STEM Education

'I am a Scientist' Helps Students Envision Future Careers

Two women, one a physicist and the other a designer, have launched a nonprofit initiative to help every student in middle school or high school envision the possibility of becoming a scientist. The "I Am A Scientist" project provides free "toolkits" to help teachers, families and young people themselves break down stereotypes about scientists while also introducing the students to various STEM fields.

The toolkits include digital versions of posters with images of scientists and facts about their work and interests; printable versions of scientist stories; slide presentations showing the individual scientists' research, personality, career path and advice; and dedicated pages with lesson plans and other resources to provide more support to students with interest in the given field. The organization is also preselling 18-inch by 24-inch print versions of the posters, including a buy-one/donate-one offer, which will be available when physical classrooms open again.

The collection profiles people working as an epidemiologist, archaeologist, ornithologist, cellular biologist, biostatistician, biophysicist, psychologist and in 15 other science jobs.

The organization has compiled a resource library with links to other sites that extend the message that anybody from any background can be a scientist.

"In our own ways, neither of us had ever fit the outdated, but prevalent stereotype about how a scientist looks, acts or thinks. I am a young woman of color who loves painting, K-pop, and yoga, and I'm also a dedicated physicist and passionate inventor. I want to be all of those things because it makes me stronger as a scientist and leader," noted Nabiha Saklayen, co-founder of I am a Scientist and of biotech company Cellino, in a statement.

"I'm a designer with a love of dance and a half sleeve of tattoos. I also spent the better part of a decade studying the human mind and brain," added Stephanie Fine Sasse, fellow co-founder and founder of Plenary Co., a nonprofit supporting the project. "We shared experiences of feeling out-of-place, dismissed, underestimated, and underrepresented in our fields. We acknowledged the severe lack of multidimensional scientists in pop culture and textbooks. And I remembered what it was like to be a kid who loved space, dinosaurs, and rocks, but never considered the realities of a career in science. Nabiha and I decided to do something about it."

The resources are openly available on the I am a Scientist website.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a former senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning.