The STEM Program: Really all that Fun?
Many of us have heard about the mysterious program running at our school known as STEM, but what is it exactly? The STEM program can be broken down into two phases: learning and doing.
According to Stuti Bansal, a participant of the STEM program, during the first phase, “we learn about the scientific research process, about statistics, and about lab etiquette.” The students also focus on increasing their scientific vocabulary. The class meets twice a week, usually during 7th . Normally students read scientific papers in order to prepare for a 45-minute-long presentation each member must deliver. The STEM instructor, Dr. C, warns that this a very difficult class and a “brutalizing experience for some people.” Her goal is to prep the students for phase two of the program and she will be blatantly honest about your work. She needs to be blunt because she has to figure out if you can make the cut.
The second phase is a four to six week internship over the summer at a lab in the Bay Area (the majority of the labs are part of the UC system). The students in the STEM program get to work on a wide variety of topics ranging from behavioral neuroscience to the evolution of chicken embryos. They work alongside other high school interns, research assistants, and graduate students. After the summer, the students make poster presentations to demonstrate to CPS the subjects they learned about in STEM. This year’s poster demonstration will be on Friday November 13.
Ethan (’17) next to his poster at the annual STEM symposium.
When asked if the past participants would recommend the STEM program to other students, the average response was yes. Stuti Bansal says, “STEM is the highlight of my week –it’s fun and light-hearted, but also serious and science-y, and really that’s all I could want in a class!” Miles Martinez also would recommend the program but cautions that “it’s not something that everyone is going to like – there’s a lot of failure involved in research, a lot of experiments end up not working, and some people aren’t okay with that.” Additionally, he jokingly adds that you have to be okay with becoming BFFs with your laptop. Overall, this a great program for people who have a genuine interest in becoming researchers when they grow up and want to get a taste of the experience and lifestyle.
The advice for students on the fence was unanimous: go to a meeting. Miles says that Dr. C is “very upfront about the expectations of STEM and the type of work you do.” Going to a meeting would be a great way to find out whether this is something you are serious about. Stuti also adds that the course is super fun and everyone is very supportive. However, Dr. C is looking for commitment. Once you are in the program you need to be able to make sacrifices such as leaving the majority of your summer open to work full time and being open to interning in fields you were not expecting to intern in. Additionally, one should know that the majority of students who apply do not get into the program.
In summary: STEM could be the course for you, if you are the right type of person, and you should go to a meeting to see if you fit the bill. Serious commitment is required but those who are able to manage it love the experience.