WBEZ | STEM http://www.wbez.org/tags/stem Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Museum helps build better science teachers http://www.wbez.org/news/museum-helps-build-better-science-teachers-109924 <p><p>In a science classroom across from the coal mine exhibit at the Museum of Science and Industry, the students are sitting at high lab tables, studying Petri dishes full of bacteria.</p><p>At the front of the room, the teacher explains the lesson&rsquo;s objectives&mdash;compare animal and bacterial cells, review pathological and non-pathological bacteria. But there is a broader goal here, one the Museum of Science and Industry wants to help achieve: improve science teaching in Chicago and its suburbs.</p><p>The students here are all teachers, all responsible for imparting science to upper-elementary or middle-school students. It&rsquo;s a job that many in this class&mdash;and many teachers in many grammar schools--feel decidedly unprepared for.</p><p>&ldquo;Definitely, that&rsquo;s why I&rsquo;m here,&rdquo; says Chicago Public Schools teacher Joel Spears. &ldquo;I teach 5th grade, and it&rsquo;s self-contained, so I teach all the subjects&mdash;math, science, language arts, social science. I went in not knowing how to teach science, really. I didn&rsquo;t have the materials or the know-how to even teach it properly.&rdquo;</p><p>Once a month. Spears and dozens other teachers enrolled in this professional development course come to the museum for a day of lessons, curricula, and materials they can then take back to their classrooms across the Chicago metro region. Since the teacher training courses were first offered in 2006, 804 teachers from 320 schools have participated. About two-thirds of teachers are from Chicago public schools.</p><p>Many of the teachers say they&rsquo;re trying to tap into the natural enthusiasm kids have for science&mdash;when it&rsquo;s taught right.</p><p>&ldquo;We did some previous lessons that I learned here, and they love it. They always want to do science,&rdquo; says Spears. &ldquo;&rsquo;Cause it&rsquo;s hands on&mdash;they&rsquo;re not just reading. They&rsquo;re constructing, they&rsquo;re doing.&rdquo;</p><p>On a recent morning, the Museum of Science and Industry instructor runs a lesson exactly as if she&#39;s teaching middle schoolers. The teachers put themselves in their students&rsquo; shoes. They work activities, make Venn diagrams, and then get to the fun part: an experiment with black light and Glo Germ that exposed bacteria still present on their hands, even after washing.</p><p>Near the back of the class, teacher Jonathan Fisher looks at a cell diagram before him and admits this is the first time he has seen flagella since high school. The philosophy major avoided the life sciences in college. Now&mdash;ironically, he says&mdash;he&rsquo;s teaching the subject to fourth graders. He says he can implement certain techniques and lessons almost as soon as he learns them. Others, like a genetics lesson his students loved, take more planning.</p><p>&ldquo;We had an experiment where the students used Styrofoam blocks and different body parts&mdash;so limbs and dowel rods and different-sized eyes,&rdquo; says Fisher, who teaches at Murphy Elementary on the Northwest Side. &ldquo;That was a hands-on way for them to understand how genetics are passed down from one generation to the next. And the classroom couldn&rsquo;t have been more excited, flipping the coins to figure out which genes would be passed on to their kids.&nbsp; (The lesson) took something very abstract like genes and genetics and turned it into something the students could relate to.&rdquo;</p><p>Fisher is one of eight teachers from Murphy who&rsquo;ve been involved in the museum&rsquo;s teacher courses. He said his school is serious about becoming better at teaching science, but he also says it&rsquo;s not hard to figure out what the priorities are in education right now. &ldquo;If it&rsquo;s not reading or math, then it&rsquo;s not an emphasis. Learning to be a teacher, all the other subjects could be cool, but if it&rsquo;s not reading or math, that won&rsquo;t be a focus.&rdquo;</p><p><strong>The role of museums in science education</strong></p><p>There&rsquo;s been a big push lately to improve the teaching of science in American schools, with more focus on STEM education&mdash; Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. Andrea Ingram, the Museum of Science and Industry&rsquo;s vice president of education and guest services, says museums can play a role in that.</p><p>&ldquo;One of the challenges in the U.S. in getting kids engaged in science is that we don&rsquo;t have enough really high-quality science teachers in the middle grades&mdash;and that&rsquo;s kind of like the early childhood of science,&rdquo; says Ingram. &ldquo;We either capture kids&rsquo; enthusiasm there, get them committed to science&mdash;or we don&rsquo;t.