Nicholls State University professors are working to make science more inclusive

– Most recently in a two-day series. You can find the first part here.

At Nicholls State University in Thibodaux, women work to break down roadblocks they faced in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math.

Studies show that these so-called MINT fields are traditionally dominated by men. Women are slowly closing that gender gap, but while they make up just over half the US population and 57% of college graduates, they represent only 39% of STEM undergraduate students and lower percentages in certain areas like physics, engineering and Computer science ..

Here are some of the women at Nicholls who are making a difference through their STEM teaching and research.

En Mao: Telling the story with statistics

Computer science professor En Mao is all about the data. Mao said there are almost twice as many female Nicholls graduates as there are men, but that is not reflected in her department.

“In 2020, there will only be five women and 16 men in the CIS program at Nicholls,” she said.

Mao said she thought it wasn’t a coincidence.

“I think there is a terrible tendency that children are exposed to when they are young. Girls get dolls while boys get high-tech toys, ”Mao said. “It’s also a male-dominated workplace and recruiters don’t have the sensitivity or awareness to reach women for these jobs.”

By building diversity in this area, so many more people can feel involved and connected through data, Mao said. She currently has a team competition in one of her classes where people from different backgrounds do well based on the perspectives they bring.

“Ideas are much better when they come from a diverse team,” said Mao.

Mao said data is empowering because it reveals so much about how we function as a society, what consumers want and care, and are able to tell a story backed by numbers from journalism to advice.

“We tell the story through statistics,” Mao said.

Esra Tekdal Yilmaz (center) will receive the Morris & Sandra Hebert Endowed Professorship for Geomatics / Surveying during the call in spring 2020.  She is pictured with Provost Sue Westbrook (left) and President Jay Clune.

Esra Tekdal Yilmaz: Help women gain new perspectives

Esra Tekdal Yilmaz is Head of the Applied Sciences Department and Assistant Professor of Geomatics.

Geomatics includes the acquisition and management of geographic data.

Yilmaz’s research ranges from tracking lizards in Pennsylvania to visualizing floods and tidal waves on the Gulf Coast to trying to incorporate new teaching materials that suit their students’ learning styles. She said the future of the field will include technologies like drones and other unmanned aerial vehicles and geographic information systems to understand the real world in new and creative ways.

“Geomatics lets you work in the office or in the field,” said Yilmaz. “You can integrate the job with other skills because everything we do is location related.”

Yilmaz said a woman in geomatics could bring new ideas and fresh eyes to the discipline. She said, “It will open a lot of doors and you can choose to do a lot of cool things.”

“We are the beauty in the STEM space,” she said. “We bring a completely different perspective. The combination of men’s and women’s perspectives makes this perspective wonderful. That’s why I keep saying that we need more female students in our department. There is a misconception that the STEM field is for men, but you can bring yourself to the table. “

Barbara Blake, Head of Allied Health Sciences at Nicholls.

Barbara Blake: Keeping people healthy

Barbara Blake is Head of Allied Health Sciences Division and Health Sciences Instructor. Her department covers everything from pre-athletic training to communication disorders.

“It’s a very broad field that encompasses everything from medical care, dietetics, occupational therapy and so much more. There are many different areas that our students can go into,” said Blake. A more even gender balance and society loses the stigma of that certain genders have to go into certain areas. “

Blake’s own background is in speech pathology. She said she enjoyed the variety of different areas students can choose from, from pediatrics to geriatrics.

“I have worked in direct patient care, in public schools, in rehab units and in hospitals. I love diversity and now I’m in administration and teaching. You can get experience in so many different areas, ”said Blake. “I love it.”

Blake wants the public to understand the scope and value of health science.

“A lot of people think of health sciences and just a physiotherapist or occupational therapist. It’s good to think of it as human in terms of health, ”Blake said. “When you think of STEM, health sciences don’t come to your mind. It’s important that people realize that it’s part of STEM.”

Aimee Hollander is leading an experiment for a beginner biology laboratory in Nicholls in 2018.

Aimee Hollander: Teach those who are going to teach

Aimee Hollander is an assistant professor and program director for secondary science. While she works in the education building, her background is in microbiology.

Hollander said her inspiration for getting started in science began when she first looked through the microscope in fifth grade.

“I was overwhelmed by how a whole world was before me that I couldn’t see without this instrument,” said Hollander.

Now Hollander is teaching education students how to teach science through courses and professional development workshops for other faculty members.

“My favorite part is working with other educators,” said Hollander. “We are extremely lucky in this region. I learn as much from them as I do from me. “

Hollander makes sure her students understand that science teaching is a big part of the state K-12 curriculum. She also invests to make the topic more interesting and interactive for her and her future students.

“You will learn how to teach life sciences, science, chemistry, earth sciences, hands-on exploration and more,” said Hollander. “In one class, they were dissecting owl pellets to teach how to write a specific lesson plan. So that they can gain practical experience in their undergrad; You will be so confident in bringing this hands-on experience into the classroom. “

Hollander said she recognizes the systemic barriers that exist for women in STEM, such as employers who offer less structural support to women hoping to raise a family but may not hold it against a male candidate.

But Hollander also sees how women can view STEM as a viable option from an earlier age.

“With social media today there are so many more opportunities for women and underrepresented people to see themselves in STEM,” said Hollander. “In the K-12 curriculum, teachers highlighted female and male scientists and showed how the scientist defines the various concepts.”

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