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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Scientistt is a new networking platform for PhD students and early-career researchers, where they can connect with others in similar fields, share their work, and access up-to-date information about conferences, funding and training opportunities. In this exclusive interview, we speak with Hassan Mahmudul, Scientistt’s CEO and founder, and Callum Elson, head of marketing, who tell us all about this thriving new community, and their hopes for the future.
Dr Zenaida Aguirre Muñoz | Dr Magdalena Pando | Dr Michelle Pantoya – Fostering Enthusiasm for Engineering from an Early Age
As engineering and other scientific disciplines play an increasingly prominent role in our society, it is crucial to introduce children to these subjects from an early age, as this could encourage them to pursue careers in these fields in the future. With this in mind, Dr Zenaida Aguirre Muñoz, Dr Magdalena Pando, and Dr Michelle Pantoya have been conducting research investigating the effectiveness of teaching practices and methods aimed at introducing young children to engineering and science.
Engineering students can benefit greatly from interacting with physical objects whose attributes mimic those of real-world systems. So far, however, objects that do this effectively have proven to be extremely difficult to create. To solve the problem, Dr Diana Bairaktarova at Virginia Tech suggests that taught engineering courses could recreate practical situations more reliably using virtual objects, or ‘vObjects’. If her approach becomes widely adopted, it could transform how engineering students learn to apply their skills to complex, often unpredictable scenarios.
SciGirls is an educational television show, website, and outreach program funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF), aimed at encouraging more girls to pursue science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields. As part of a research effort called SciGirls CONNECT, Roxanne Hughes, Kari Roberts and Jennifer Schellinger at the National High Magnetic Field Laboratory have been investigating the impact that SciGirls outreach programs across the nation, such as after-school clubs and summer camps, have on students’ STEM identity.
Canada, like most other countries worldwide, is facing serious issues related to water security. To better address these challenges, Dr Cherie Westbrook at the University of Saskatchewan, and her collaborators from various Canadian universities, developed NSERC CREATE for Water Security. This add-on academic program provides graduate and postgraduate students with skills and learning opportunities that prepare them to tackle current and future water security issues.
It is undoubtable that virtual reality and augmented reality will soon be an integral part of our daily lives at home, in education, and at work. Here, we look at some of the exciting projects that Dr William Hurst of the Department of Computer Science at Liverpool John Moores University is driving forward and read how he is embracing virtual reality and augmented reality to enhance teaching and education, providing insight into how such technology may be utilised in the not too distant future.
Despite recent efforts to promote diversity in STEM education and professional environments, some ethnic groups remain highly underrepresented in STEM fields, including the Hispanic/LatinX community. To tackle this underrepresentation, researchers at the University of San Diego have created a multi-dimensional program funded by the National Science Foundation called STEMWoW, which is designed to promote and sustain interest in STEM disciplines among middle school students from underserved communities.
The field of nanomaterials has exploded in recent years, and perhaps the main pillar of its success has been a close collaboration between institutions and research groups across the globe. In September 2019, Dr Habil Souren Grigorian at the University of Siegen, Professor Ishkhan Vardanyan at Yerevan State University and their colleagues organised an event that showcased Armenia’s growing interest in this area of research. Following a week of activities widely praised by its participants, the Advanced Nanomaterials and Methods (ANAM) 2019 International Workshop and Young Scientist School promises to spark further innovation in nanomaterials research in Armenia and the surrounding regions.