What is STEM?

My oldest brother, an electrical engineer for a NASA contractor, and I were having a conversation recently about the fact that so many engineers and scientists are moving to the U.S. from India, China, etc. to fill the void left because so few Americans are going into these fields.  Since I’m not directly in these fields I had no idea.  To prove this point a recent California initiative found that only 4% of 9th graders graduate college in careers in the sciences or engineering.  Furthermore in their September 2008 report, SETDA, points out some alarming statistics

Workforce projections for 2014 by the U.S. Department of Labor show that 15 of the 20 fastest growing occupations require significant science or mathematics training to successfully compete for a job.   According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, professional information technology (IT) jobs will increase 24% between 2006 and 2016.  However, as jobs requiring a solid background in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics are growing – more students are choosing not to major in these areas.

Science, Technology, Engineering, Math

  • Enrollment in undergraduate degree programs in computer sciences is more than 50 percent lower than it was five years ago.4
  • In 2001, only 8% of all degrees awarded in the U.S. were in engineering, mathematics or the physical sciences.

“Jobs that traditionally offer the best pay and require the most education are growing the fastest. ”

—The American Diploma Project, Connecting Education Standards and Employment

  • The U.S. ranks 20th internationally based on our share of graduate degrees awarded in engineering, computer science, and mathematics.
  • By 2010, if current trends continue, more than 90 percent of all scientists and engineers will be living in Asia.

If students continue to pursue degrees and careers in fields other than STEM- related areas, the U.S. will find it difficult to compete in the global economy. Further, the U.S. will not be able to meet its future workforce needs. The U.S. needs 400,000 new graduates in STEM fields by 2015.   Microsoft reports that only 14% of students graduating with bachelor’s degrees in Washington state have the skills that they need.

I still found this hard to believe. After all my grandfather, father and brother are all engineers and my job is fully based on science.  But the truth is it is such a prevalent  problem that the National Science Foundation had taken the lead role in determining that if the need for people in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) is not met from within the country, we will suffer greatly.  So where do we start?  A little personal perspective is needed.

My son is a first grade student at a good Fairfax, County public school.  Every day I ask him how his day was and what he learned.  He talks about language arts, math, Spanish, PE, Art and, of course, recess.  What he doesn’t talk about is science.  Now I understand that science for a first grader is more or less learning “something” about plants and animals.  But when my son and I talk about basic scientific concepts, he gets them.  Not just because he’s smart but because seven-year-olds are sponges and can grasp Newton’s Laws if explained at their level.

So what’s the problem?  Well, the truth is that it’s directly related to my practice.  Lately I have been seeing more women in their 30’s with breast cancer.  And it got me thinking.  Are we seeing more breast cancer in younger women or are we just getting better at detecting it?  What are the reasons for why it occurs and is treatment any different?

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