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Winter 2017

DEPARTMENTS 06 Publisher’s Note 07 Editor’s Letter 15 STEM Scholarship 28 STEM Resources for Women 34 Helpful Apps 36 Ad Index

SPECIAL FEATURES 10 TV Computer Science Myth: Debunked! See what Computer Science is REALLY All About By Casey Kesterson

11 Hot Coding Languages Check out what is popular By Casey Kesterson

Hot Coding Languages

12 Full STEAM Ahead: The New Frontier in STEM Studies How Creativity and Innovation Enhance STEM Careers By Kate Alexander

26 Women in STEM: Cracking the Code Four Actionable Suggestions to Address the Gender Gap By Amelia Mezrahi

page 11

TV Computer Science

Myth: Debunked! You’ve seen computer science (CS) on TV, and think you know what...

STEM EDUCATION 15 Should You Go into the STEM Field? An Interview with Educator and Thought Leader Anne Jolly By Kate Alexander

16 The Basic STEM Toolbox: Key Skills for the Major By Riley X. Brady

18 The Promise of Big Data

How it is Transforming Health Analytics By Amelia Mezrahi

20 30 Engineering Majors: Finding Real World Solutions By Kate Alexander


Women in STEM:

Women remain chronically underrepresented in STEM majors, despite extensive...

STEM Magazine • Winter 2017 •






Full STEAM Ahead:

Today, as you consider career and college choices, you may be interested in...




Projected Demand for STEM Graduates: Job Market 2022 By Jim Paterson

30 How to Land a Lab Position in Your Undergraduate Years

Land a Lab Position

Hey, NextSteppers! Do you ever wonder, “How can I get a cool job during...

By Sammy Holcombe


32 More than White Coats: Trends in the Growing Healthcare Industry By Drew Simmons


In my journey from majoring in Marine Science as an undergraduate to...

More than White Coats:

Traditionally, when it comes to healthcare careers, the first image that pops into one’s head is a white-coated clinician...


32 STEM Magazine • Winter 2017 •





oday, we embark on a new publication covering a collection of educational and career topics topics centering on Science, Technology, Education and Mathematics (STEM). In the past decade, there has been much coverage and debate about the different perspectives of STEM education, jobs and future innovation. And various institutions and government entities have rushed to provide content, data, and programs to promote interest in these fields. In fact, for those who are in the educational arena, it seems a day doesn’t go by without seeing that acronym mentioned somewhere. Certainly in the eyes of students, parents, and corporations, STEM is trendy. As a STEM major and a woman who studied Engineering, I can tell you that today’s debate around its value delights me. A longtime believer that a foundation in math and science are of utmost importance in education, I see how STEM allows students – from an early age – to use the power of logic and analysis to solve problems. This skill encourages them to make sound decisions about how to move nearly anything forward. It might be authoring a book, developing a product, or determining even the most basic things, like how to manage one’s daily routine. You can comprehend anything you set your mind to – through understanding math and science. That’s powerful. And, as the past decade has proven, technology is now tightly woven into the fabric of our lives. Every part of one’s education and career has a technology component. Take marketing, sales, writing, teaching, acting, fashion, music or any other field you are interested in. Without technology, it would be difficult to conceive and implement any idea. Technology has allowed us to transform our lives for better - and sometimes, perhaps, for the worse. But, we cannot imagine our lives without it. STEM is not - and should not be - gender, race, and culture specific. Instead, it should be broadly embraced by all students, at all levels of education. Those who want to further their studies in the many specialties it offers can do so, knowing they have a bright future ahead. There are endless opportunities and careers to look forward to. #23418f Many that cannot even be imagined today. You can design new products, you can cure diseases, you can work in far away places on the environment, you can transform our capital markets, and you can be a part of future space projects, including the mission to Mars. In this spirit of hope and optimism, we are excited to bring you a number of engaging topics in this our first issue of STEM magazine. Thank you for taking the time to read through these pages. I would love to hear any feedback or suggestions you might have. I would also like to thank the great contributions by our talented editor, the STEM students who provided insights on their majors and careers, as well as the thought leaders from college admissions, school counselors, and industry we reached out to for the articles. With warmest regards, Amelia Mezrahi CEO/Publisher Next Step Universe


STEM Magazine • Winter 2017 •

STEM Publisher/CEO: Amelia Mezrahi | Chief Revenue Officer: Rob Aronson | Adviser: David Mammano | Editor: Kate Alexander l Art Director: Silvio Del Monaco | Advertising Sales: Rob Aronson | Lisa Mietelski | Editorial and Contributions: Kate Alexander, Dr. Stuart Bishop, Riley X. Brady, Rebecca Dovi, Katee Driscoll, Erik Ervin, Jory Fleming, Dr. Nettrice Gaskins, Sammy Holcombe, Anne Jolly, Casey Kesterson, Peter Osgood, Chris Mayfield, Amelia Mezrahi, Jim Paterson, Dr. Lisa Rafalson, Jonathan Rothwell, Drew Simmons, Tara Sinclair, Jen Stewart, Darren Thevathasan Cover photography: Photo provided by Casey Kesterson Location: San Antonio, Texas For questions, comments or advertising information, Please contact us at or through #168fce Next Step Universe is a proud member of the National Association for College Admission Counseling.

For advertising information email us at Some inside photos from ©Copyright 2016 by Next Step Universe. All rights reserved. Material in this publication may not be reproduced in any form without permission. Copying, reproduction or transmittal of this publication by any means is strictly prohibited without the permission of the publisher. The publisher reserves the right to edit or omit all materials submitted for publication, including advertisements, article contributions and event listings. Although this publication is thoroughly edited, the publisher is not liable for any damages due to editing, changes, cancellations, errors, and omissions. All corrections should be directed to our editor. All work submitted for publication is assumed to be the provider’s original work, and the publisher accepts no liability as a result of publishing such works. NextStepU® is a nationally registered trademark. Unauthorized use of the Next Step names, logos, or indicia is prohibited. We strive to make sure the information and advice is accurate, but it is up to you to do your own research. Good luck!



Welcome to NextStepU’s winter edition!


his issue features college and career choices for students in STEM fields. We want to make your decisions easier, so we try to answer as many questions

as we can. When you think of STEM, familiar images come to mind: doctors in white coats and squeaky sneakers walking down hospital corridors, computer geeks pushing back their thick glasses staring into a blue screen, lab techs examining microbes under a microscope, engineers in hard hats watching their designs awaken from computer models to towering structures. However, in doing so, we sometimes limit all that STEM encompasses and how it extends to many creative and challenging approaches to science, math, engineering and technology. NextStepU decided to bring you the views of experts in these fields, including four university students and recent STEM

graduates. We wanted to see what STEM industries really look like and what trends are emerging as the world evolves and expands. Our interviews highlight experts in the healthcare industry, computer science and engineering. Casey Kesterson’s feature article on computer coding leads you through emerging hot languages to study for an exciting career in computer science. Women in STEM, by our publisher, Amelia Mezrahi, gives an overview of the gender gap in these fields, as well as some practical suggestions to increase the presence of women in them. With industries and opportunities changing, we reach out to experts at Harvey Mudd College, the Boston Arts Academy and other thought leaders to explore STEAM, which incorporates creativity and innovation (the ”Art”) in STEM fields. Whatever major you choose, we hope this issue provides valuable insights to

discover your options in the STEM industry. You may be surprised with what you find - job stability, strong salaries, and work locations throughout the world. And, most importantly, STEM provides the chance to positively impact the world, solving realworld problems. Within these pages, you might just find a new avenue for your interests. We encourage you to take the time and effort to explore them. Never disqualify yourself from a major. Instead, engage all possibilities now and take a leap! Happy 2017, NextSteppers! Let’s make this year shine for your future. All the best, Kate Alexander Editor NextStepSTEM Magazine



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By Casey Kesterson

ou’ve seen computer science (CS) on TV, and think you know what it looks like, right? The stereotypical, grubby nerd, holed up in his dimlylit basement, shoulders hunched over a keyboard. He’s frantically typing green letters onto a black screen, trying to hack into the bad guy’s computer. We’ve all seen him—but now let’s talk about what computer science really is. Computer science is not just for men, and it’s not about hacking: it’s a way for anyone to have an incredible impact on the world around them. Rebecca Dovi, the Director of Education at Code Virginia describes CS as “the study of how we use computing technology to solve human problems.”