&rdquo;</p><p>Ingram says museums across the nation are important partners in improving science instruction, especially given tight school budgets. They are popular with philanthropic, business and civic leaders. They can fill specific needs that may vary community by community. And where else can you find tornados, lightning, and real cow eyeballs to dissect?</p><p>Programs like the teacher training courses at the Museum of Science and Industry build important bridges between schools and museums, says Nathan Richie, who chairs the education committee of the American Alliance of Museums: &ldquo;Museums can use the resources at their disposal&mdash;be it the location that they have, the content, the artifacts, the experts&mdash;and help train the practitioners in the classroom to use those to engage students.&rdquo;</p><p>Richie says the role museums are playing in science education has increased with a new national emphasis on STEM education. Ironically, in an age of shrinking budgets and more dictates over how much time students must be in the classroom, Richie says schools take fewer field trips. This is a way of getting the museum into schools.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" height="487" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/IMG_3538web.jpg" title="Teacher Graciela Olmos helps students with a hands-on lesson she learned through the Museum of Science and Industry's courses for teachers. (WBEZ/Linda Lutton)" width="650" /></div><p><strong>Marbles and mechanical energy</strong></p><p>In Graciela Olmos&rsquo; eighth grade classroom at Sawyer Elementary on Chicago&rsquo;s Southwest Side, kids are rolling marbles down incline planes, measuring how far the marbles push a little Styrofoam cup. Olmos first saw this lesson about mechanical energy at the museum.</p><p>Olmos says she&rsquo;s used to being told to teach to higher standards. The museum has shown her<em> how</em>.</p><p>&ldquo;They model for us. This is how it&rsquo;s going to look. And that&rsquo;s something we lack.&rdquo;</p><p>Though she won&rsquo;t say that&rsquo;s the only thing she lacks. &ldquo;We need so many things,&quot; Olmos says. &quot;We need to have science labs with gas lines and sinks. If my specialty is science, then let it be science. Don&rsquo;t give me so many other things to do aside of that.&rdquo;</p><p>Science education professor Joanne Olson says getting dedicated, well-trained science teahcers has been &ldquo;a perpetual challenge for us in science education, particularly at the elementary grades.&rdquo;</p><p>Olson, who is also president of the Association for Science Teacher Education, says she&rsquo;s been advocating for years for schools to have science specialists.</p><p>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s like the PE teacher,&rdquo; says Olson. &ldquo;You have one teacher who&rsquo;s dedicated to that particular subject area, and that way the teacher can be very well prepared in that area and doesn&rsquo;t have to take on literacy instruction, math, in these other areas.&quot;</p><p>Olson says research shows that 65 percent of elementary teachers have gotten fewer than six total hours of science training in the last three years. &ldquo;And we know that teachers need about 100 hours,&rdquo; she says. &quot;So we&rsquo;re far under. Anything that can be done to help is a good thing.&rdquo;</p><p>A study of the Museum of Science and Industry&rsquo;s teacher training program is being released today by well-known science curriculum expert William Schmidt, of the Education Policy Center at Michigan State University.<br /><br />It finds the teachers trained by the museum know more science&mdash;and, significantly, so do their students.</p><p>The Museum is marking the news of its success with an announcement&mdash;it&rsquo;s committing to train 1,000 middle-grade teachers in science over the next five years.<br />&nbsp;</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/IMG_3521web.jpg" style="height: 488px; width: 650px;" title="Students in Graciela Olmos' science class at Sawyer Elemetary run experiments to help them learn about potential, kinetic and mechanical energy. (WBEZ/Linda Lutton)" /></div></p> Thu, 27 Mar 2014 05:46:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/museum-helps-build-better-science-teachers-109924 Small is big at new nanotechnology lab in Wheeling http://www.wbez.org/news/small-big-new-nanotechnology-lab-wheeling-109004 <p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/duncan.PNG" style="height: 167px; width: 300px; float: left;" title="Arne Duncan talks with Wheeling High School students about the school’s new nanotechnology lab. Magnified on the screen is a penny. (WBEZ/Linda Lutton)" /></p><p>U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan helped inaugurate a special science lab in the Chicago area Thursday&mdash;and attended a separate event promoting more rigorous learning standards.