Dr Sharon Nelson-Barber | Infusing Mainstream STEM Education with Indigenous Culture, Language and Values
In the USA, approaches to Science, Technology, Engineering, and Maths (STEM) instruction are aligned with English-speaking, White middle-class norms. STEM courses rarely reflect consideration for the unique backgrounds of Indigenous learners. Because of this devaluing of local cultural, linguistic, and community traditions, whole communities are left behind, resulting in learners’ exclusion from advanced educational and employment tracks. Dr Sharon Nelson-Barber, Director of Culture and Language in STEM Education at WestEd, aims to change this trajectory. She and her team explore the ways in which students’ cultural backgrounds influence how they learn STEM subjects. Based on the team’s findings, they have developed innovative STEM education and assessment methods that shift relationships between Indigenous ways of learning and Western educational practices.
Dr Greg Swain | A Cross-Disciplinary Sustainable Chemistry Summer Program
To protect Earth’s environment and endangered species, chemists, material scientists and engineers will need to be more mindful of the substances they produce and use. To this end, Dr Greg Swain, Professor of Chemistry at Michigan State University, created the Cross-Disciplinary Training Program in Sustainable Chemistry and Chemical Processes. This innovative program teaches undergraduate chemistry students the importance of sustainable practices, while preparing them for their future careers.
A Summer Opportunity Programme for Aspiring Scientists – with a Digital Twist
The development of a talent pool in Science Technology Education and Medicine that is as diverse as our population, has been a difficult goal for decades. Increasing the diversity of scientists from underrepresented communities can drive both innovation and creativity within the sciences. The Molecular & Environmental Toxicology Centre at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, USA, has run a summer research opportunity programme since 2011, providing scientific experiences and promoting scientific careers in the environmental health sciences for aspiring young people from backgrounds historically underrepresented in this field.
Dr Kristiina A. Vogt | Dr Samantha De Abreu | Dr Maria Blancas – Indigenous Holistic Storytelling to Teach Environmental Science
Western approaches to environmental science typically focus on existing and future issues, such as climate change, and technological solutions to these issues. While these frameworks have their value, they often set aside holistic perspectives on land management, coexistence with nature, and ecosystem preservation. Dr Kristiina A. Vogt, Dr Samantha De Abreu and Dr Maria Blancas at the University of Washington are exploring the potential of holistic storytelling practices common among Indigenous communities to teach environmental science in more effective ways.
Lessons Learned from Interdisciplinary Activities that Connect Chemistry and Biology
The ability to link disparate concepts across disciplines underpins many scientific breakthroughs. However, most students struggle to develop the skills they need to apply knowledge from one STEM subject to explain phenomena in another. Dr Sonia Underwood of Florida International University (FIU) and her colleagues at both FIU and Michigan State University (MSU) have developed assessments aligned with ‘three-dimensional learning’, which support students in connecting core concepts across fields. Their research using a series of new educational activities highlights the promises and challenges in helping students develop an interdisciplinary mindset.
Professor Rui Martins | Building a Microelectronics Research Group from the Ground Up
Microelectronics are the minuscule components that power our modern world, from your smartphone to the systems that keep jet airliners in the sky. These essential components, such as transistors, resistors, capacitors, and inductors are the building blocks of microchips – the tiny computing units that process vast quantities of binary information. However, the world around us isn’t binary. Engineers must develop ways to translate between the analogue world that we inhabit and the binary world of chips. Over the last 30 years, Professor Rui Martins of the University of Macau has built a world-renowned research lab – the State Key Laboratory of Analog and Mixed-Signal VLSI – focused on further bridging the gap between analogue and digital.
Dr Evelyn Cooper | Dr Candice Duncan – Improving Agriculture and Geoscience through Educational Initiatives
Addressing the skills shortage within scientific sectors requires a targeted approach for attracting and retaining students in STEM education. Summer Opportunities in Agricultural Research and the Environment (SOARE), SOARE: Strategic Work in Applied Geosciences (SWAG) and AgDiscovery, three innovative programs at the University of Maryland, provide a gateway for continued education, particularly for students who are traditionally under-represented in scientific fields. Implemented by Dr Evelyn Cooper, the success of the AgDiscovery and SOARE programs at the university has led to the inception of the new SOARE:SWAG program. Co-directed by Dr Candice Duncan, SOARE:SWAG focuses on students within geoscience disciplines.
