This summer, the Simpson College branch of Tech Trek, an experiential summer camp backed by research and designed to make science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) exciting and accessible to girls in middle school, asked DMU to host a morning of STEM-focused activities.
Through hands-on problem solving and encounters with women role models, Tech Trek seeks to engage students at the age when research shows girls’ participation in STEM fields drops. Participants are high-achievers who are nominated by their schools to apply.
Exposing girls to successful role models and giving them hands-on opportunities to learn and discover are proven ways to draw them into STEM fields.
DMU role models from the master of science in biomedical sciences program, including faculty members Suzanne Bohlson, Ph.D., and Sarah Clayton, Ph.D., and research assistant Holly Hulsebus, M.P.H., took students through activities that explored the transmission of infectious disease, lung capacity and gram staining.
“As a scientist, I feel a responsibility to educate the public about my profession,” Clayton says. “Especially important is to provide ample opportunities for career exploration to young people, so they can make truly informed decisions about what they want to be when they grow up. I hope to show young people, including my own children, the importance of finding your passion and seeking out ways to make that passion a career.”
Hulsebus shared similar sentiments. “Although many scientific careers require several years of post-secondary education, it is still possible for a woman to start a family, if she chooses to do so, and maintain a work-life balance that allows her to advance in a scientific career,” she says. “The options for young women in science are endless.”
Participants also worked with volunteers Brynn Ehlers, D.O.’18, and Abby Frederickson, D.O.’18, on a scoliosis diagnosis activity that required teams to find Cobb angle measurements on patient x-rays and determine the proper course of treatment.
“Our 8th grade girls were engaged and inspired by DMU faculty, staff and students who prepared age-appropriate laboratory challenges and activities,” says Jackie Brittingham, Ph.D., a Simpson College Biology professor who coordinates the camp as part of the American Association of University Women. “The faculty and staff also shared with our future scientists how they can successfully balance the desire to be mothers and at the same time pursue rigorous scientific training and experience. This personal touch for our campers was really appreciated.”