</p><p>Wheeling High School officials say their nanotechnology lab is the first of its kind in a U.S. public high school.</p><p>Teacher Nancy Heintz says the lab&rsquo;s high-powered microscopes can drill down to the nano level. How small is that? Think of the Lincoln Memorial on the back side of a penny, she says.</p><p>&ldquo;If you imagined the eyelash on the Lincoln in the Lincoln Memorial on the back of the penny&mdash; that gets you pretty close to the nano level.&rdquo;</p><p>Heintz says teachers were able to see single atoms of copper when they came to learn how to use the scanning electron microscopes and atomic force microscopes over the summer.</p><p>On Thursday, students showed off images of things they&rsquo;d seen close up: butterfly wings, strands of hair, a DVD.</p><p>Senior Bryan Zaremba was impressed by paper. &ldquo;It looks almost like a spider web, you can see all the fibers,&rdquo; he said.</p><p>&ldquo;This is zoomed in at 3,300 times, so it&rsquo;s pretty small,&rdquo; explained his lab partner, Eric Kaplan. On the computer screen was an image that looked more like a gray, post-apocalyptic forest than a scrap from someone&rsquo;s notebook.</p><p>Next to Zaremba was a scanning electron microscope &ndash;which looks like a large desktop computer tower. &ldquo;There&rsquo;s a crystal in here that shoots electrons down at a sample, and when the electrons hit the sample, they bounce back to detectors, and they build an image,&rdquo; Zaremba says.</p><p>The lab is part of the school&rsquo;s focus on STEM education&mdash;short for science, technology , engineering, and mathematics. It cost $615,000--$400,000 for equipment and $215,000 for upgrades to the lab itself. The district received a $250,000 grant from the state.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/IMG_3200web_0.jpg" style="float: left; height: 400px; width: 300px;" title="Wheeling High senior Stephanie Maglaris poses with a magnified image of a strand of her hair." /></div><p>Duncan has joined a national push for more STEM education, which is being fueled in part by American students&rsquo; lackluster performance on international science and math exams.</p><p>Duncan says two million high paying jobs are unfilled right now, many in the STEM fields.&nbsp;</p><p>&ldquo;Honestly, it&rsquo;s not even just about the jobs,&rdquo; Duncan said at Wheeling. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s about having students being excited about coming to school every single day. It&rsquo;s about having real relevance to the real world.&rdquo;</p><p>The lab isn&rsquo;t just for honors students&mdash;Wheeling&rsquo;s goal is to get every student to use it. &ldquo;Some of these kids might go on to be technicians, where they could get a living wage job right when they get out of high school,&rdquo; says Heintz. Others will go on to study engineering, biology, or chemistry at high levels.</p><p>Wheeling students are already working with the entomology lab at the University of Illinois. They&rsquo;re examining silk produced by silkworms in Madagascar, and comparing it to silk made by domesticated silk worms.</p><p>Many colleges don&rsquo;t have the sort of technology Wheeling High does.</p><p>&ldquo;I&rsquo;m planning on studying nanotechnology in college. This class really drove me to choose that for my career,&rdquo; says senior Stephanie Maglaris, who plans to combine nanotechnology with civil or mechanical engineering. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s really interesting&mdash;and it&rsquo;s gonna open up a whole new field of jobs and studies,&rdquo; says Maglaris.</p><p>Duncan touted Wheeling as a school that had set high standards for students. The school has seen a big demographic shift in the past decade. Half of students are Latino, around 40 percent are low-income.</p><p>At a separate townhall event sponsored by the University of Chicago&rsquo;s Institute of Politics, Duncan highlighted another priority of the administration, the Common Core learning standards.</p><p>The standards have been adopted by a total of 45 states&mdash;including Illinois, Indiana and Wisconsin, and are debuting in many schools this fall.<br /><br />&ldquo;Raising standards is one of the most important things we can do to help all kids, but especially disadvantaged children, have a chance to be successful,&rdquo; Duncan told reporters at the event. &ldquo;The hard part is the implementation, how we support teachers and principals and students themselves and families in the hard work of hitting this higher bar.&rdquo;<br /><br />During a townhall style forum, Duncan was challenged by audience members about where the arts and critical thinking fit in the standards.