The Biomedical Entrepreneurship Skills Development Program (BEEP): Educating a New Generation of Medical Innovators
Innovative, new technologies are rapidly being introduced into the medical world, as scientists and inventors continually discover solutions to all kinds of health issues. However, comprehensive education in medical product development, business process and strategy is distinctly lacking for science students who aspire to become commercial medical innovators and entrepreneurs. Entrepreneurially minded professionals at the New York University Grossman School of Medicine developed, implemented, and integrated programs to train early scientists in the business side of science to accelerate the pace of commercialisation and encourage individuals to pursue venture creation and entrepreneurship to impact highly relevant healthcare solutions.
Michael Wells – Merging Different Disciplines to Create a Sustainable School Garden
Increasing the engagement of high-school students in STEM disciplines and introducing them to real-world problems are two very important goals for educators worldwide. Michael Wells, principal of Munster High School in Indiana, recently directed the implementation of Project GREEN – a unique, school-wide, and innovative program that brings students together to build a 21st century school garden.
Chelsea Morales | Shauntae M. St Clair – Aaniiih Nakoda College Offers Engaging STEM Learning Experiences
In recent years, many educators have been creating academic initiatives aimed at increasing diversity in Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM). Such programs aim to reduce the barriers faced by students from communities that are typically underrepresented in the STEM workforce. In addition to being more equitable, diverse workforces have been shown to be more innovative, as they bring together multiple experiences and perspectives. Chelsea Morales and Shauntae M. St Clair, two instructors at Aaniiih Nakoda College, are directing a program that creates unique, context-specific, and culturally relevant STEM learning opportunities for both high-school and college students from the American Indian Aaniinen and Nakoda tribes.
Dr Terry L. Mills | Dr J. K. Haynes – Increasing the Participation of African American Male Students in STEM
Despite recent efforts aimed at increasing diversity in STEM-related fields, many communities are still largely underrepresented in these disciplines, including African American students and professionals. Not only is this unfair on individuals who may ultimately miss out on rewarding STEM careers, but it also deprives the STEM workforce of talented minds, and the innovation that a more diverse community could achieve. Dr Terry L. Mills and Dr J. K. Haynes, two professors at Morehouse College in Atlanta, have created the John H. Hopps Jr. STEM Education Research Program, an academic intervention designed to increase the participation of African American men in STEM degrees.
Dr Verónica A. Segarra – Scientific Societies Team Up to Foster a Diverse STEM Workforce
The Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) communities have a long history of exclusion and underrepresentation of women, African American, Latinx, American Indian and LGBTQIA+ students. In order for our STEM enterprise to be truly equitable, everyone that wants to become a scientist must have an equitable opportunity to do so, regardless of their gender, ethnicity or sexual orientation. In the movement toward equity, the demographic diversity of the STEM workforce must mirror that of the general population. STEM workforce diversity can accelerate innovation in scientific disciplines, and, if coupled with systemic cultural equity, can also support a STEM enterprise where everyone can thrive. Dr Verónica A. Segarra, Interim Chair and Assistant Professor of Biology at High Point University, has been exploring how scientific societies could help their disciplines be more equitable. Her efforts have helped to establish numerous alliances and collaborations among societies and diversity-focused organisations, with the mission of building a more diverse and inclusive STEM workforce.
Dr Erin Kraal | Dr Laura Guertin – Increasing Engagement in Geoscience Through Storytelling
In recent years, educators have been trying to devise programs that could increase student engagement in courses related to science, technology, engineering, and maths (STEM). These programs could help to reduce drop-out rates in higher education, encouraging more youths to pursue STEM careers. Dr Erin Kraal and Dr Laura Guertin, two professors at Kutztown University and Penn State Brandywine, have recently assessed ‘Student Produced Audio Narratives’ (SPAN), a teaching approach designed to improve the perceptions of students enrolled in introductory geoscience courses and increase their engagement.
Dr W. Wyatt Hoback – NATIVES Program Trains Native Americans in Entomology
Insects are the most diverse lifeform on Earth. However, entomology, the scientific study of insects, is a field with few graduates. To address rising issues in agricultural biosecurity, pest management and biodiversity preservation, we need more trained entomologists. Moreover, because insects impact the health and well-being of almost everyone, there is also a need to increase diversity and to train underrepresented groups in entomology. One such group is Native Americans. To address the lack of entomologists in this key demographic, Dr W. Wyatt Hoback and a team from Oklahoma State University pioneered a program to engage Native American undergraduate students in entomology.
