Editor’s Note: In 2020 (and 2021), there have been a lot of unanswered questions about life and living, so in our partnership with the Chemical Engineering Service Learning Class at Tulane University, taught by Dr. Julie Albert, we made it our aim to find questions we could answer. The series is called “Dear Big Chem-EZ” (think “Dear Abbey” but with less about “Why does my partner ignore me?” and more about “Can I actually drink my tap water?” and “What’s that smell outside my house?”).
You can look for new pieces every day this week and next because we love science, we love answers, and we love knowing what kind of jobs are available for our STEM graduates! Let’s take a look! If you have questions you’d like answered, send them to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dear Big Chem-EZ, When viewing statistics of college majors, it seems that the majority tend to be business and liberal arts oriented, with science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) being a minority (for reference, see https://www.cnbc.com/2017/12/15/the-6-most-popular-college-majors.html). Should we be worried that there won’t be enough STEM graduates entering the workforce? How can the community help create more interest in STEM?
Think about one time you met someone who was pre-med or an engineering student. Now think about what they’re up to right now. Their work is probably really important, right? I would bet that if I asked 100 people to rate the importance of the work of STEM majors on a scale of 1-10, that the average would probably be around 9 or 10. So if everyone agrees that it’s super important, why don’t more people pursue careers in STEM?
Chemical engineers are responsible for the water we drink, the gas that powers our transportation, and everything plastic that we use every day. With such a large responsibility and workload that affects literally everybody, the community should definitely get involved to help spark interest in chemical engineering! I think one of the biggest hurdles to this is exposure. If more people knew about chemical engineering and what chemical engineers do, I am sure that more people would want to major in it. And similarly for STEM, I think if, from an early stage, the importance of the work of STEM majors was emphasized to students in elementary and middle school, then there would be a much larger proportion of students wanting to pursue careers in those fields. Just think about it: if there were double the amount of people entering into chemical engineering and STEM careers, we would have far more scientific breakthroughs and engineering accomplishments! Double the majors would mean double the minds working to combat climate change, plastic waste pollution, and carbon emissions in the world.
Luckily, organizations like STEM NOLA exist. STEM NOLA is a non-profit organization founded by a former Mechanical Engineering professor at Tulane University, and their purpose is to “expose, inspire and engage members of the community in learning about opportunities in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM).”
STEM NOLA hosts events and activities for youth in New Orleans to get them excited about pursuing careers in STEM. Since 2014, STEM NOLA has helped engage over 40,000 students in STEM project-based learning.
Another organization like STEM NOLA is the Greater New Orleans STEM Initiative, or GNOSTEM. GNOSTEM’s mission is to educate and prepare students in and around New Orleans for careers in STEM by holding professional development workshops and even summer camps!
GNOSTEM has aided in training over 700 teachers and has helped thousands of students since 2007 to pioneer engagement in STEM.
If schools and other organizations did more work like STEM NOLA and GNOSTEM to engage people in STEM from a young age, I’m sure there would be more STEM majors, which would ultimately benefit everybody!
If you’re interested in learning more about STEM NOLA, visit their website at https://www.stemnola.com/.
If you’re interested in learning more about GNOSTEM, visit their website at http://gnostem.org/.