<br /><br />Many in the audience applauded when economist and education expert Fred Hess suggested&nbsp; it&rsquo;s a mistake to introduce high-stakes teacher evaluations at the same time states are rolling out new standards and tests.<br />&nbsp;</p></p> Fri, 25 Oct 2013 05:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/small-big-new-nanotechnology-lab-wheeling-109004 Women still face gender bias in math, science fields http://www.wbez.org/blogs/leah-pickett/2013-10/women-still-face-gender-bias-math-science-fields-108870 <p><p><img alt="" bang="" big="" cbs="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/The%20Big%20Bang%20Theory%20promo%20photo.jpg" style="height: 413px; width: 620px;" the="" title="Publicity photo for &quot;The Big Bang Theory.&quot; (CBS/Big Bang Theory)" /></p><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image ">A recent article in the&nbsp;<em><a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2013/10/06/magazine/why-are-there-still-so-few-women-in-science.html?pagewanted=all&amp;_r=1&amp;" target="_blank">New York Times</a></em>&nbsp;asking and then answering the perpetual question,&nbsp;&quot;Why are there still so few women in science?&quot; should be required reading for anyone who believes that gender bias in higher math and science fields no longer exists.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">Author Eileen Pollack&mdash;who was one of the first women to receive a bachelor of science degree in physics at Yale in 1978&mdash; writes that even in 2013, American women are not only given low expectations from the start for success in STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering and mathematics), but also are seldom encouraged, sometimes even discouraged, to pursue higher education in these fields.&nbsp;Additionally, Pollack cites several research studies as proof that gender inequality remains a rampant problem in the male-dominated world of STEM careers and academia, especially in the upper echelons of physics, engineering and computer science. &nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">One such study, published last year by Dr. Jo Handelsman and Corrinne Moss-Racusin, found direct gender bias in American faculty members in three scientific fields&mdash;physics, chemistry and biology&mdash;at six major research institutions across the country. Each professor was given identical resumes to rate in terms of competence, hireability, likeability, and willingness to mentor the student, with the only difference being that one applicant was named John, and the other named Jennifer. When the results were collected, John was rated an average of half a point higher than Jennifer in all categories except &quot;likeability.&quot; Also, John was offered an average starting salary of $30,238, while Jennifer was offered $26,508.&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">Another study, conducted by the American Mathematical Society to track standout performers in various international competitions, found that American competitors were almost always the children of immigrants, and very rarely female. Moreover, according to the study&#39;s authors, &quot;gifted girls, even more so than boys, usually camouflage their mathematical talent to fit in well with their peers.&quot;</div><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/science.jpg" style="float: right; height: 450px; width: 300px;" title="Woman working in Genspace Lab. (Flickr/William Ward)" /></div><p>&nbsp;</p><p>Immediately, my mind flashed to the apropos film and television references, from Lindsay Weir attempting to hide her Mathlete past&nbsp;on &quot;Freaks and Geeks&quot;&nbsp;to Cady Heron&nbsp;heeding the advice of her new friend Damien in &quot;Mean Girls,&quot;&nbsp;who blurts, &quot;You can&#39;t join Mathletes; it&#39;s social suicide.&quot; Still, Lindsay and Cady&#39;s quests to become &quot;cool&quot; ultimately result in newfound appreciation of their gifts, perhaps prompting other young women watching them to realize their &quot;limit does not exist!&quot; as well. We all have Tina Fey to thank for that line.&nbsp;</p></div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">However, the main characters on the CBS sitcom <a href="http://motherboard.vice.com/blog/stereotype-and-the-big-bang-theory-are-keeping-women-out-of-science" target="_blank">&quot;The Big Bang Theory&quot;</a>&nbsp;tend to serve a more unfavorable purpose: reinforcing stereotypes of male and female nerds in popular culture, while also keeping the gender divides firmly drawn.