The European Chemical Society’s Division of Chemical Education
Representing more than 160,000 chemistry professionals, the European Chemical Society (EuChemS) is an umbrella organisation representing chemistry societies and organisations across Europe. One of the professional networks within EuChemS is the Division of Chemical Education, which aims to advance chemistry learning in Europe and beyond. In this exclusive interview, we speak with chairperson Dr Rachel Mamlok-Naaman, who discusses the Division’s work, exciting new approaches teaching chemical science, and her own fascinating research.
The American Association of Chemistry Teachers
Under the auspices of the American Chemical Society, the American Association of Chemistry Teachers (AACT) was established in 2014 as a professional community for chemistry teachers in schools across the US. AACT supports educators by providing quality resources, professional development, and valuable networking opportunities. In this exclusive interview, we speak with Greta Glugoski-Sharp, AACT’s Governing Board President, who speaks about her experiences as a chemistry teacher, and discusses the ways in which the Association empowers teachers to provide their students with the best possible chemistry education.
Dr Marcos Caroli Rezende | Dr Carolina Aliaga Vidal – Enhancing Science Education Through Visual Chemistry
Chemical scientists are vital to numerous important areas of society – from pharmaceutical drug development to solar energy conversion. To prepare for their future careers, it is critical for chemistry students to gain a deep understanding of complex molecular processes. However, chemistry is full of abstract concepts that can be difficult to grasp, causing many students to fall behind. To address this issue, Dr Marcos Caroli Rezende and Dr Carolina Aliaga Vidal at Universidad de Santiago de Chile have been developing visual learning methods to improve the quality of chemistry education, and ensure better outcomes for all students. In their recent work, they have focused on helping students to visualise a complex chemical process known as phase-transfer catalysis.
I-PERF: Supporting Underserved Research Fellows
Statistics suggest that Hispanic, Black, and female entrepreneurs receive a disproportionately tiny portion of total venture capital funds in the United States. With this in mind, the National Science Foundation created the I-PERF program. I-PERF supports the professional development of research fellows from underserved groups, offering them hands-on experience within promising research and technology companies, with the goal of increasing diversity in the start-up and entrepreneurial landscape. The program is managed by Dr Teddy Ivanitzki, Rashida Johnson, Rachel Levitin and their colleagues at the American Society for Engineering Education.
Enhancing Teacher Learning of Ambitious Instruction Through Collaborative Design
Efforts to reform science education in the US emphasise the importance of engaging in the development of explanations of natural phenomena in students’ learning. Discussing and evaluating ideas is a vital component of this process. Thus, teaching practices that enhance student sensemaking through talk are central to improved science education; this is a marked shift from traditional teaching, where the teacher lectures about science explanations and then students do a lab to confirm what they have been told. Researchers from Florida State University and Georgia State University are investigating how teachers can be supported to develop the skills they need to adopt these instructional practices, in their research and professional development project: Learning through Collaborative Design.
Cultivating a New Generation of Biomedical Entrepreneurs
In recent years, scientific and technological advances have brought great innovation within the life sciences industry, introducing the need for entrepreneurship training for medical and engineering graduates. With this in mind, Michal Gilon-Yanai, Dr Robert Schneider and their collaborators developed an academic program designed to provide students and faculty members with the skills they need to become successful entrepreneurs. The team of collaborators includes Dr Gabrielle Gold-von Simson, an expert in implementing academic programs, and Dr Colleen Gillespie, who specialises in education, evaluation and dissemination science. Their pioneering program trains students on how to bring new biomedical technologies to the market.
Colorado School of Mines – Humanitarian Engineering: Training Engineers to Best Serve Communities
Engineering is one of the most impactful and transformative fields of teaching, research, and practice, as it shapes the world we live in and ensures the functioning of many systems that maintain human life. The Colorado School of Mines created the first Humanitarian Engineering (HE) program to train engineering students to devise solutions that are efficient, ethical, socially responsible and sustainable. Its students work closely with the communities they serve, thinking critically about their needs.
Dr Sonya Smith – The HBCU-HDI Women in STEM Conferences
Although the number of women enrolling in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) courses has increased over the past few years, women still remain widely underrepresented in STEM fields. To address this serious issue, the HBCU-HDI Women in STEM Conference, an event organised by Dr Sonya Smith and her colleagues at Howard University, brings female scientists and graduate students from the US and South Africa together to openly discuss the challenges and opportunities for women pursuing careers in STEM-related fields.
ADAPT: Cultivating Skilled Manufacturers in Rural Wisconsin
The manufacturing industry has long been central to the livelihoods of people in rural Wisconsin. Increasingly, however, the speed of change and innovation that many of these businesses need to incorporate to stay competitive are profound. This change, known as ‘Industry 4.0’, is being applied to businesses both large and small. In Western Wisconsin, the Trempealeau Valley Cooperative 2.0, Western Technical College and Ashley Furniture Industries are collaborating to develop a new educational model that will equip a new generation of students with the necessary skills to retain a cutting-edge manufacturing industry in the region.
