Education - Page 8 - STEM, from page 1

- Page 8
STEM, from page 1
The program also aims to increase the number of internship opportunities available to students. Of the STEM students who graduate from UMBC, about 50 percent gain employment with the company they interned with or worked for as a student, Routzahn says. These firms not only provide students with experience, but they help to develop the next generation of employees in STEM fields, including biotechnology, data science, cybersecurity, graphic design and more.

The state provides a subsidy of up to 50 percent for employers who hire interns from participating institutions including community colleges, four-year institutions in Maryland, or talented Marylanders who attend schools out-of-state. As lead administrator for the project, UMBC handles applications, communication and education for students and companies, manages funding and allocation of funds, and handles the evaluation process.

“We need to make sure there are internship opportunities to keep students in our state,” Routzahn adds.

Gov. Larry Hogan budgeted for the program in 2018, and UMBC received $340,000 for its launch. Since its beginning in mid-August, 52 employer-intern matches have been made through the program for students in 11 participating schools across the state. Ninety percent of the participating employers are small to midsized firms, with nearly 60 percent attributing intern hires to the funding provided. Many, according to Routzahn, had never employed interns in the past.

“It’s hard to compete with big organizations offering $24 to $26 an hour,” she adds. “They get strong talent that otherwise may have gone to large organizations in or out of state.”

Towson University is also doing its part to encourage STEM careers. The Towson University Research Enhancement Program (TU-REP) encourages younger students to commit to and remain in STEM area studies to become part of the future workforce in this area. The university received a Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) nonrenewable grant of $1 million over five years to transform minority and undergraduate success in STEM.

According to Laura Gough, Ph.D., professor and chair of biological sciences at Towson University, the program, in its second year, started with the goal of reaching its science students. Currently, she says, 40 percent of biology majors at the university come from underrepresented racial and ethnic groups and 70 percent are female.

“We have a very diverse student body,” she says. “Our goal is to be inclusive to keep all students, with extra concentration for under represented groups, to stay in STEM.”

The program incorporates a student focus, offering Course-Based Undergraduate Research Experience (CURE) classes that enable students to conduct authentic research. Students spend the semester learning research techniques, working in groups, as they search to answer a question presented at the course’s outset. Their research is guided as they conduct experiments, analyze data, present the data and show their progress over the three-plus months.

“They see the way science works,” Gough explains.“It’s a curriculum change. It exposes more students to research. We can reach more students this way instead of individually in the laboratory.”

Courses are available presently to all biology and chemistry majors upon the completion of prerequisites. Additional targeted programming for cohort students includes monthly lunches and dedicated workspaces, Gough notes.

The program also emphasizes faculty professional development. The first directive of the HHMI was to change the way STEM education is presented to students to increase retention in the field. Towson instituted faculty cohort groups who attend a series of workshops that provide instruction on teaching CURE courses. The focus centers around inclusive teaching practices, a national area of activity aimed at ensuring minority students are not alienated.

“It’s changing the way we do business,” Gough says. “We need to reach them and assure there’s a career for them. Many come in wanting to be doctors and most will not go on to medical school. We want to make them see the career opportunities in the STEM field. We want them to stay in science.”

Towson rolled out three new courses this fall to add to the four others that fall under the CURE process. Gough anticipates adding several new courses each year to reach about 15 total in the program’s five years.

“We’re trying to teach students to think like scientists,” she says. “When something doesn’t work, you don’t stop. You regroup, think about the question and approach it from a different direction and use different techniques and keep digging.” •

STEM education

According to the U.S. Department of Education, the United States has developed as a global leader, due in part to the hard work of scientists, engineers and innovators. The USDE strives to equip students with the knowledge and skills to solve tough problems, gather and evaluate evidence and make sense of information. These skills are learned by studying science, technology, engineering and math, known collectively as STEM.

The USDE projects a continued increase in STEM jobs through 2020:

All Occupations – 14 percent
Mathematics – 16 percent
Computer Systems Analysts – 22 percent
Systems Software Developers – 32 percent
Medical Scientists – 36 percent
Biomedical Engineers – 62 percent

*Source: USDE •