&nbsp;For example, the character of Amy (played by the lovely and talented Mayim Bialik, who also happens to hold a <a href="http://www.wired.com/underwire/2013/08/zombie-science-math-education/" target="_blank">Ph.D. in neuroscience</a> in real life) is a dowdy, socially inept spinster-turned mate for theoretical physicist Sheldon. Bernadette, the other female scientist on the show, has a comically high-pitched voice and doesn&#39;t contribute much outside of playing the love interest to mechanical engineer Howard. The other male leads, Leonard and Raj, are respected physicists who also cater to stereotypes as socially awkward man-children, while the beautiful, science-illiterate neighbor Penny serves as the bubbly object of adoration for both sexes.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">Of course, &quot;Big Bang&quot; has its cute and funny moments; but, as Pollack also suggests in her article, what &quot;remotely normal&quot; person would choose to be an Amy when she could be a Penny? Furthermore, what other cultural biases factor into the current acceptance (or lack thereof) of women in these fields; and, as a result, potentially discourage would-be female engineers or astrophysicists from continuing their studies? How many brilliant young minds do we leave untapped, <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e1DnltskkWk" target="_blank">Will Hunting</a>-style, when science and math teachers fail to provide female students with the same opportunities and encouragement given to male peers?</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div></div><p>To gain new insight into these questions and more, I asked four women involved in STEM fields to share their thoughts and personal experiences in bridging the gender gap.&nbsp;</p><p><em><span style="font-size:16px;">Veronica I. Arreola, Director of the Center for Research on Women and Gender&#39;s Women in Science and Engineering Program&nbsp;at the University of Illinois at Chicago.</span></em></p><p><strong>On gender bias: </strong>&quot;The literature clearly shows a bias against women, by both men and women, in STEM.&nbsp; As for how it plays out in the classroom...it plays out in different ways. We have seen women delegated to secretary positions, men doing the actual experiments. Men often yell out answers, women raise their hands and wait to be called on. There are ways to minimize these examples, but it takes additional work. The tough thing about bias is that we often feel like we don&#39;t have them, so we don&#39;t work to minimize them. But we&#39;re all biased.&quot;</p><p><strong>On the lack of women pursuing higher math and science degrees:</strong>&nbsp;&quot;There are many theories. The one I focus on is awareness of the different careers in STEM. For example, I work with a lot of pre-med students, who might be better suited as researchers versus clinicians. Our society does not do a great job at exposing young people, boys or girls, to the wide range of careers available. When students are debating leaving, I often hear, &#39;I want to work with people.&#39; Which is exactly what scientists and engineers do &mdash; they work with people to solve problems for people. From climate change to curing cancer, it&#39;s all teamwork. I also hear that there aren&#39;t enough jobs. For some fields, it may be true, but tech companies and banks cannot hire enough computer scientists fast enough, yet fewer men and women go into computer science. Lastly, the family-work juggle does get mentioned. For some reason, science and engineering does not come across as family-friendly. I remind students that until we have a national child care system and paid family leave, few careers are truly family-friendly. Plus, the women in academia do have much more control over their hours than women in almost any other field.&quot;</p><p><em><span style="font-size:16px;">Colleen, Northwestern University graduate with a Bachelor of Science degree in Physics and a minor in Earth and Planetary Sciences.&nbsp;</span></em></p><p><strong>On studying physics at Northwestern: </strong>&quot;The majority of my peers were male, and I&#39;m sure I wanted to stand out and prove to everyone that I was capable and that I could do physics just like them. But when I joined a lab, it felt like everyone knew more than I did, and everyone who was working on a research project had brilliant ideas right away. By not meeting those standards from the start, I saw myself as being behind; but the truth is, there was far more collaboration and discussion than I realized. I could have been asking for help, but to me that felt like admitting I wasn&#39;t good enough to contend with the &#39;big boys&#39; in the lab...&nbsp;I eventually decided that pursuing a Ph.D. was not for me. In talking with other female graduates of STEM fields, it sounded like I was not the only person who felt lonely working through her degree. I think if I had figured out the keys of positive collaboration and had managed to boost my confidence earlier in my college career, I might have graduated with a different outlook on what a life of academia would hold for me.