Coding is key to computer science. Dovi and Dr. Chris Mayfield, assistant professor of Computer Science at James Madison University, both agree that coding is the tool used in computer science. An introductory course can involve learning basic CS skills, such as how to use the operating system, technical software like editors and compilers - even simple things like organizing files. Plus, you’ll learn a programming language. But probably the most important lesson will be how to take ideas and turn them into instructions for the computer. In other words, how to code. Simply put, coding is “writing commands for the computer to follow,” Dovi explains. “Different coding languages are used to solve problems in different types of environments. Computers are very literal, and frankly

[ 10 ]

! D E K N U B DE

kind of dumb, so the commands we use have to be very specific,” she clarifies. “Most coding languages have a fairly small set of commands, and by combining them, we are able to get computing devices to do all kinds of amazing things.” Some of those incredible opportunities include coding the software for NASA spaceships, Google’s search engine or even Apple iPhones.


So, what are some of the languages heating up the screens these days? “Java is the number one language in the industry and it has been for a long time,” Mayfield says, pulling up the TIOBE index. This online report lists the top twenty programming languages, ranked by what companies are using, search engine popularity, and project use. He suggests that the most popular languages are driven by market trends and can change quickly. Mayfield believes, “Languages are going to come and go. For example, nobody could care less about Objective-C fifteen years ago, and then the iPhone came out and now everyone wants to know Objective-C.” Objective-C happens to be the language used for all iPhone apps. That’s kind of a big deal.


Thinking about majoring in computer science, but lack coding experience? Don’t worry. While a high school course or self study might make your first CS class a little easier, it’s definitely not mandatory. Mayfield estimates that about two-thirds of beginning computer science majors

STEM Magazine • Winter 2017 •

has had absolutely no prior CS experience. And that’s okay. Dovi and Mayfield agree that anyone who puts forth the effort can certainly learn it and excel. But, are there any other classes that can help you prepare for the major? Mayfield says math, for one. “If you can’t do algebra, computer science is probably not a good major for you,” he admits. Programming assignments can involve mathematical formulas, and algebra will provide the basic tools to solve certain problems. Although higher level math classes aren’t always needed, many of the same problem solving skills and algebra computations used in calculus come in handy for projects. So if you get a chance to take a calculus class, it could definitely give you a leg up. Additionally, if you have to choose between two English classes in high school, take the one that forces you to think creatively. Not the one that just focuses on grammar. Mayfield notes that creative types tend to do well in the major, plus those who are persistent and enjoy solving puzzles. Problems you encounter in CS are easier to solve with these traits. But don’t worry; there are no prescribed list of characteristics for a student to be successful. “You don’t have to be a geek,” he adds. And, you do not have to take the traditional path to a career. “Since we use computer science to solve real human problems, we need the voices of lots of people to make sure the technology created works for everyone,” says Dovi. She also mentions that “with the growth of demand for computer science-trained workers, we are seeing some changes in the job market. Whereas years ago you

Assistant Prof. of Computer Science, Chris Mayfield from James Madison University people/faculty/mayfield-chris.shtml

“You can actually help people using computer science, as much as you could if you become a vet, or a nurse, or a teacher.” Dr. Chris Mayfield, assistant professor of Computer Science at James Madison University

Rebecca Dovi, Director of Education at Code Virginia

“Computers are very literal, and frankly kind of dumb, so the commands we use have to be very specific.” Rebecca Dovi, the Director of

Education at Code Virginia

may have needed a four-year degree, now some companies are hiring folks with less education, and out of informal environments, like boot camps.” Dovi explains that “with over 500,000 jobs open in the field nationally, there are opportunities whatever your educational level might be,” and potentially big salaries to boot.


Mayfield emphasizes, however, that the most important thing about computer science is the effect you can have across the globe. “You can actually help people using computer science, as much as you could if you become a vet, or a nurse, or a teacher,” he says. “You can study computer science and go into any sector of industry. You can change the way the government operates, or the way animal shelters operate. You can create an app that helps disabled people get access to services they never had before. Computer science is not just making Minecraft.” That’s the hidden but transformational world of computer science. You may be behind a screen, but your impact can significantly change how people work, behave and even heal - every day. Casey Kesterson is currently studying Computer Science at James Madison University and will be graduating in May 2017.


C O D I N G[


By Casey Kesterson

So what are the hot coding languages these days?

There are several different methodologies that can be used to measure popularity of programming languages. These include either one or a combination of criteria, such as the number of job advertisements, the number of open projects, the number of existing lines of codes, the number of students that are enrolled in classes, the number of times shown in web searches or Google Trends, and other new relevant factors that can be included based on market analysis trends. POPULAR RANKING LISTS: Tiobe uses search engine aggregates to calculate language popularity Coding Dojo aggregates stats from the job search engine PyPl looks at the popularity of language tutorials on Google IEEE Spectrum synthesizes rankings from 10 sources (Google search of “X programming;” Google Trends; Twitter; GitHub; StackOverflow; Reddit; Hacker News; CareerBuilder; Dice; IEEE Xplore Digital Library) HERE ARE SOME LANGUAGES THAT ARE USED IN POPULAR PRODUCTS: Note that many of these products can be created using multiple languages together. PYTHON: PINTEREST, INSTAGRAM, AND SPOTIFY USE IT. Instagram currently features the world’s largest deployment of the Django web framework, which is written entirely in Python Pinterest uses python + heavily-modified Django at the application layer Spotify uses Java, Python, C, C++ PHP: IT IS THE BEATING HEART OF MONSTER SITES LIKE WORDPRESS AND FACEBOOK. OBJECTIVE-C: OBJECTIVE-C IS THE PROGRAMMING LANGUAGE BEHIND IOS APPS. JAVA: USED IN WWW.LINKEDIN.COM, WWW.NETFLIX.COM, WWW.AMAZON.COM, AND ANDROID DEVELOPMENT TO NAME A FEW. It “is used to power company websites like, and” “The official language for Android development is Java.” C# AND JAVASCRIPT: USED IN CREATING VIDEO GAMES IN UNITY. The languages you can use to create your own video games in Unity are C# and JavaScript. GO: USED IN UBER. Uber uses Go for geofence lookups (a human-defined geographic area, or polygon in geometry terms, on the Earth’s surface—like a neighborhood) to be able to do things like raise prices in areas where lots of rides are being requested.

STEM Magazine • Winter 2017 •

[ 11 ]







oday, as you consider career and college choices, you may be interested in a STEM career, but still feel the pull towards creativity and the arts. Or, you may be contemplating a creative field, such as theatre, dance or music, and think there is no room for you in a math-oriented or tech field, such as music engineering. A growing trend in career preparation, however, is to explore interdisciplinary connections between subjects that have typically been “siloed.” In fact, the human mind is not compartmentalized. We don’t just know a lot about math. Or cooking. Or Shakespeare. Recognizing this, colleges and institutions are beginning to encouraging students and educators to consider arts within the context of science and technology. The result? STEM’s “hot” new cousin, STEAM. It’s adding the “A” to STEM to create STEAM. In this issue of NextStepSTEM, we decided to investigate why STEM is turning more towards STEAM, and

[ 12 ]

By Kate Alexander


ALBERT EINSTEIN. Albert Einstein

what exactly that means for students considering careers in science, technology, engineering, and math. We spoke to three different experts in the field, Peter Osgood, Director of Admissions from Harvey Mudd College, Dr. Nettrice Gaskins, the Director of STEAM Lab at Boston Arts Academy, and Anne Jolly, a STEM educator and consultant.


