Involving Professional Scientists

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Solar scientist Dr. Kristine Sigsbee joins a Five Stars event activity virtually on the computer via Skype.

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Professional scientists represent the fifth star or “generation” of the Five Stars model. We defined “professional scientist” broadly to include professionals working in a variety of settings such as a research laboratories, universities, private practice, government and community organizations. In addition, we considered post-doctoral students to be representative of this star. (Note: While the suggestions below reference professional scientists, the same strategies can be used to involve professional women in STEM careers such as engineers.)

Because professional scientists are often very busy, we recommend including them through low-commitment yet high-impact opportunities for involvement. Here are some specific ideas for afterschool program professionals who would like to involve professional scientists in their programming:

  • Ask the college students you are working with to help facilitate a connection with a local scientist. This may include one of their professors or a researcher in a university-affiliated laboratory.
  • You can also look for local women in STEM networking groups for recommendations of professionals who may be interested in participating in your program.
  • Invite a scientist to chat with the girls in the afterschool program via a free videoconferencing program such as Skype and Zoom. Connect the computer to an LCD projector to project the scientist’s video on a screen or wall so that a group of girls can easily see the scientist. Set up the computer webcam so that it sees as many girls as possible, or ask individual girls to come up to the camera to ask questions and interact with the scientist. We recommend doing a one-on-one test run with the scientist ahead of time to make sure any issues with technology are addressed before using it with the students. You may also want to have the girls prepare questions for the scientist ahead of time.
  • Arrange for the girls to take a field trip to the scientist’s laboratory, classroom or office. The idea is for the girls to see the scientist in her professional setting. Ideally, the girls could engage in an activity while at the lab or office that is representative of the type of work that the scientist does.
  • Make use of existing resources that highlight women in STEM, such as UC Berkeley’s Solar Week, Women@NASA videos and Expanding Your Horizons events.
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