May has been one comprised of a lot of change. I went from working towards a biomedical engineering degree to being part of the Get Real! Science program at the University of Rochester. The change from engineering to teaching was a big and somewhat scary decision, but also one of the best decisions I have made.
I fell in love with Physics in high school when I began to see how physics was an application of the math classes I had taken. The teacher at the time was super passionate about the subject and would have us complete the most unique projects and activities that comprised of basic physics concepts which I still remember today (7 years later). Even though I was passionate about and fell in love physics, I felt that my desire to attend college to study physics was unobtainable because I was a female. This belief that I wasn’t able to study science because I was a female stemmed from stereotypes present in society. The stereotypes tell us what society expects us to do and what we can be. CBS’s show, The Big Bang Theory, reveals some of the stereotypes by having the main characters be nerdy, male and socially awkward physicists.
The field of physics, as a whole, is dominated by white males. The American Physical Society (APS) reports that less than 50% of all high school students taking physics are female. Of that 50% only about 20% of those students go on to complete a bachelor degree in physics and only 18% go on to complete a PhD in physics. If the statistics are broken down even further, the results show the presence of a number of additional underrepresented minorities that have a disproportionately low representation in science and engineering compared to other United States population groups.
Figures from the American Institute of Physics Statistical Research Center at https://www.aip.org/statistics
Why is this important?
There are many factors including historical, societal and political reasons that contribute to the belief of who is able to do science. Disparities of gender and race are present in every science field, not just physics. The under-representation often leads younger students to hold a belief (and fear) that they shouldn’t enjoy science or they aren’t smart enough to study science, even if it is what they are passionate about. In turn, preventing them from pursuing science and becoming scientists themselves.
For this blog, my goals are to:
- use the space to express and explore questions and opinions surrounding teaching
- consider science a cultural practice in what I post
- create a space that is open to collaboration with others to form a sense of community
- discuss science concepts and ideas in such a way that they are accessible and understandable
Additionally, as a future teacher I seek to:
- show, as a female physicist, that it is possible to pursue and study what you are passionate about despite being in the minority within a field.
- create a safe place for students to ask questions, seek knowledge and create their own identity, not defined by society, in turn allowing them to see themselves as scientists.
- lead students to be agents of change within their school, community and within the science field by challenging stereotypes and injustices.