The focus on STEM education began several years ago, as the nation came to grips with how crucial these skills are for the growing global economy. U.S. student rankings fell woefully behind other nations in technology and math subjects. We needed to turn the tide. To improve standards, the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) issued a report, “Prepare and Inspire: K-12 Education in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) for America’s Future”

STEM Magazine • Winter 2017 • It outlined the underrepresentation of STEM in education, and proposed solutions to instigate success in future careers, innovations, and solutions. Anne Jolly, a STEM educator, consultant, and author of the 2016 STEM by Design (Routledge Press), explains that today, “businesses are asking us to produce employees with more technologically sophisticated skills, and a more in-depth mastery of science and mathematics.” This will help the economy and nation become more prepared for “the pressing challenges that students are going to be faced with; for example, climate change, food shortages, energy shortages, environmental problems, diseases increasing, clean water [needs], just to name a few,” Jolly explains. So, how do the arts open up new opportunities for students considering a career in STEM? Can integrating the arts help these larger goals? Dr. Nettrice Gaskins, Director of the

John Coltrane

STEAM Lab at the Boston Arts Academy, believes that the arts hold a key to unlocking all that STEM has to offer the world. On the one hand, she notes that STEM “encourages students to think innovatively, to experiment and to master technical know-how.” However, humanities foster another avenue of learning and invention: they teach “creativity, global awareness and literacy.” These skills not only enhance innovation and critical thinking in the science and technology fields, but are also needed for both the “current economy and moving forward in the 21st century,” Gaskins adds. In fact, Jolly believes that “arts is such a natural part of STEM that I would say it’s not just complementary; it’s integral.” In other words, the arts inherently work hand-in-hand with science, technology, engineering and math. “You have to apply artistic principles if you’re going to improve the appearance, design, or usability of a product.” The process is something that develops from both “sides” - STEM

and STEAM. “Design doesn’t come from the STEM side solely; it comes from art … from the artistic or creative expression,” Gaskins explains. “That then becomes an idea. Then, it becomes an experiment or something to tinker with. It becomes a design.” It is the reason not to silo subjects (i.e. treat art and math as separate), but instead to find “the places of intersection,” Gaskins says. Peter Osgood, Director of Admission at Harvey Mudd College (www., advises us that subjects did not always have the opportunity to “co-exist” and feed off each another. In the past, “we tended to treat each discipline as a discrete unit and almost didn’t see all the parts connecting. So math stayed within the math confines, and physics didn’t wander away from physics. Chemistry stayed within its confines, etc. And it turns out that that’s not a very good model for science.” Nor is it a very good model for solving problems - in the world, or for our enjoyment of the world.

Referencing the incredible strides in computer graphics for movies and video games, Jolly comments that, even though science and analytical processes are used to create them, ultimately, innovation is often “mind boggling. And that takes an artistic brain.” Gaskins believes that STEAM increases cross-disciplinary study. Within businesses and corporations that recruit from STEM fields, “they’ll tell you how the lines are blurring” and students are expected to be able to work across fields and disciplines. She believes that STEAM came about as a result of seeing how STEM might not fully prepare students to be globally competitive in the 21st century workforce.


In speaking with these three experts regarding STEAM in education, it became clear that the arts were far from new to science, technology, engineering and math. The “A” in STEAM is not just an addition to the science and technology

STEM Magazine • Winter 2017 •

[ 13 ]



Pictured here: Albert Einstein playing his violin superimposed on 3D fabric. Nettrice Gaskins, Director of STEAM Lab at Boston Arts Academy

“IN A SENSE, THE SKY’S THE LIMIT. AIM AND TAKE A LOOK AT THE BROADER PICTURE AROUND WHERE YOU’VE AIMED, AND YOU WILL SEE THESE CROSS-DISCIPLINARY, INTERDISCIPLINARY INTERACTIONS. THEN REALIZE THAT THE SKILLS NEED TO MATCH THAT,” GASKINS SUGGESTS. fields; it is a recognition of what is already happening, and how the arts and humanities play an inherent part in scientific enquiry. Jolly suggests, “I don’t know that STEAM is adding anything new to STEM options; it may be simply calling an awareness to the things that are already available and helping students view them in a different light.” In fact, if you start looking at possible STEM careers, you find that many of them could be naturally classified as STEAM, even though they are listed as STEM. For instance, you could unleash your creativity as an animation expert, a 3D printing manager, a cartographer, an urban planner, an architect, a technical illustrator, or a scientific publisher, just to name a few.


Often, incorporating the arts into STEM isn’t about the end product, but about the process. Osgood explains that “the need for creativity, for thinking outside of the usual confines of the more unitbased approach, is actually essential.”

“Unleashing those creative instincts, whether it’s through studio art, ceramic, sculpture, music, or the performing arts of theatre or dance - these all have a tendency to liberate the mind to look at solving problems in different ways,” he explains. Gaskins shares a similar sentiment, noting how oftentimes the arts “get put to the side, marginalized or devalued,” but they actually enhance being “competitive on the science and technology side.” Osgood puts it this way: “The key point is that any STEM person who thinks one can have a blissful life in science while ignoring government edicts, economic forces, popular media, literature and the arts, is bound to be woefully disappointed – or at least far less likely to have the kind of impact one might expect and hope.” In other words, investing in the education of one’s whole self - not just a single discipline - will produce promising results you may not even dream of. In fact, including the arts is often pivotal, Gaskins explains. Referencing Albert Einstein’s habit of turning

to his violin for inspiration, and John Coltrane’s study of physics to explore sounds for jazz, Gaskins says the interdisciplinary approach of STEAM has a great impact. “That could be as simple as the fashion designer learning how to print 3D fabric, or a musician using quantum physics to create a composition, or the opposite, a physicist who uses music as a way to create thought experiments in which they then come to explore theory.”


So, what should students do if they are interested in exploring STEAM careers? Gaskins suggests the following: “Practice thinking outside of the box, and be really aware of what’s happening in the particular field you are looking to be in. Technology changes and evolves every day, [so] realize one may require different types of skills to be competitive in those fields.” “In a sense, the sky’s the limit. Aim and take a look at the broader picture around where you’ve aimed, and you will see these cross-disciplinary, interdisciplinary interactions. Then realize that the skills need to match that,” Gaskins suggests. In summary, exploring arts innovation with STEM can provide exciting opportunities for majors and careers. Beyond that, STEAM allows you to gain a broader perspective to solve practical problems and enhance the world we live in. In Jolly’s own words: “art adds beauty to everything we create.”

Want to get your creative juices flowing regarding STEAM career options? Check out these links: • • • • •

[ 14 ]

STEM Magazine • Winter 2017 •

Fun quotes from an interview with Anne Jolly, a STEM author and thought leader



NextStepSTEM asked Anne Jolly, a STEM educator and consultant, to help us understand more about STEM majors and careers.

Anne Jolly began her career as a lab scientist, caught the science teaching bug and was recognized as an Alabama Teacher of the Year during her years as a middle grades science teacher in Mobile, AL. From 2007-2014 Anne was part of an NSF-funded team that developed middle grades STEM curriculum modules. Her book STEM By Design: Strategies & Activities for Grades 4-8 was published by Routledge/ MiddleWeb in July 2016.


What advice would you give students thinking of going into a STEM field?


I might ask them first of all:

Do you want to do something that matters with your life? You really need to love your job when you go into the world. The STEM fields have more impact on the world than any other profession. Nearly everything that we have starts with engineering and invention of a technology. If you want to do something that matters, in a STEM field, you can help people stay healthy and fit. You can improve ways for them to communicate. You could make sure they have enough food to eat. So, if that kind of thing appeals to you, then go into a STEM field. If you like working with other people to solve problems, then consider going into a STEM field, because that basically is going to be what you do for the rest of your life. Do you like graphics, computer games, computer

applications? Then you want to go into a STEM field. Do you like to travel? Do you like to dream about seeing interesting places in the world? A lot of STEM fields, especially engineering, send people to other places. You might design something in London or other places. Do you want to be respected? Do you want a profession that generates some respect? Professionals who use STEM garner respect and admiration for their accomplishments. If students are considering a STEM field, it’s not all about if you like math and science. It’s about “do you want to make a difference and how can you make a difference?” Look at the fields. What is your interest? Look where you could make a difference.




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#eb2429 #168fce STEM Magazine • Winter 2017 • [ 15




by Riley X. Brady

The Basic

STEM Toolbox



n my journey from majoring in Marine Science as an undergraduate to working on my Ph.D. in Atmospheric and Oceanic Science in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, I believe I have made many good academic choices. However, if I could go back in time, I would change a few things. In particular, I’d keep in mind that one should not just entirely focus on the requirements for a particular STEM major, but to also spend some time cultivating the fundamentals of any STEM field: mathematics, computer science (CS), and statistics. These three subjects serve as a toolbox to better understand and succeed in one’s field of interest. When trying to access knowledge from a specialized field, you don’t want to spend too much time learning the basics. Katee Driscoll, a master’s student studying computational modeling of biological and chemical systems at the University of Amsterdam, believes that “the lines between the different fields of science are no longer sharply defined.” She emphasizes that “science has become a very interdisciplinary study and having flexibility in multiple fields will help students tremendously.” Let’s investigate the three subjects I mentioned earlier—one by one—to better understand their importance to STEM.

[ 16 ]


Mathematics play a background role in nearly every STEM field. Equations govern the natural world and help us to model, observe, and understand everything we see and experience. So, even if you specialize in a subject that seems to stray far from math, you will probably come across equations and will need to know how to use them. Dr. Stuart Bishop, a professor of physical oceanography at North Carolina State University, expresses that many of his students “for whatever reason, feel as though they are not good at math.” However, he believes that “most people have the potential to be proficient in math even if it takes a lot of hard work and dedication.” He is no stranger to this idea - he also initially struggled with learning math! He advises students to “not get discouraged, but to be persistent and stay the course. If possible, students should consider working in teams.” The level of math expected for STEM fields will vary, but students should become comfortable with algebra, manipulating matrices, and basic calculus.