Dr Patrick C. Still – Using Plants as a Source of Anti-Cancer Compounds for Undergraduate Research Experiences
Cancer, in all its forms, is one of the major causes of death across the world and we are in urgent need of more effective interventions for this global killer. Drugs used to treat diseases like cancer can be either synthetic in origin, semi-synthetic derivatives of natural products, or unmodified natural products.
The Association for Women in Science
Founded almost 50 years ago, the Association for Women in Science (AWIS) is a global network that inspires bold leadership, research, and solutions that advance women in STEM, spark innovation, promote organisational success, and drive systemic change. In this exclusive interview, we speak with AWIS president and world-renowned biomedical innovator Dr Susan Windham-Bannister, who describes the barriers that women face in the STEM workplace, and the many ways in which AWIS supports women in science and works towards eliminating inequality through systemic change.
UTC ASSETS: Supporting Underprivileged and Underrepresented Engineering Students
When designing undergraduate engineering courses, educators typically assume that all new students will be academically prepared to begin higher education studies. The reality, however, is that not all students starting college are ‘college ready’, as some may have had fewer learning opportunities in the past. To help these students achieve their full potential, Dr Ignatius Fomunung and his colleagues at the University of Tennessee Chattanooga created ASSETS. This academic program is specifically designed to support engineering students that transfer to university from community colleges, who may be academically disadvantaged compared to their peers.
SHAPE STEM – Shaping Michigan’s Next Generation of Environmental Scientists
The state of Michigan is experiencing numerous environmental threats, risking the health and wellbeing of its residents. STEM professionals are urgently needed to help solve these problems and mitigate the impending public health disasters. However, the number of students graduating with STEM degrees in the state has been declining. Researchers at Siena Heights University are addressing this need through their teaching and development program, SHAPE STEM, which aims to increase the recruitment and retention of low-income academically talented students in STEM subjects.
Dr Charles Smith – Space Weather Underground: A Magnetometer Array with Educational Opportunities
The complex processes of Earth’s ionosphere may occur far above the planet’s surface, but when monitored from numerous locations at sufficient distances, they can be measured using inexpensive equipment on the ground. Dr Charles Smith at the University of New Hampshire has assembled an extensive team to do just that, with participants ranging from space scientists with decades of experience, to high school students considering futures in science and engineering. Named Space Weather Underground, the project could soon make extensive data on ionosphere dynamics available to scientists and the public alike.
Dr Tennille D. Presley – Sounding the Right Note: Integrating Music and STEM Teaching
Young people can often be discouraged from engaging with STEM subjects because they seem to have little obvious connection to their everyday lives. At Winston-Salem State University in North Carolina, an innovative program led by Dr Tennille D. Presley, is seeking to engage students by combining physics and biology with an art that is central to many students’ social lives: music. Early results from the program suggest that it has been successful in making science exciting and showing students that physics is involved in everything.
The National Association of Biology Teachers
Founded in 1938, the National Association of Biology Teachers (NABT) is an organisation of educators that promotes biology teaching, supports learning methods based on scientific principles and advocates for biology within society. In this exclusive interview, we have had the pleasure of speaking with NABT’s Executive Director, Jaclyn (Jacki) Reeves-Pepin, and President, Sharon Gusky, who discuss the varied ways in which the Association empowers educators to provide the best possible biology and life science education for all students, even in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Dr Elica Moss – Training a New Generation of Skilled Environmental Scientists
The environmental sciences are vitally important to address many urgent global challenges, such as climate change, agricultural sustainability, conservation and pollution. To lead the innovations that will bring us closer to achieving these goals, a diverse, well-trained and qualified workforce is required. In their new teaching program, Dr Elica Moss and her team of scientists at Alabama A&M University provide students with extensive training in advanced biotechnological methods and invaluable research experience, towards building a skilled and diverse scientific workforce that can take on humanity’s greatest challenges.
Cultivating Health-Conscious High School Students through Nutrition Education
Providing high school students with nutrition-related knowledge enables them to lead healthier lives by selecting foods that are both tasty and nutritious. Researchers at Middle Tennessee State University and Lipscomb University have created a course designed to offer high school students the opportunity to become acquainted with the field of nutrition, allowing them to apply this knowledge to improve their personal lives, earn college-level credit and prepare for future careers.