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AAAS Resources for Students: Preparing for Careers in Innovation, Communication or Education

Students at the Emerging Researchers National Conference in STEM
The Emerging Researchers National Conference in STEM draws undergraduate and graduate student researchers from around the country. | Michael J. Colella for AAAS

In the second installment in a two-part series, learn how AAAS serves undergraduates, graduate students and new Ph.D. holders – and how you can take part in AAAS programs to enhance your education or kick-start a career that draws upon your scientific expertise.

FINDING A COMMUNITY AMONG EMERGING RESEARCHERS

For more than a decade, the Emerging Researchers National Conference in STEM has brought together undergraduate and graduate student researchers in STEM – especially those from underrepresented minority groups and those with disabilities – and given them opportunities to develop critical communication skills and prepare for science careers in a global workforce. The conference, co-hosted by AAAS and the National Science Foundation Division of Human Resource Development, started specifically for students who participate in programs funded by the NSF HRD Unit but has grown to include student researchers around the country.

The multi-day ERN conferences feature a wide range of programming, including poster and oral presentations delivered by students and workshops on preparing for graduate school and careers. Recent panels and plenaries have featured speakers such as documentary filmmaker Crystal Emery, professional football player-turned-mathematics Ph.D. candidate John Urschel and Captain Barrington Irving, the first Black pilot to fly solo around the world. One particularly popular panel that has returned year after year features ERN alumni who have gone on to accomplished careers in science, helped in part by the lessons they learned at ERN.

One popular panel from the 2020 conference on social justice sought “to show you all the options, all the opportunities, all the different career pathways that are available to you to leverage your STEM background to really address these global challenges that we need you to address,” said Iris R. Wagstaff, STEM program director at AAAS and ERN conference lead.

The conference also continues to evolve and innovate with new opportunities.

In 2018, the first HBCU Making & Innovation Showcase was held in conjunction with the ERN conference. The showcase is open to teams of college students and faculty members representing historically black colleges and universities. Each team creates an innovative solution to a problem in its community related to one of 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, such as quality education, clean water and sanitation, and affordable and clean energy. The winning team in 2020, made up of students from Clark Atlanta University and Morehouse College, tackled the goal of climate action by developing a network of communication devices intended for use in disasters and other emergency situations. 

The next HBCU Making & Innovation Showcase will take place on Sept. 23-25, 2021, in Washington, DC.

The ERN community has also stayed connected throughout the COVID-19 pandemic through a series of webinars. Tune into recent and upcoming installments, including an interview with COVID-19 vaccine researcher Kizzmekia Corbett and webinars on “Innovation and the Power of Transdisciplinary Collaboration” and “Cultivating an Invention, Innovation, and Entrepreneurial Mindset at HBCUs.”

BRINGING SCIENCE EXPERTISE TO JOURNALISM

Each summer, the AAAS Mass Media Science & Engineering Fellowship places science students and postdoctoral researchers in newsrooms around the country, where they spend 10 weeks reporting, writing and producing science news.

Science also hosts the Diverse Voices in Science Journalism Internship, which places undergraduate journalism students from underrepresented backgrounds on the news team at Science magazine for the summer.

The programs have many benefits: for the scientists who take part, for the outlets they join and for the readers, listeners and viewers of those outlets. The programs aim to train the next generation of science writers, strengthen the connections between scientists and journalists, sharpen scientists’ ability to communicate complex science in an understandable way and enhance the science-related news coverage to which the public has access.

In 2020, the largest-ever group of Mass Media Fellows worked remotely for 25 news organizations ranging from daily newspapers to science-focused websites to national radio stations to monthly magazines.

“This AAAS Mass Media Fellowship is the perfect opportunity for me to grow as a science communicator and to fulfill one of my goals, which is to make science accessible to Hispanic communities,” said Kevin Alicea-Torres, who wrote for the science section of Puerto Rican newspaper El Nuevo Día.

The 2021 fellows were announced in April, and applications for 2022 open in October 2021.

TAKING STEM DEGREES TO K-12 CLASSROOMS

Since 2009, AAAS has teamed with the National Science Foundation’s Division of Undergraduate Education to organize gatherings for members of the community taking part in the Robert Noyce Teacher Scholarship Program. The program encourages individuals studying STEM or working in STEM professions to take their talents to elementary, middle and high school classrooms to teach STEM courses.

The nationwide program provides scholarships and fellowships to STEM majors who go into teaching and to experienced “master” teachers. The program also funds researchers studying relevant issues like STEM teacher recruitment, effectiveness, and retention. It particularly focuses on high-need school districts: those districts where teacher turnover rates are high, few teachers hold STEM degrees and high percentages of students live below the poverty line.

Noyce Summit attendees have the opportunity to share their experiences in dozens of workshops on educational practices and learn from their peers by viewing more than a hundred poster presentations featuring Noyce grant-funded research. Each year the conference also convenes the “Voices from the Field” panel, which brings together Noyce alumni early in their teaching careers to discuss the challenges and successes of early-career STEM teachers.

The Noyce Summit was not held in person in 2020, but the community members stayed connected through a series of virtual events in pursuit of “our shared work of developing and supporting amazing STEM teachers who are armed with toolkits of justice and success for each and every student they have the privilege to teach,” as Kathleen Bergin, a Noyce program director at NSF, told attendees of the virtual Noyce PI Summer Block Party.

The in-person gathering resumes in 2021, with the summit being held in Washington, D.C., July 18-20, 2022.

Learn more about getting involved with the Noyce program as a principal investigator, scholar or teacher leader.

ARISE, which has grown out of the Noyce program, is another AAAS program to know for anyone interested in quality STEM education. Advancing Research and Innovation in the STEM Education of Preservice Teachers in High-Need School Districts focuses specifically on evidence-based improvements in education and leadership development programs that prepare science, technology, engineering and mathematics teachers for the classroom.

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Author

Andrea Korte

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