By 2020, companies all around the US will face a shortfall in talented STEM educated workers (NSF 2015). Those numbers do not include the diminished numbers of women, low socioeconomic groups or minority workers that are left out of the STEM workforce (DOC 2013). Additionally, as election season approaches, a number of key issues will be up for debate and need information grounded in scientific research (examples include global warming, vaccine usage and antimicrobial resistance). Where are people to look for direction about careers of the 21st century and answers to challenging global issues?
Within the larger Triangle community, there is a large supply of experienced individuals with direct connection to educational and career success in combination with STEM knowledge and skill based expertise. In addition to companies, universities and professional societies recognize this pool of potential and are trying to reconnect STEM professionals with public facing communication and outreach.
One way to bridge the gap between cutting edge science and public issues is train STEM professionals to speak about their experiences and research areas. An avenue for this dialogue are STEM conferences designed to expose STEM professionals to the need and train them to fill the void.
The local chapter of Graduate Women in Science (Rho Tau, GWIS), hosted the 95th Annual National GWIS Conference around the theme of “Educating Scientists for Effective Science Outreach” in Raleigh this summer. The conference brought together female scientists from all around the US to learn about the need for science communication to the public, to be trained on best practices and to experience outreach at a the NC Museum of Natural Sciences. By uniting local universities, companies, science writers and non-profits, the conference leveraged many fields of STEM for panel discussions, poster sessions and oral presentations on a variety of topics ranging from black holes and mechanical engineering to genetics. Giving STEM professionals the tools and the means to communicate to the public is the first step in breaking down the barriers of STEM careers and expanding the STEM literacy of a community.
US2020 RTP facilitates these interactions and outreach opportunities to produce meaningful high impact mentoring experiences by pairing these STEM professionals with youth serving organizations around the Triangle area.
Would you like to speak with a scientist or hear about their interests? The Triangle area is rich in venues for dialogue with a STEM professional:
- Wake County:
- Durham County:
- Museum of Life and Science- monthly nightly events (www.lifeandscience.org/)
- Duke University- Periodic tables (https://scienceandsociety.duke.edu/engage/events/periodic-tables/)
- Orange County:
- Orange County Library presentations from local early career scientists (https://scienceinthestacks.wordpress.com/)
- UNC: Carolina Science Café (http://moreheadplanetarium.org/programs/teen-adult-programs/carolina-science-cafe)