&quot;</p><p><strong>On gender roles in an academic setting:&nbsp;</strong>&quot;This certainly isn&#39;t true for everyone, but to me, it appears that young women are appealing to the popularized notion that they should be polite, considerate, and soft spoken rather than being loud and roaring with&nbsp;competitive&nbsp;opinions. I think something about our educated culture results in men being more willing to ask questions and find solutions without encouragement; so, it&#39;s not that they&#39;re any more capable of problem solving, men are just more visible while they&#39;re doing it. I&#39;m sure this&nbsp;trend can be traced all the way back to young boys: something about young male culture makes it cool to be the &quot;class clown,&quot; to confidently disrupt class and be loud. I did not experience a young female culture that would support or encourage those traits. If there is a confidence curve, then in my experiences, young girls are positioned to be playing catch-up from an incredibly early age.&quot;</p><p><strong>On dating:&nbsp;</strong>&quot;Outside of individuals in a traditional STEM field, I have yet to introduce myself to someone who upon learning that I earned my degree in physics didn&#39;t respond with a double-take or a &#39;Wow really? You must be really smart.&#39; I&#39;m never sure how I should respond to that, so I usually mumble a, &#39;Yes, maybe? I just really liked physics.&#39; I don&#39;t know if this has ever deterred the potential pursuit of a significant other, but if the prospect of dating a physics major is intimidating to the point of deterrence, then I probably wouldn&#39;t be happy dating them anyway.&quot;</p><div><em><span style="font-size:16px;">Kelsie, Ph.D. candidate in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology.</span></em></div><div>&nbsp;</div><p><strong>On pop culture reinforcing stereotypes: &quot;</strong>In&nbsp;&#39;The Big Bang Theory,&#39; there is a lot of physics jargon and complicated topics that Sheldon, Leonard, and Raj talk about that I feel aren&#39;t even meant to be understood by the audience. However, I think that Amy and Bernadette&#39;s careers are presented in a much more palatable, &#39;dumbed-down&#39; version and are generally less referenced. Aside from maybe one or two times, I think Amy&#39;s research topic is presented as tobacco addition in monkeys&mdash;which is a very easy-to-understand topic, unlike many of the physics topics studied by the male characters. Also, what is presented about Amy&#39;s research is often inaccurate or comical. To name a few off the top of my head, Amy having a cigarette-smoking research monkey in her apartment (which goes against so many animal research federal regulations) and eating lunch/answering her phone while dissecting a brain in lab. Aside from Bernadette being a microbiologist and doing drug development, I don&#39;t think much is ever really mentioned about her science career.&quot;</p><div><strong>On the theory that more women are drawn to &quot;people&quot; sciences, like biology:&nbsp;</strong>&quot;It&#39;s certainly a reasonable explanation for why more women go into biomedical and social sciences, though this isn&#39;t really my specific reasoning. To me, the difference is working with something that feels concrete and tangible. I started at Northwestern University intending to be a chemistry major, and then switched to biology when I realized I liked working with living things that I can see or conceptualize better (meaning, cells or proteins in biology as opposed to chemical reactions with chemistry). I don&#39;t really consider my work to involve people, since I typically work on a much, much smaller scale, with a culture dish.&quot;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><p><em><span style="font-size:16px;">Jessica, Ph.D. candidate in Mechanical Engineering.</span></em></p><p><strong>On gender discrimination:&nbsp;</strong>&quot;I&#39;ve heard from a number of women that they&#39;ve been told by male professors they shouldn&#39;t be an engineer or don&#39;t belong in the field. There are also a number (very few)&nbsp;classmates&nbsp;who refused to work with female students, because they don&#39;t feel that they pull their weight. Those same men sometimes accuse their female&nbsp;classmates&nbsp;of being able to get answers or help on homework easier then men because of their looks or a&nbsp;damsel-in-distress act. I had one classmate who acted this way, but then would ask one of my female classmates for help.&quot;&nbsp;</p><div><div><strong>On misunderstandings of STEM careers:</strong> &quot;From the research I&#39;ve read, girls gravitate toward &#39;helping&#39; careers (doctors, vets, teachers, nurses) and stereotypes about STEM careers don&#39;t include that. That&#39;s why you see so many women in biology&mdash;much of biology research is centered on killing disease. What people don&#39;t understand is that engineering is all about making people&#39;s lives better and math modeling (or applied math) can be used on genetics projects to help cure diseases, find the best path for emergency vehicles, etc.