Men in science wow middle school boys

Role models, hands-on experiences point kids towards STEM careers

By Sandra Gray

UMass Medical School Communications

April 10, 2011

Worcester East Middle School science teacher Howie Fain brought 14 boys to the Men in STEM conference, including seventh graders Malachy Jackson (left) and Sobhi Ismail.

Several dozen Worcester middle school boys got a glimpse of what their professional futures might hold when they attended the third annual Men in STEM Conference recently. There the boys were instructed—and impressed—by men working in fields ranging from nursing to engineering, who shared first-hand accounts about the professional and personal rewards they enjoy in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) careers. 

Created by the UMass Medical School Regional Science Resource Center (RSRC), in partnership with other members of the Central Massachusetts STEM Network, the Men in STEM Conference introduces boys to STEM careers by bringing them together with local men who use STEM in their professions. This year’s conference was hosted on Saturday, April 2, at the Worcester Ecotarium and UMass Medical School. “Following two years of holding the conference at corporate partner Intel Massachusetts’ site, we decided to bring them to the Medical School to get a sense of biomedical and health care careers,” said Sandra Mayrand, director of the RSRC. 

“It’s a great opportunity for the kids,” said Worcester East Middle School science teacher Howie Fain. “In class we talk about the stuff you have to learn, but events like this help kids feel comfortable with it, get excited and consider pursuing the knowledge.” Attendees were selected by their science teachers for their interest and aptitude. 

“I like science and I want to be a nurse,” said Worcester East seventh grader Sobhi Ismail. 

“I came here with Mr. Fain because he is my favorite teacher,” added classmate Malachy Jackson. “I liked the robotics, and the nursing too.” 

Men in STEM is modeled on the annual Women in Science Conference, also established by the RSRC. “Ever since the first Women in Science conference in 1996, people have been asking ‘What about the boys?’” said Mayrand. “We were delighted to get grant money from the Board of Higher Education through the STEM Pipeline Fund to develop a program just for them.” Men in STEM has also received support from EMC, Intel Massachusetts, CultureLEAP and UMMS Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences alumna Diane Casey, PhD. 

STEM nursing

Graduate School of Nursing student Sheldon Hollins (right) shows a Worcester middle school boy how to use a stethoscope at the 2011 Men in STEM Conference.

Each student chose three out of five interactive workshops that showed them how science is used in nursing, engineering, robotics, information technology and criminal investigations. In addition to demonstrating what they do, presenters explained different paths to their careers, provided tips on courses of study, and offered ways to prepare and train for their professions. Instructors included Graduate School of Nursing students and Fairlawn Nursing Scholars John Cody, Justin Gwatirisa and Sheldon Hollins. Following the workshops at the Ecotarium, the group came to UMass Medical School for lunch and closing ceremonies, which featured a keynote presentation by Chyke Doubeni, MD, PhD, assistant professor of family medicine & community health and former interim vice provost for diversity at UMMS.

The conference was just one of a number events of that took place as part of Worcester’s Innovation Month, including the 15th annual Women in Science Conference, classroom activities and a science and engineering fair. Innovation Month is an initiative in which Worcester public schools, institutions of higher education, employers, nonprofit organizations and the Central MA STEM Network have joined forces to raise awareness of the many STEM–related job opportunities in Central Massachusetts by bringing the world of work to all Worcester seventh graders. 

“They don’t have to be a perfect ‘A’ student, nor do they have to commit to a career,” said Fain about his enthusiastic students. “It’s all about thinking about what comes later in their lives.” 

About the Regional Science Resource Center at UMass Medical School 

Beginning with a single collaboration with one high school in 1989, the Regional Resource Science Center now collaborates with education stakeholders including the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, Department of Higher Education, school districts, teachers, administrators, students, community agencies, higher education institutions, business community, parents, concerned citizens and like-minded reform groups to further their common mission to improve K-12 science, mathematics and technology education so that all students will reach their full potential. It provides professional development and curriculum resources to K-12 science and mathematics teachers in 133 districts across the commonwealth. The objective of all these endeavors is to support and encourage excellence in science and mathematics education and to promote learning by doing. 

Related links:

GSBS students inspire with their love of science 
The Regional Science Resource Center 
Hello, my name is . . . Sandra Mayrand 

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