USA Science and Engineering Festival: The Blog

Preparing Our Students for Success

BakerA-4Guest Blog By Jerry Baker
Executive Director of Sigma Xi, The Scientific Research Society

Imagine a world where every child, who dreams of becoming a scientist or engineer, is provided with the opportunity to fulfill that dream. Think of the possibilities and the discoveries that can help humanity or global sustainability. Think of the new solutions that all those minds might discover.

I look forward to meeting some of those young people during the USA Science & Engineering Festival in Washington, D.C. on April 24-27, 2014. It is the largest celebration of science, engineering, technology, and math in the country. I am scheduled to emcee, on the Curie Stage, on Saturday, April 26th, during the festival’s free expo weekend.

I am also an emcee at X-STEM (April 24th), which is a symposium, during the festival, that is designed for elementary through high school students.

Certainly, energizing events, like the festival, can get young people excited about STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) fields. Once we get them excited, we have to take the next step and fully prepare them to be successful in these careers.

That is why Sigma Xi, The Scientific Research Society, is preparing to launch a new scientific journal titled, Chronicle of The New Researcher in May 2014. This new journal, just for pre-collegiate students, will provide young students with opportunities to publish research and have it reviewed by professional researchers.

Sigma Xi is a multidisciplinary, international honor society of science and engineering. Our members are inducted into the Society, mostly by nomination, to recognize their achievements. More than 200 Nobel Prize winners have been Sigma Xi members. Our membership is a vast network across the globe that will be tapped to mentor students who submit research to our new journal.

The Sigma Xi members who serve as mentors/reviewers, for Chronicle of The New Researcher, will provide feedback to students who submit their research results. This will help the students understand the process of publishing research, which they will be expected to complete if they become professional researchers.

At the same time, our mentor/reviewers are aware that they will be reviewing the work of young investigators who are novices in the research arena. The mentors know that their job is to provide feedback, in a constructive way, to encourage students.

Sigma Xi already provides opportunities, twice a year, for students to present their work to research professionals. The Student Research Showcase is completely held online. Students create a website about their research and our members volunteer as judges and provide feedback about the websites. The other event, the International Research Conference, is a chance for students to present posters about their research and interact, in person, with scientific professionals.

Sigma Xi members graciously volunteer their time at these two events and other STEM-related contests throughout the year to mentor students. We were recently involved with the Conrad Foundation’s, Spirit of Innovation Challenge, which was held at the Space Center Houston in Houston, Texas.

Additionally, the Society provides biannual funding to college students through our Grants-in-Aid of Research program. These grants can be used to pay for travel expenses to and from a research site or to purchase non-standard laboratory equipment necessary to complete a specific research project. These funds are often the first grants a young researcher receives.

It is the hope of Sigma Xi that by giving students encouragement and first-hand experience in research publication and presentation—and funding their projects—that they will be entering these fields with confidence. We want them to know what is expected of them and how to meet those expectations.

By preparing these students, we are asking them to “come up higher,” which is the Sigma Xi motto. Their achievements will help us all.

Jerry Baker is the executive director of Sigma Xi, The Scientific Research Society. The Society is an international honor society of science and engineering. Its chapters can be found at colleges and universities, government laboratories, and commercial industry research centers.

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