In the modern era of big data, it has become crucial for STEM students to take some computer science. Even during

STEM Magazine • Winter 2017 •

freshman year, students will need to analyze data in lab reports. Internships and undergraduate research projects require basic knowledge, too. But, you do not have to understand all of the inner workings of a computer. Instead, just become comfortable with one programming language, such as Python (a popular, easier to learn language frequently used in STEM fields and taught in many intro CS courses). Jory Fleming, a senior geography and marine science major at the University of South Carolina, says, “you don’t have to be a computer science expert or major to learn enough coding to do something neat.” He emphasizes that by learning some coding, you can have a useful tool at your disposal regardless of what you end up studying in college. Last summer, Fleming used computer programming to make various maps and graphs that depict the impact the rising sea levels could have on coastal cities in the future. He learned CS without much classroom experience by using online resources. He highly recommends online web guides, free Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs), and even ‘Hackathons,’ where “people gather at libraries or in the community to learn from each other.”

Bishop too, notes that “computer programming is something I wish I had taken upon myself to learn at an earlier age.” Personally, I think learning to program is a great adventure. Try following along with Internet tutorials to build a personal website, visualize some data that interests you, or build a simple model. There are many ways to explore coding by taking free courses online or watching video lectures and taking notes. You may want to talk to your advisor about taking an introductory Python class, a data analysis course, or a special topics math lecture. You can even audit a class or take one as pass/fail. That way, you can walk away with a strong understanding of the material – without affecting your GPA.


When writing a lab report or discussing the data of an experiment, students are expected to use several statistical tools

– like correlations, T-Tests, and linear regressions. However, most high schools and even undergraduate programs do not require any rigorous training. Fleming believes that “statistics is important in sharing your ideas with others. You may have a great idea, but you have to show some evidence in support of it.” In the highly-cited 2005 paper, “Why Most Published Research Findings Are False,” John Ioannidis http://bit. ly/2idLRjR suggests that “it is more likely for a research claim to be false than true.” This is largely the result of poor setup, bias, and a fundamental misunderstanding of statistics. You can avoid these pitfalls by pursuing some statistics classes in college, or by exploring the many articles online that give a concise overview of statistical analysis.


Finally, do not underestimate the power

of visiting with your professors to get some advice on these topics and your major. “They are a great source of knowledge and can suggest valuable resources for learning extra skills that can help to develop your ‘analysis toolbox,’” says Driscoll. By seeking out opportunities to learn about math, computer science, and statistics, you’ll be better prepared to succeed as a STEM major. These tools will help you more quickly and easily understand new material and excel in almost any career. And, the best time to start learning about these subjects is today—never feel like it is too late or that you don’t have it in you. Take Dr. Bishop’s advice and be persistent, but most importantly, enjoy the journey of discovery! Riley X. Brady is currently a Ph.D. student in Atmospheric and Oceanic Science at University of Colorado Boulder.

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STEM Magazine • Winter 2017 •

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THE PROMISE OF BIG DATA ANALYTICS WITHIN THE HEALTHCARE INDUSTRY By Amelia Mezrahi Dr. Lisa Rafalson teaching a class to students


n the beginning, the information technology revolution focused first on digitizing information (think electronic records, banking, etc.). Then, it highlighted accessibility to everyone (Google, Wikipedia and the ever-greater amount of information at our fingertips). Now, the focus is on harnessing the Big Data. Firms like Amazon and Google, hospitals, schools, credit card companies and the government are collecting more and more data about us.  Until recently, the size of the data troves has dwarfed our ability to analyze them. But with the new advancement in processing large amounts of both structured and unstructured data, we are seeing a growth in the data analytics field across many industries. From using the spending habits of millions of shoppers to better target Internet customers, to finding fixes to traffic jams on roads, to detecting suspicious activity that might prevent the next terrorist attack – the field promises to be vast. Healthcare is perhaps the best example for how data analytics may transform a field. From hospitals detecting waste, to doctors crunching the data on the treatments of a

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100,000 cancer patients to find the most effective treatments, the industry now is equipped with better tools to successfully sift through the data collected each year by hospitals, doctors, and insurance companies. It is not difficult to imagine a world where smartwatches could monitor our vital signs, comparing them to millions of records, warning of an imminent heart attack. Colleges and universities have also taken notice and developed programs that focus on data analytics in fields like healthcare. For example, D’Youville College (, http:// has developed an undergraduate course of study on healthcare analytics.  We recently spoke with Dr. Lisa Rafalson, Professor and Chair of D’Youville College’s Health Services Administration department, who highlights how big data has become important across the healthcare industry: “Big Data refers to the large sets of administrative, clinical, and population-based healthcare information that can be used to understand the demographic and health-related characteristics of a population, and make clinical and financial decisions. The use of Big Data helps to support evidence-based, data-driven decisions.” The Health Analytics program at

STEM Magazine • Winter 2017 •

D’Youville combines two projectbased internships in the industry with rigorous coursework in computer science and statistics. Dr. Rafalson notes, “The program has a strong foundation in the statistical and computer sciences, coupled with a solid understanding of the health administrative and managerial aspects of health services organizations. The students also earn a Certification through the SAS Institute, the statistical software vendor, after completion of the series of statistics courses.” Dr. Rafalson points out programs like D’Youville’s Health Analytics create a valuable skillset for students that can be transferable to a range of settings. Dr. Lisa Rafalson is the Chair of the Health Services Administration Department at D’Youville, where she has worked since 2010. She holds a B.A. in Spanish Language and Literature. She earned a Master’s in epidemiology, and a PhD in Epidemiology and Community Health. Her research interests include asthma, diabetes, and psychological distress and the interaction amongst them. She is also a current participant in Women’s Leadership Institute 2016-2017 as part of the Western New York College Connection.



numerous types - and therefore career options. Many subsets of mechanical engineering degrees exist, including Aerospace, Biomedical, Biomechanical, Manufacturing and Automotive. For instance, as Drew Simmons’ article describes in this issue, on page 32, biomedical engineers affect health care in ways that combine biology and technology.




Engineering Majors


hinking of cracking that atom? Harnessing the wind to propel sails faster? Exploring the sea with robotics? Increasing the efficiency of how Pokemon toys tumble down the assembly line? Studying how the earth’s sediment settles, to build better bridges or tunnels? Or, what about inventing improvements to battery life on smartphones, or making sure the grid stays lit in a denselypopulated city? Interested in video games and music? You could invent new sounds for the moving players. Or, what about scaling a skyscraper without being Spiderman - or King Kong? Your ideas could help filter water in poorer populations across the globe, or turn solar panels into roofs. You could even help astronauts by working on materials for the International Space Station, or Mars-One project with the mission of achieving permanent human settlement with existing technology All these possibilities have at least one common thread: engineering. Back in the days when penicillin was being discovered, few types of engineering existed. But with electronics

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taking over our daily lives, guiding our studies, affecting our health, and even becoming permanent pocket accessories, times have changed. Today, engineering schools and programs throughout the nation are offering multiple options for the engineering mind. You may not even realize your interests could involve the many types of engineering majors. Engineers come in all shapes and sizes. Let’s examine several categories of engineers, the possible majors, and what one can do with these degrees. Within these sections, you’ll discover over 30 engineering majors to consider in the years ahead.


Columbia University describes the most needed Mechanical Engineering skill as “the ability to analyze and design objects and systems with motion.” (http:// That could be the sensor on your keychain or the propulsion mechanism on an airplane. Because mechanical engineers, in a nutshell, work with any idea to finished product, there are

STEM Magazine • Winter 2017 •

The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) discusses how civil engineering influences our life in multiple ways each day. They “design, build, and maintain the foundation for our modern society – our roads and bridges, drinking water and energy systems, seaports and airports, and the infrastructure for a cleaner environment, to name just a few.” (http:// To get an idea of the marvels civil engineers create - even beyond the basic and fundamental structures we benefit from getting to and from school or even when we drink water - check out this impressive list of the “Top Ten Modern Engineering Marvels in the World.” Did you know Dubai has an artificial island? It’s called Palm Islands, and is the world’s largest. Or that the 2008 World Olympic Games in China were held in the world’s largest steel structure, nicknamed the Bird’s Nest? These feats and more are possible

Largest steel structure

through civil engineering, with majors including Structural and Architectural.


