15 Universal Beliefs revealed through Bayer Facts of Science Education

Bayer Co. began a survey of science education. A report released this year summarizes the data from 15 years of public opinion on STEM.

In summary, 15 universal beliefs emerged:

  1. Science literacy is critical for all Americans young and old, scientist or non-scientist
  2. U.S. global economic leadership and competitiveness are intrinsically linked to a robust science and technology innovation pipeline and workforce.
  3. America’s future STEM leadership is dependent on the country’s ability to recruit and retain more women, African-Americans, Hispanics, and American Indians (underrepresented minorities) in STEM fields.
  4. Improving science education for all students – especially girls and underrepresented minorities (URMs) – should be a national priority and begin at the earliest possible elementary school level since that’s where the STEM workforce truly begins.
  5. Science interest and ability are color-blind and gender-neutral: from an early age, boys and girls of all races and ethnic backgrounds are interested in science.
  6. Parents and teachers are critically important to nurturing children’s science interest, even if they themselves are not scientists or don’t have all the answers.
  7. In elementary school, science should be the “4th R” and given the same emphasis as reading, writing, and mathematics.
  8. A hands-on, minds-on approach to science education is the best way for students to learn science and build crucial science literacy skills, such as critical thinking, problem solving, and the ability to work in teams.
  9. The nation’s colleges and universities should revitalize pre-service teacher education in science.
  10. The nation’s in-service teachers should be given the tools and ongoing professional development required to be the best science teachers they can be.
  11. Students and teachers benefit from having direct access to scientists and engineers on a regular basis in the classroom.
  12. America’s leading research colleges and universities should rethink how they define academic success when it comes to undergraduate STEM students.
  13. For corporate America, STEM workforce diversity benefits the corporate bottom line by bringing a range of thought, skills and problem solving to the table.
  14. America’s STEM industries and communities need to more effectively communicate with all of today’s students about a range of issues including job opportunities and the fact that they are wanted and needed in these jobs.
  15. It will take a village to improve science education in this country and all stakeholders have a responsibility and a role to play.


The first LHC protons run ends with new milestone

I am a physics admirer. I wish I were smart enough to go into physics. Even though I’m not a physicist, I understood the premise of LHC from the get go. However, do you recall in 2008 the court injunction to stop the collider from powering up? Some of the public thought smashing protons at that energy would create black holes (low velocity micro black holes to be exact) that would swallow the planet. Researchers at CERN even received death threats. It took public support for safety reviews by both the Executive Committee of the Division of Particles and Fields (DPF) of the American Physical Society (APS) and the Committee for Elementary Particle Physics (KET) before the hysteria settle enough to proceed. 

Does the above scenario sound similar to the upcoming doomsday, aka Friday December 21, 2012? (Great article about Dr. David Morrison of NASA and the end of the Mayan calendar cycle)

You would think with each senseless myth being debunked by logic and science, the masses would begin to understand that scientists and engineers 1) know what they are talking about and 2) would be the first to let everyone know that something bad was going to happen (ie climate change 20 years and counting).

The first LHC protons run ends with new milestone.

Major threats to our research universities – Sen. Lamar Alexander and Hunter Rawlings III – POLITICO.com

Remembering Lamar Alexander as Governor of Tennessee, then President of the University of Tennessee, then U.S. Secretary of Education; the man has always been an advocate for education. Great article to read…

The report referred to in the article is an eye-opener. The fact the council has 10 recommendations gives you the sense a lot needs to happen for the U.S. to remain a leader in innovation through its R&D universities.

Major threats to our research universities – Sen. Lamar Alexander and Hunter Rawlings III – POLITICO.com.

STEM is not a four letter word

I referenced a survey by Lenovo in a recent post. In the post, I mentioned the top reasons U.S. students don’t go into a STEM career. Number one was a lack of confidence in their ability (33%) and second was too much work/school (29%). Ouch! These findings hurt! We scientists, as a community, are not doing a very good job getting the facts into the mainstream. This may be one reason for a lack of under represented demographics not pursuing careers in STEM.

One thing refreshing about the findings is observed when students are asked the most influential reason for pursuing a STEM career. For U.S. students, a tie for first place were teachers and parents/relatives. Third place was their own interests. Celebrities accounted for only 1% of the vote. Interestingly, most students who pursue a career in a STEM field make up their minds before college (11% elementary school, 45% middle school, and 29% high school). This indicates outreach early in a child’s education is a good investment of time and effort. Students rank forms of technology in terms of how much influence they have on their decision to pursue a STEM career. By far, most U.S. students indicate the computer as the most influential.

These data indicate perhaps one of the most important ways to reach students is through the use of websites and online resources. This way, students, who are already influenced by web resources, need more, up-to-date knowledge sources for learning and building confidence in what a scientist is and does as well as what it takes to have a career in a STEM field.

My most important goal is to find or create more resources for students. They need to know anyone can pursue a career in STEM. All you need is passion and desire.

Wanted: A Nation of Bill Nyes. Making science mainstream, fun, and relevant. Part 3.

As many have noted, the number of students who pursue a career in a STEM field fall well short of the demand from industry and see this as the problem. On the other hand, I see this as the result of the problem. At some point between toddler years and middle school, the inherent curiosity of a child fizzles; overtaken by media and gadgets. Have a question? Look it up on the Google app (I’m not criticizing Google. It is the best tool for any scientist). We, and our children, are constantly connected to everything going on in the world. For some it is politics or business, but for our children, it is Justin Bieber and Taylor Swift. To me, again, this is not the problem.

Let’s take a couple of other celebrities as examples: Brad Pitt and Will.i.am. We all know Pitt as an actor, however, we know him just as well for his charity work through the Jolie-Pitt Foundation. Will.i.am is a musician but is also into science as seen through his support for FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) and its robotics competition. These are two examples of celebrities using their fame for a greater good.

STEM has an image problem in the United States. (A great survey sponsored by Microsoft showing the perception of STEM by students and parents can be found here). According to a study by Lenovo, the second leading hesitation to a career in STEM for U.S. students is that it requires too much work or school. The number one reason being that the student doesn’t feel confident in their ability. Here is the disconnect…if the passion and curiosity of the world around you and how to make it better is not there or hasn’t been curated, a STEM career is considered too much work. My Ph.D. took 6 and a half years to complete. I never once considered giving up or considered it too hard or too much work. To me, it wasn’t work. I felt lucky to be able to do what I loved and get paid for it.