Washington, DC—This past July, scientists from Carnegie Science’s Department of Global Ecology took part in one of the institution’s outreach programs: Summer STARS. The scientists virtually spoke with high school and undergraduate students from Washington, D.C., who are interested in developing coding skills for their future careers in STEM. The scientists discussed various topics with the Summer STARS students, including how they implement coding into their research, as well as the challenges they had to overcome in order to succeed in their respective careers. These conversations support the institution’s deep commitment to educational outreach and increased diversity in STEM fields.
The outreach program, which is a six-week summer research experience, is offered through Carnegie’s education arm, Carnegie Academy for Science Education. CASE, which started over 30 years ago, illustrates the ongoing dedication to meaningful science experiences for students and teachers in the nation’s capital. During Summer STARS, CASE’s summer science program, students receive training in research and laboratory techniques, interact with Carnegie scientists, explore careers utilizing science, and develop skills to prepare for college and the workplace. The students also receive a stipend for their participation in the program, through the District of Columbia Marion Barry Summer Youth Employment Program (SYEP). This summer, Summer STARS was held virtually, as the students learned how to code using the coding language Python, and then applied this new knowledge to design and program their own games and applications.
Marlena Jones, Acting Director of CASE, collaborated with the Department of Global Ecology, to facilitate the department’s initial involvement with the program. Stephanie Williams, the lead Physical Science Instructor with CASE, scheduled the scientists and moderated their conversations with students.
The DGE postdoctoral research scientists who spoke with the students represented multiple disciplines and avenues of research. Their participation helped students to understand the various pathways to becoming a scientist, and also understand how important coding skills are in conducting and presenting scientific research. For example, marine scientist Manoela Romano de Orte shared her studies on the fate and the effects of pollutants in the coastal environment. Her research considers traditional pollutants, such as heavy metals, alongside emerging contaminant threats, such as plastics. Atmospheric scientist Wu Sun discussed how his research aims to understand the regional-scale variability of ecosystem carbon fluxes. Lastly, Enrico Antonini talked with the students about his research on understanding the physics of wind power extraction for regional-scale wind farms.
Both Jones and Williams agree with the students’ assessment that the DGE scientists’ participation was a welcome addition to the program. The DGE looks forward to a continuing collaboration with CASE on Summer STARS, and other programs.