STEM learning. It may be apparent by now that Zakiah has had to...

Read More
Making Science Cool for Kids with K-12 STEM Outreach
Mar07

Making Science Cool for Kids with K-12 STEM Outreach

If you love working with kids and you love science, why not find a career that allows you to have both? I mean, who says you can’t have your cake and eat it too? I know what you might be thinking: I’m in grad school. I’m busy. And plus, I want to teach college kids. K-12 is for pre-college teachers. These thoughts also came to my mind as I started working on this blog post. For me personally, after I decided to go to grad school I kind of put pre-college kids out of my mind since I was moving on to “higher education.” If I teach anyone, it’s going to be college kids. But it turns out that there is a lot that people in higher education can do to help prepare the next generation of scientists to be successful future leaders—and it’s up to you whether it’s something you just do on the side, or something that becomes the focus of your career. You may have already known that. Perhaps you’ve already done some science outreach things and have even personally demonstrated to kids how cool science is by making ice cream for them out of liquid nitrogen and heavy cream, right before their very eyes. But have you thought about what difference your contributions can actually make? What gets Sharlene Denos going every day is the knowledge that her efforts are helping to make a difference in the future of science in America. From her experiences working in K-12 schools, Sharlene (Ph.D. in biophysics, 2009) has found that the greatest need in K-12 STEM education is for more inquiry-based learning. “The way science is taught, it’s as though everything has already been figured out,” Sharlene said. “When children leave the classroom, they don’t feel empowered like they could actually contribute something to science, and I think that’s a huge problem.” The reason it’s a huge problem is because these kids are the future of our country. If they’re not prepared to take on scientific challenges, or have misconceptions about what science is all about, what then is in store for the future of science? Sharlene has set out to make a career out of crossing academia with K-12 outreach. She loves working with kids and says her goal is to become a professor that helps bridge the gap between research scientists at the university and kids in grades K-12. There aren’t many people in academia doing that sort of thing. But that’s one of the things she wants to help change. One of her goals is to help people in academia find ways to “participate effectively in...

Read More