According to the Occupational Outlook Handbook from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, electrical engineers “design, develop, test, and supervise the manufacturing of electrical equipment, such as electric motors, radar and navigation systems, communications systems, and power generation equipment.” With a median pay of $95,000 per year, this promising field can lead to working on GPS systems, the computer system of an Audi, or powering the energy grids of Washington, D.C. Majors include Computer, Electrical, Electronics, Mechatronic, Robotics and Microelectronics.


Chemical engineers can work on anything from improving efficiency of energy and food production to creating solutions to environmental issues. AIChE http://,The American Institute of Chemical Engineers, offers ideas of what exactly mixing a brew of chemicals can do, such as Paper, Material and Sustainability Design.


Ever feel like you are wasting time, effort,

SALARIES CAN SEAL THE DEAL for pursuing an engineering degree. Take a look here http://bit. ly/1kcWYGn for Michigan Tech’s list of compiled pay scales titled “Engineers Get Top Pay.” They may surprise you! With entry-level positions starting around $55,000 and top-tier employees earning as much as $180,000, it could literally “pay off” to check it out!

or energy? Want to do things faster, better? The Institute of Industrial and Systems Engineers describes that Industrial and Systems engineers “figure out how to do things better. They engineer processes and systems that improve quality and productivity.” This is partially why they also end up managing engineering projects, adding the business side to engineering.


Although many of the other categories dovetail with this type of engineering, it includes a wide range of engineering

platforms: Petroleum, Geological, Nuclear, Marine, Engineering Physics, Nanotechnology, Mining and more. In fact, although you may not hear “geotechnical engineer” thrown around often, it is around you all the time - and under your feet. It is “the science that explains mechanics of soil and rock … it includes … the analysis, design and construction of foundations, slopes, retaining structures, embankments, roadways, tunnels, levees” - and the list goes on, according to www. So if your feet hit the ground, if you see dams in place to keep lakes from flooding over - you’re seeing the work of a geotechnical engineer.


Other types of engineers may not need a four-year degree - for example, audio engineers. Music producers and sound engineers may work in recording studios, behind the scenes of Broadway musicals, or composing soundtracks for apps. These careers could begin with hands-on experience toward a career, or by majoring in musical composition at the college level. ( The possibilities for engineering majors are nearly limitless. Use this article as a springboard to look up any of these 30 majors that interest you. See how you, too, can affect the very air we breathe and water we drink - or even the sounds we hear - by exploring engineering.

STEM Magazine • Winter 2017 •

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oday, the term “STEM” is the same age as a high school senior. It was first used late in the 1990’s when educators, politicians and employers focused on the need to train students in science, technology, engineering and math – and began recommending careers in those fields. Now, the need for technical grads remains high. Studying STEM fields is still a great idea. According to Tara Sinclair, chief economist at the job search site, Indeed, future job growth will be concentrated in “a relatively few key sectors.” She notes that “gone are the days when a college degree could guarantee financial security – it is increasingly important for job seekers to think carefully about where their studies will lead them.” “I would recommend that high school students strongly consider STEM fields, given both their social importance and labor market value,” says Jonathan Rothwell, a top researcher in the field of the college payoff (, and STEM jobs (, and now an analyst with Gallup ( He warns that young people should carefully research the careers they are considering and schools where they hope to get training (including examining a college’s “value” “Some may assume it’s a fleeting fad, but there are compelling reasons to believe that STEM-related employment is a fundamental aspect of modern economies and will continue to grow,” he suggests.

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Darren Thevathasan, National Vice President at Adecco Medical and Science for Adecco (, an international human resource management firm, notes that their recent research similarly suggests a bright future for STEM jobs. However, prospects differ by each field. “It’s a very broad acronym and it’s difficult to discuss in broad strokes, so we look at STEM in verticals and silos,” he explains. “High school students should consider specific fields and determine what they want to do within STEM. Then they can better understand which educational path makes the most sense.” That’s also the conclusion of a U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) report ( on whether there is a STEM graduate shortage. It finds that labor markets change over time and that “there are both shortages and surpluses of STEM workers, depending on the particular job market segment.” That report notes that not all STEM majors are equally in demand: computer and engineering majors have full-time employment rates of 77% and 83%, respectively. But, graduates who instead majored in the biological and physical sciences, mathematics, or agricultural sciences attain a full-time employment rate of 71%, closer to that of non-STEM majors.


In a recent report on future STEM jobs (, BLS projects that, overall, STEM careers will grow about 13% by 2022, more than the 11% rate of growth projected for all occupations.

STEM Magazine • Winter 2017 •

That means there are a million more jobs in STEM fields than others. According to a recent Adecco report (, more than half of STEM job growth will be made up of computer careers, and more than a quarter will be in engineering-related fields. Life and physical sciences, architecture, and mathematical sciences make up the remainder. The Adecco report also shows that growth in STEM-related jobs (along with employees leaving these fields) has contributed to a great shortage in the industry. There will be as many as 2.4 million unfilled jobs by 2018. BLS recommends 15 careers with the greatest job growth, nine of which relate to computers. By 2022, the most job openings will be for software developers, computer system analysts, user support specialists, civil engineers and computer programmers. (See Chart 1). “We see science growing before our eyes. Our medical and healthcare clients are projecting huge growth,” says Thevathasan. “As baby boomers age, there’s a concerted effort to develop new drugs that prolong people’s lives. In addition, we’re seeing demand in the consumer product industry, where everything from ink in a pen to hair products needs to go through research, testing and quality control.” Rothwell sees opportunities in similar fields. “Young adults with computer science or engineering bachelor’s degrees are doing very well,” he says. “The fields in STEM that require programming or coding skills are flourishing the most.”

Is STEM for you? “For those who do go to graduate school, salaries are extremely high,” says Rothwell, “especially for specialists who major in biology or chemistry as undergraduates.” However, he notes that higher-level degrees are not necessary to get a job in many STEM fields.


BLS reports that the mean salary in STEM jobs (even those requiring less than a four-year degree) is more than $85,000, while the average salary across all jobs is barely more than half of that. Among those specific jobs with the highest projected job growth, the best salaries are available in software development, architecture and engineering management. The average salaries for the top-paying STEM jobs are: petroleum engineers ($132,320), architectural and engineering managers ($128,170), computer system managers ($123,950) natural science managers ($116,840), and physicists ($110,110). (See Chart 2). Some of these STEM positions are not going to grow as fast as others, but most will top the average growth rate for all jobs by 2024, the agency reports. Sinclair notes that her firm’s new report ( on the best future jobs shows that, while most jobs have kept up with inflation, the highest paying are in STEM fields. Engineering, health care, computer science and finance will do well. Money also recently released its list ( of best-paying STEM positions.

If students are eager to study in a STEM field, they should choose a career that interests them and one for which they are well suited. There are now a number of online tools called “interest inventories” you can use to assess your aptitude and interest for various careers. Most high school counselors or college resource professionals can connect students with one. Purdue University offers one http://bit. ly/2ddM0U8 specifically about STEM. Often, these interest inventories use the Holland Code (http://bit. ly/2iiXln7) to assess your personality and discover whether you are Realistic, Investigative, Artistic, Social, Enterprising or Conventional (RIASEC). The results may surprise you! You can find more general tests and other information at O-Net (, an extensive career center at the U.S. Department of Labor.


US News’ list of the “Best STEM Jobs” considers a variety of factors, including job security. For example, a few positions high on its list also have a good chance of being replaced by automation, including statisticians and accountants. It even suggests that lower-level computer programmers have a relatively strong chance of being replaced by machines. However, Sinclair argues that STEM jobs are generally less likely to be automated and are in “dynamic fields that will expand, not shrink, as technology changes the workforce.” She and others suggest that young people consider future trends and remain flexible. STEM Magazine • Winter 2017 •

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omen remain chronically underrepresented in STEM majors, despite extensive coverage of the problem and numerous public initiatives. Increasing female representation in these fields presents a challenge at a national level. Often, it is also a difficult personal choice for many of the 1.1 million women that enroll in college each year. The numbers speak for themselves. Although women make up over 50% of students enrolled in college, their representation in STEM majors lags behind According to the 2015 National Student Clearinghouse Research Center, women make up about 58% of biology and agricultural science graduates (for a bachelor’s degree) but they are only 42% of math grads. The percentage declines to around 38% for Physical and Earth Sciences degrees and 19% and 18% respectively for engineering and computer science degrees. Table 1 highlights some recent data and shows little progress – and some cases of backsliding - over the last 10 years. While this gender gap has been attributed to a wide range of factors, it is fruitful to focus on four specific issues that can be addressed actively by students, parents and school officials. First, there are gendered attitudes toward math and science formed from a young age that should be challenged at all levels. Second, there are differences between how men and women approach grading and assessing achievement that can also be tackled head on. Third, there is the cultural environment in classrooms and labs that often feels less hospitable to women. Facing a culture that feels less than welcoming is a major turn off, but fortunately some programs are already addressing this concern head on. Fourth and finally, teachers, professors and other students often advise students not to enter STEM fields. Some of these challenges may seem daunting, but, in reality a number of specific changes can come now.