&quot;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div><strong>On the power of support and encouragement:</strong>&nbsp;&quot;I attended a private school where there was never any gender bias in math and the sciences. I had male and female teachers who encouraged me in my course work. I also had very supportive parents and a mother who was a biology major and eventually a computer programmer. I think that as long as a girl has support from parents and teachers, she will succeed.&quot;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>As for positive influences in pop culture, there is some good news!&nbsp;Marvel is teaming up with the National Academy of Science,&nbsp;the Girl Scouts of America&nbsp;and Natalie Portman to use the upcoming release of&nbsp;&quot;Thor: The Dark World&quot;&nbsp;to promote female interest in careers in STEM. The project is called Thor: The Dark World <a href="http://www.forbes.com/sites/scottmendelson/2013/10/03/can-thor-2-and-natalie-portman-hook-girls-on-science/" target="_blank">Ultimate Mentor Adventure</a>, and it sounds incredible.&nbsp;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div><em>Leah Pickett writes about popular culture for WBEZ. You can find her on&nbsp;<a href="https://www.facebook.com/leahkristinepickett" target="_blank">Facebook</a>,&nbsp;<a href="https://twitter.com/leahkpickett" target="_blank">Twitter</a>&nbsp;and<a href="http://hermionehall.tumblr.com/" target="_blank">&nbsp;Tumblr</a>.</em></div></div><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Wed, 09 Oct 2013 08:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/leah-pickett/2013-10/women-still-face-gender-bias-math-science-fields-108870 Chicago Vocational renovation project moves forward http://www.wbez.org/blogs/lee-bey/2013-07/chicago-vocational-renovation-project-moves-forward-108055 <p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/223903_10150992922331011_1407405589_n.jpg" title="" /></div><div class="image-insert-image ">A significant portion of Chicago Vocational Career Academy, an architecturally-important building that is the city&#39;s second-largest public school, would be demolished as part of a $42 million bid to turn the structure into a tech academy.&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">According to Chicago Public Building Commission documents, the school&#39;s block-and-a-half long, 150,000 square foot wing along Anthony Avenue &mdash; the portion of the school seen by scores of Chicago Skyway drivers each day &mdash; would be razed. A hangar that once housed the school&#39;s aviation shop would also be demolished. The remainder of the school and its exterior would be rehabilitated.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">The PBC on Monday&nbsp;<a href="http://pbcchicago.com/content/working/opening_display.asp?BID_ID=434">issued a request for qualifications</a>&nbsp;seeking contractors who can handle the three-phase overhaul of the former Chicago Vocational High School at 2100 E. 87th St. &nbsp;When the dust clears, the school would become a <a href="http://www.suntimes.com/news/education/10936381-418/new-six-year-tech-high-schools-in-chicago-to-offer-associate-degrees.html">six-year school</a> with a curriculum focusing on science, technology, engineering and math.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">The school was designed for 6,000 students so downsizing is in order. Still, seeing more than a third of the delta-shaped late Art Deco-designed school vanish would be a bit startling. Built in 1940 for $3.5 million, the 27-acre school is a big, beautiful complex rendered in a blocky, WPA-modern esthetic.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&quot;Its sheer massiveness is one of the things that most impressed me,&quot; said Lisa DiChiera, advocacy director for the preservation organization Landmarks Illinois. Here&#39;s a section of the 87th Street portion of the school. This wing will be preserved:</div><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/398785_10150992922211011_219395152_n.jpg" title="" /></div><div class="image-insert-image ">And the main entrance:</div><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/550732_10150992922151011_1958899631_n.jpg" title="" /></div><div class="image-insert-image ">Contractor submittals are due by July 31, according to the PBC.</div></div></div><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Wed, 17 Jul 2013 05:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/lee-bey/2013-07/chicago-vocational-renovation-project-moves-forward-108055