29 March 2015
About a week ago I had the honor and privilege to attend Muirlands Middle School’s STEAM career day as an invited speaker. The last time I set foot on the Muirlands campus I was a student. As I walked by the front gate I had the distinct recollection of the sound of the principal’s voice telling me and my friends to get off our skateboards! (the kids thought that was pretty funny)
Muirlands has a big emphasis on STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math) and organized a career day lineup of about 35 speakers to attend and meet with students. The lineup of speakers was nothing short of impressive; they ranged from professors of medicine to large tech company CEO’s to accomplished artists and oceanographic explorers. It was both quite surreal and fun to be in the company of so many interesting people. After a short meet and greet with other speakers I was whisked away to the first of three classes by one of the student ambassadors.
For each class I had about 15 minutes to give a talk about my career and how I get there, followed by 10 minutes of what must be some of the most entertaining questions I’ve heard in a long time. I was asked questions like: “What would happen in the lab if someone mistook a tube of blood for fruit punch? Would you get cancer?” “Why do cancers come back and why can’t you give the same medicine again?” “What if the computers get so smart that you won’t have a job anymore?” (the last was in response to an overview on machine learning)
It never ceases to amaze me how amazingly curious and creative these young minds are. I am in awe at their collective potential and I am so thrilled to have been able to attend STEAM day at Muirlands.
Key messages from my talk:
1) There are a lot of different careers in science, it’s not just “scientists.”
2) Lots of different people practice the tools and methods of science.
3) Science and art have much in common; practicing science (as opposed to science taught from a book) is a very creative endeavor and shares a very similar tune to the artistic process.
4) Science and technology can make the world better. Going to work every day with that impetus is inspiring and fulfilling and I am very happy with my career trajectory.
I would like to give a huge thank-you to Lisa Bonebrake and all the volunteers for organizing such a wonderful event. The La Jolla Light had a great writeup on the event as well: http://www.lajollalight.com/news/2015/mar/18/steam-jobs-introduced-to-muirlands-students-2015/
Photo: I got a large envelope in the mail with a thank-you note from every student in the three classes I met. Aside from completely melting my heart, it never ceases to amaze me how much curiosity, optimism, and potential middle schoolers have.