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By Amelia Mezrahi

So what can we do?

Let’s look at these four challenges one by one. FIGHTING GENDERED ATTITUDES TOWARD MATH AND SCIENCE Society signals certain ideas about math, science and opportunities for girls at a young age. This used to be overt. Only about 20 years ago, Mattel’s Barbie said, “Math class is tough” Today the signals are subtler, but are still present. Studies show parents are more demanding of boys in school, especially math and science Gender gaps in testing are also artificial. Before age 7, girls have comparable test scores to boys in math; a gap only develops in later years. The most telling evidence of these differences in expectation comes from international comparison, which the Program of International Student Assessment (PISA) does annually. Girls actually outperform boys on these PISA scores in the majority of countries tested ( What we can do as a society (students, educators and parents) is to set equal and high expectations for all students in the sciences and math. Girls and boys should should be reminded that math is a skill, not an aptitude anyone gets better as long as they work at it. Math and science courses should be taken for all four years. Such classes should not be optional. All students should be encouraged to try more advanced courses or summer enrichment. Ideally, students should enter college with Calculus under their belts or the requisite coursework completed to take it as freshman. These steps set up any student – male or female – to be comfortable with their crucial first year of college, the one which often makes or breaks whether they graduate and determines their major.

STEM Magazine • Winter 2017 •

Table 1 Source for Table 1 is National Student Clearing House research Center http://

SELF CONFIDENCE, SELF ASSESSMENT AND THE MEANING OF a B Another issue that can affect anyone, but appears to be an issue for many female students in particular is self-confidence. Math and science are typically graded more stringently than other subjects. Heard about grade inflation at universities? It is a real issue. In many social science and humanities courses, most students earn a B+ or A- By contrast, STEM fields tend to have tougher grading. Moreover, math or science mistakes are clear. A wrong answer on a calculus or chemistry test glares at you from the page in a way a weak essay never would. In college, introductory courses pose their own problem. Students new to a field are mixed with others who may have already been coding or taken advanced courses in high school. While such differences matter less over time, many beginning students are easily intimidated by the “macho effect,” where a handful of very experienced, vocal (and often male) students intimidate the rest of the class. Research also suggests that, although men are comfortable majoring in a field while earning a B, many women will drop a major if they are not earning solid As. Although an overgeneralization, many male students dismiss their grades when assessing their aptitude for a major while female students underrate themselves (http://wapo. st/2iezHmH). Being less “grade conscious” makes sense. As many courses build on earlier classes, grades are not as important as you would think. If you get a B in Calculus III, then you’ve obviously mastered the materials in Calculus I and II. Who cares what grade you got in the earlier courses! What can students do? Learn like the teachers did. Many professors were solid students, but were more focused on learning than earning top grades. Focus on actual learning and how well you are doing in understanding the material. Try to seek out specific feedback beyond the grade from teachers.

Concluding thoughts

THE ENVIRONMENT OF STEM PROGRAMS: GEEK CULTURE AND FRAT HOUSES In male-dominated fields, the atmosphere can become unwelcoming. In some labs, the incessant focus might be on sports. In other classes, it could be Star Wars, comics and Doctor Who. This may start in high school and continue into college and grad school. It may then extend into the workplace. To some, the STEM lifestyle starts to feel like a never-ending episode of The Big Bang Theory. This social atmosphere sends a message – one that women could feel disconnected from. As fewer women pursue STEM courses and careers, the trend becomes self-reinforcing. If you are one of a few women in a class or lab, one can quickly feel isolated. At Massachusetts Institute of Technology, prior to 2005, a key school corridor had a ratio of 3:1 male-to-female bathrooms. It took a new leadership and president, Susan Hockfield, to fix it. This eventually became an important symbol of gender equality on campus. The school also increased the number of on-campus daycare spots for faculty, Ph.D. and post-doc students on campus. These are great examples of removing structural barriers to allow female students to succeed in STEM. When assessing STEM programs to join, it is important to look for a critical mass of female (and minority) students to make sure the environment is welcoming. Ask polite, but direct questions of staff about how the program is inclusive. Their answers help you understand the school’s environment and will suggest how much they invest in monitoring the well-being and progress of students. The best schools look at everything from getting a strong mix of students, to course design and support outside of the classroom. They systematically seek to attract, retain and graduate large numbers of women in STEM fields. Perhaps the most famous example we have is Harvey Mudd College (one of the top STEM schools in the country), where women went from 10% to 40% of its computer science majors in just 5 years. It now stands at 55% women vs. a national average of 16%! How did they do it? They focused on problem-solving and concrete applications in initial courses, added team-based projects to classes and also created different course tracks for students based on their prior computing background. Faculty were rewarded for teaching, and not just research. The net impact was a school more welcoming not only to women, but to students across the board. (

THE MAGIC OF MENTORING While programmatic changes matter for schools, there is ultimately no replacement for one-on-one mentoring. Support from individual instructors and more experienced students is crucial. Often, the help is as simple as reminding students that they belong. Mentors are also great at showing students how to avoid common pitfalls, such as not overextending themselves with too many courses in one semester. Also, it is important for middle and high schools as well as colleges to cultivate female mentors that young women can identify with and emulate. By seeing women alongside men in different fields, women can feel more comfortable to join them. This is not to say that we must always have women in the field for others to follow, but it might help and encourage some to see successful leaders. For example, at the Bronx Science High School in New York City, women make up 47% of the student body. Women are also well represented in the leadership and faculty positions, with 86 out of 146 faculty, 14 of 24 math teachers, 22 of 43 science teachers, 6 of 10 assistant principals and the principal of the school are women. (Source: NACAC National Conference presentation in September 2016). Students should seek out mentors and ask more experienced students questions about pitfalls to avoid or which courses are particularly rewarding. With professors, students should drop by their office hours and ask about careers, grad school, areas for improvement or more general advice. To avoid feeling awkward, send an informal email first. Working in a lab is also a great place to build connections with your professors. (For the advantages of lab experience, see Sammy Holcombe’s article in this magazine issue.)

The lack of representation of women in these fields stems from multiple sources. There is no magic bullet. But, simple and actionable steps can be taken. Presume any student can succeed at STEM if they try. Instill self-confidence and focus on learning rather than grades or peer pressure. Foster a supportive learning environment and demand the same from college programs. Students will need to seek out mentors - or become one.

STEM Magazine • Winter 2017 •

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MISSION: The society is an organization made up of women studying engineering who seek to reinforce women’s involvement and success in the profession. SWE welcomes all STEM majors even though it is predominately engineering based. SWE is organized at the local, regional, national, and international levels. Each region holds an annual regional conference and there is an annual conference for the Society as a whole. Local sections host programs and events related to SWE’s mission for their members and the local community. PROGRAMS OFFERED: GEARS Day event in universities such as University of Pennsylvania to help high school girls understand and explore more about engineering possibly in their future careers. Different workshops are offered, such as Engineering as an Environment Consultant, Bio-pharmaceutical Manufacturing, etc. Students will spend a day with members of the SWE community to explore more about the engineering world. WEBSITE:

GIRLS WHO CODE MISSION: The organization’s mission to close the gender gap in technology. Girls Who Code has gone from 20 girls in New York to 10,000 girls in 42 states. CLUBS PROGRAM: • After school clubs for 6th-12th grade girls to exploring coding in a fun & friendly environment. (10,380 girls) • 65% indicate they are considering a major or minor in CS because of Girls Who Code SUMMER IMMERSION PROGRAM: • 7-week summer programs for 10-11th grade girls to learn coding & get exposure to tech jobs. (1,747 girls) • 90% indicate they are planning to major or minor in CS or a closely-related field WEBSITE:

BLACK GIRLS CODE MISSION: This organization launched in 2011, and aims to increase the number of women of color in the digital space by empowering girls of color ages seven to seventeen to become innovators in STEM fields, leaders in their communities, and builders of their own futures through exposure to computer science and technology. PROGRAMS OFFERED: “Build a Game in a Day” Hackathon events in cities nationwide and Code a Future WEBSITE:

GIRLSTART MISSION: This Austin, Texas-based organization provides a year-round, intensive suite of STEM education programs for K-12 girls PROGRAMS OFFERED: After-school programs, summer camps, and an annual Girls in STEM conference. WEBSITE:

MADE WITH CODE MISSION: Made With Code is just one of the STEM initiatives from The National Center for Women & Information Technology  (NCWIT). This innovative “near-peer” approach allows young women to become role models and build leadership skills while encouraging younger girls to pursue computing, according to the organization. PROGRAMS OFFERED: AspireIT initiative, which enlists technical high school or college women in designing and leading computing programs for younger girls. AspireIT pilot has launched 70 programs, providing an estimated 115,000 hours of computing education to over 2,000 girls in 23 states. It engages 600 high school and college members of the NCWIT Aspirations in Computing program and 250 partner organizations to co-create and deliver 400 computing-focused after-school programs for middle-school girls across the country through 2018. WEBSITE:

WOMEN@NASA MISSION: This is a virtual mentoring project that offers online mentoring to middle-school students across the country. Students are mentored by a NASA employee using Skype or Google Chat. Engineers, accountants, scientists, and astronauts teach online lessons. PROGRAMS OFFERED: Enrollment is in May and June, and the five-week program runs through July and early August. In addition, the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center offers a five-day Summer Institute in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Research (SISTER) to provide opportunities for middle-school girls to explore nontraditional career fields with research scientists, mathematicians, and engineers. WEBSITE:

NATIONAL GIRLS COLLABORATIVE PROJECT (NGCP) MISSION: The main mission of NCGP is to make sure that all girls have access to resources that enhance STEM education and interest. This goal is achieved by increasing the quantity and quality of resources and by developing and leveraging a network of educators. PROGRAMS OFFERED: The Connectory, operated and managed by NGCP, is the largest directory of youth-serving STEM programs and opportunities. This database, containing thousands of programs, makes it simple for organizations to connect with one another. WEBSITE:

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STEM Magazine • Winter 2017 •

SCIENTISTA MISSION: The Scientista  Foundation  is a national organization that empowers pre-professional women in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) through  content,  communities, and  conferences. Currently the  largest network of campus women across STEM disciplines, Scientista serves to connect all communities of women in STEM at campuses across the nation, giving such important organizations more visibility and resources, and building a strong, cohesive network of women in science that can act as one voice. PROGRAMS OFFERED: Scientista has expanded to 20+ campuses  internationally, hosts an annual Scientista Intercollegiate Research Symposium, and has started partnerships with major organizations and companies, including Microsoft, NASA, The Huffington Post and the Association of Women in Science. WEBSITE:

MILLION WOMEN MENTORS MISSION: Million Women Mentors aims to find one million women (and men) in science to mentor girls through high school, college, and into career life to prevent women from leaving STEM fields. They hope to strengthen mentor relationships by capturing and analyzing data to see what is most effective. PROGRAMS OFFERED: As of February 2017, MWM has received pledges from over 1,300,000 supporters who promise to serve as mentors. WEBSITE:

AMERICAN ASSOCIATION OF UNIVERSITY WOMEN (AAUW) MISSION: AAUW provides STEM education  to more than 11,000 girls each year at the branch, state, and national levels. PROGRAMS OFFERED: National STEM camps and conferences target middle-school girls because middle school is a critical time for girls to maintain their interest in STEM and begin taking courses that will lead to future STEM opportunities. WEBSITE:

GIRL SCOUTS MISSION: The organization also offers an extensive array of STEM initiatives for girls, many of which are sponsored by tech companies. PROGRAMS OFFERED: These include Imagine: Your STEM Future (funded by AT&T) and Imagine Engineering (funded by the National Science Foundation). Both programs offer girls from lowincome and underserved communities the chance to experience STEM and plan for futures in STEM fields. WEBSITE: ways-to-participate/series/imagine-stem.html


Be a leader of exemplary character.

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How to Land a LAB POSITION in your UNDERGRADUATE Years


ey, Next Steppers! Do you ever wonder, “How can I get a cool job during school that’ll help my future, give me a great experience and allow me to quit my boring delivery job?” Well, I’ve got the gig for you! Being in the STEM field opens up many different lab opportunities with professors. It is easier than you think to obtain one of these jobs. By working in a lab during your undergraduate studies, you will have a chance to test-drive various fields of study. This will help you find the best match for your interests and talents, while building up your

By Sammy Holcombe

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STEM Magazine • Winter 2017 •

resume. Lab experience demonstrates that you possess a strong work ethic, pay attention to details, and are willing to learn. Such skills prepare you for the “real world” - and future employers will look favorably on this experience. To explore this notion, I reached out to Jen Stewart, Student Support Coordinator for the Department of Crop and Soil Environmental Sciences and Dr. Erik Ervin, a professor of Turfgrass Culture and Physiology, both at Virginia Tech, for advice on finding a suitable lab position. Their guidance is incorporated into this article.














A lot of professors, like Dr. Ervin, look for responsible students who show interest in the research. Typically, students worry that they will be ill-prepared to get started in a lab as an undergraduate research assistant. So, they tend to wait until their senior year to get started. In reality, it is much better to seek out a lab position early on, as professors often prefer to work with freshman or sophomore lab assistants rather than seniors. Knowing you will potentially be around to work with them in future, they get more return on their investment in training you. It typically takes time for a student to get adjusted to the various tasks in a research lab, such as reviewing the research literature, learning the common methods of the field, analyzing the data and practicing presenting results. By starting early, one has a better chance of refining these steps and even having opportunities at publishing or presenting at a professional conference down the road. There are several ways to look for a lab job while you are in college. Stewart cited the university’s career website, and networking with your advisors, professors and friends as useful options to consider. Many universities have specialized “Undergraduate Research Offices” that can act as a liaison between you and the faculty who are conducting research studies. Some of these positions might even have internal funding that will pay you to work on a part-time basis. The important thing to remember is that you need to be patient while searching for this type of work. Realize that you are not going to immediately find your ideal project. However, conducting research as an undergraduate will give you the opportunity to learn the tools and to step up to a more suitable position.

Search for professors who specialize in topics you are interested in and reach out to them for advice, suggests Stewart. Naturally, it is easier to network with them if you are taking any of the courses they teach, but you can also email them to try and set up a meeting. Ervin recommends that students should prepare prior to meeting with the professors by reviewing their research work, abstracts and publications. This shows interest and motivation. Ultimately, cultivating relationships with your professors as mentors will be extremely useful, as they can help you with any opportunities in future, sharing insights on career choices and offering job references inside and outside the university.

Stewart offers the following advice: “If there is a specific lab you want to work in, research as much as you can about that lab and the people who work there. Let them know you are really interested in being part of their lab. You could even volunteer your time. Usually that volunteer job will turn into a paid one.” Ervin recommends that “one way to know if a position is a good match for both the professor and the student is to volunteer to work 10 or more hours.” Although unpaid positions may not sound ideal, they are sometimes necessary as a stepping-stone to a paid gig with more responsibilities later.

Summer is the best time to get concentrated experience in research. Without the distraction of regular classes, students can invest all of their time into doing lab work. In addition, getting some lab experience during the school year can provide you with the necessary credentials to snag a paid summer job. Check with the professors offering a project if there are any research grants available. Or, consider volunteering or taking a part-time job.

Both Ervin and Stewart note that preparation for any job is key. Make sure you dress professionally for the interview and arrive early. It demonstrates that you are interested and responsible. “Get ready to be the low person on the totem pole in the lab, then work your way up from there and be patient,” Ervin recommends. After you get the position, continue to work hard and show a high level of professionalism. Bring a notebook and take step-by-step notes for the project you’ll be working on, to enhance your learning. In summary, working in a lab can truly benefit your future STEM studies and career. Research lab experience demonstrates a strong work ethic and desire to learn, which will help you stand out to professors and future employers. Sammy Holcomb is an Environmental Science Major, Green Engineering Minor at Virginia Tech, Class of 2017 STEM Magazine • Winter 2017 •

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What’s the first thing you think of when you hear “healthcare”? Doctors? Hospitals? Weird, smelly waiting rooms?


raditionally, when it comes to healthcare careers, the first image that pops into one’s head is a white-coated clinician, like a doctor or a nurse. However, the industry is much more than just the people that put a cast on during a trip to the ER, or tell you to turn and cough during a physical. Healthcare is an ever-expanding industry that will only continue to grow, as demographics within the U.S. shift due to aging Baby Boomers. U.S. Census projections predict that by 2030, a fifth of Americans will be senior citizens – double the level back in just 2000 http://bit. ly/1BrgXEi. With more elderly than ever before, and the elderly living longer than ever, we’re experiencing an explosion in the demand for treating this population. Pursuing a STEM degree leaves graduates well positioned to take advantage of the growing opportunities in the industry. To give just one quick example, students can readily step into medical treatment design and clinical care.


The quality of care given to patients can

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only be as good as the tools of the trade. One of the major reasons life expectancy has increased by approximately 60% from 1900 to 2000 (per CDC National Vital Statistics Reports in 2001 and 2002) is improvement in drugs. Ever since Alexander Fleming’s work with penicillin in 1928, drug research and development has exploded. These days, pharmaceuticals are one of the largest industries in the world, with no slowing down in sight. This translates to significant opportunities for those with passions for chemistry; you can create treatments that resemble realworld magic. Biochemistry, chemical engineering, physics, and mathematics majors all do well in the industry. By manipulating how chemicals react both with each other and with the human body, students interested in going into pharmaceuticals can use custom compounds to create modern-day miracles.


The other major set of tools available to a physician is medical devices, which (to avoid a bunch of FDA mumbo-jumbo) is essentially most of the things used to

STEM Magazine • Winter 2017 •

treat a patient that aren’t drugs. Think of prosthetics or implants. While not as lucrative as the pharmaceutical industry, medical devices are just as much today’s magic wands. Imagine creating prosthetics that integrate with electrical sensors on a patient’s skin, sensors that let patients move an arm with nothing more than their mind. These cutting edge, science fictionesque technologies are not just wishful thinking. Nor are they invented in a vacuum. They are being designed, prototyped, and developed by talented technical minds. While there are still very large pharmaceutical corporations involved in medical devices, this field is also open to start-ups and smaller ventures. Why? Well, in part because devices are cheaper to develop than drugs. One look at Mako Surgical’s robotic-surgery platform, and its eventual acquisition for $1.65 billion by Stryker, helps us see what promise there is for a good idea and an entrepreneurial spirit. Studies in mechanical engineering, biomechanics, and physics provide a solid foundation to get involved in mechanicsbased devices. One could even study materials science or electrical engineering,

and end up working on artificial skin or MRI machines.


The fastest growing area of healthcare, however, may very well be in electronic health systems. Ever go into a doctor’s appointment and as they begin asking you questions, they start typing away on a computer? With legislation passed as part of the 2009 stimulus package (the HITECH Act, in case you’re curious), healthcare organizations now have federal requirements to use modern electronic medical record (EMR) systems. Instead of the paper records you see in shows like House and Scrubs, charts are now saved on computer systems that actively update in real-time and enable all kinds of data analysis. Case in point, the recent lead water crisis in Flint, MI was discovered in part because of such a system. Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha was able to pull data from 2013 and 2015 to compare lead levels in affected patients Due to the very recent federal requirements to adopt EMR systems, business is booming for vendors like Epic, Cerner, and McKesson. These companies are growing rapidly and seeking to hire

bright technical minds straight out of college. While studying computer science puts a graduate in a strong position to vie for a programming job, there is room for many types. The sheer demand for manpower to facilitate this nationwide effort provides ripe opportunities for many STEM grads.


Beyond learning to design and implement healthcare tools, STEM studies can also provide a unique foundation for a clinical career, such as a doctor or nurse practitioner. Biological sciences are the natural go-to for pre-med/pharma/etc., because the required courses match up well with professional program prerequisites. But with the large number of other applicants with similar majors, it can be easy to get lost in the crowd. Assuming you can complete all prerequisites and maintain a high GPA and MCAT scores, studying something else within STEM can make you competitive in the job market and medical school application process.


Even government departments like the FDA have an increasing demand for graduates with backgrounds in the

biological and health sciences, as well as medically-minded engineers of all disciplines (e.g. mechanical, electrical and chemical). When it comes to determining whether treatments and therapies are appropriate for the public at large, the government needs those who can sift through large quantities of data to assess the efficacy of different healthcare approaches. On the whole, healthcare is in a period of unprecedented growth. Whether it is pharmaceuticals, medical devices, medical IT systems, clinical care, or public policy, all aspects of healthcare have a high demand for technically-minded college graduates. While biology, chemistry, computer science and certain types of engineering have the best job prospects in the industry, there is strong growth for those with backgrounds in physics and mathematics as well. In summary, the sky is the limit for STEM majors specializing in healthcare. Will you be a part of healing tomorrow as well? Drew Simmons graduated with a degree in Biomedical Engineering from the University of Virginia in 2015 and is currently working in Healthcare IT Systems.

Sources: MedCity News National Vital Statistics Reports, Vol. 50, No. 6. Life Expectancy at Birth, by Race and Sex, Selected Years 1929-98 National Vital Statistics Reports, Vol. 49, No.12. Deaths, Preliminary Data for 2000 U.S. Census National Population Projections 2012

STEM Magazine • Winter 2017 •

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Apple’s iTunes University (iTunes U for short) allows anyone with an iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch to learn from the world’s largest collection of free education content – including public courses and collections from leading schools, universities, museums and cultural institutions. Choose from more than 1 million free lectures, videos, books and resources. Includes material from Stanford, MIT, Yale, Oxford, McGill, La Trobe University, University of Tokyo, Library of Congress, Smithsonian, and many more.



Brainscape works on any device and includes flashcards for subjects as diverse as Foreign Languages, MCAT, Music Theory, SAT prep, AP Exams, Series 7 prep, and Sports Trivia. Brainscape works by personalizing the timing of each flashcard repetition, using proven cognitive science. All you have to do is rate how well you know each concept, on a scale of 1-5, and Brainscape determines the right time to quiz you again. It’s strangely addicting and is scientifically proven to slash your required study time.



Master your classes with the leading education app! Create your own flashcards or choose from millions created by other Quizlet users on thousands of subjects. If you’re doing standardized test prep for big exams like the SAT or ACT, studying for an upcoming midterm or test, or just need homework help, you can feel confident with these powerful interactive learning tools. The rudimentary app allows you to create your own personal flashcards — using text, images, and audio — or browse a wealth of usercreated quizzes.


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Star Walk is an elegantly designed mobile stargazing app of the highest quality. The app follows your device’s movements in real-time, offering views and providing info on more than 200,000 stars, constellations, and other celestial bodies. Moreover, the app possess a remarkable calendar of celestial events and lets you view the night sky during different time intervals.



Khan academy provides over 10,000 videos and explanations at your fingertips in math, science, economics, history, and much, much more. Free downloadable videos allow you to brush up on everything from K-12 math (arithmetic, pre-algebra, algebra, geometry, trigonometry, statistics, calculus, linear algebra), science (biology, chemistry, physics) to art history and computer science. You can also track your progress and unlock basic achievements.



More than just another interactive periodic table, this Periodic Table app from the Royal Society of Chemistry incorporates everything from podcasts to videos to help you learn about the elements. The app showcases different levels of data to satisfy everyone, from a novice to an AP Chemistry student.


Ready4 SAT App (FREE)

Ready4 SAT, goes beyond just drilling you to answer practice questions. It aims to teach you the material and test-taking tips in mobile-friendly chunks, so that you can study whenever and wherever you have your smartphone. This free app even tries to match your potential SAT score with schools and academic programs around the world, just in case you need extra motivation to study.


STEM Magazine • Winter 2017 •


This is the ultimate astronomy app that allows you to learn while you stargaze. If you are a science teacher, a student, or parent of a science student, this is a perfect, no-stress way to teach astronomical concepts in a beautiful and simple way. You can take virtual tours of all the bodies in our solar system, read the most recent astronomical news, and much more.



Touted by many as the best robotics app on the market, this mobile app from IEEE Spectrum Magazine lets you explore over 150 real-world robots from 19 countries. There are stunning visuals – with 360° views, video tutorials, and high-interest articles to support the experiential learning.



The app, is a platform for teens to showcase their lip syncing prowess. The platform makes it super easy for everyone to make awesome videos and share with friends or to the world. The new social video network has users lip sync to 15-second tracks, ranging from top 40 hits, Japanese pop songs, and quotes from Harry Potter. You can then can add filters and edit the speed of the video before posting it directly to or spread it across your other social channels.


Disclaimer: NextStepU is not responsible for the accuracy and content for these apps and how well they work. It is up to the individual to research the app content and usability for an individual.

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NextStepU STEM 2017  

NextStepU's new publication covering a collection of educational and career topics centering on Science, Technology, Education and Mathemati...

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