Research Summaries

Back "Junior Researcher" STEM Program

Fiscal Year 2018
Division Graduate School of Engineering & Applied Science
Department Oceanography
Investigator(s) Orescanin, Mara S.M.
Sponsor Office of Naval Research (Navy)
Summary The Department of the Navy (DoN) relies on US scientists and engineers to develop, deploy and maintain its world-leading technologies, networks and other resources. This (S&E) workforce is expected to undergo significant turn-over in the next 5 – 10 years, as experienced workers retire, and the gaps resulting from hire freezes in the 1990s become more pronounced (Coffey, 2008).
To address this challenge, the DoN is investing in the growth of the US STEM talent pool, and encouraging interest in Naval S&E careers. Initiatives targeting our K-12 students are critical to the success of these efforts, as it is by now well-established that key steps are made towards – or away from – an S&E career as a direct result of learning experiences and career exposure at middle and high school (NSF Report, 2017).
At this age, students want to know that they can make a difference through the studies and careers they pursue, and this requires career-inspired learning experiences and role models / mentors. In STEM, however, they most often find themselves learning from teachers who have little experience of STEM in the real world, and engage in cookie-cutter learning activities that fit with the curriculum, but are not connected to authentic STEM practice or practitioners, and have no consequences outside of the classroom. These experiences cause many students, especially girls and minorities, to look for engagement and empowerment elsewhere, and so leave the STEM fields.
More generally, there remains a chasm between the “reality” of STEM and how it is used by creative professionals to develop innovative solutions to meaningful challenges, and how these topics are presented and taught to our students in our schools.
To address this important gap in STEM education, we propose to run the “Junior Researcher” program. In this program, students participate in a “Research Challenge” where they contribute essential data and insights to a research program addressing meaningful and relevant STEM challenges, directed by leading scientist at WHOI or the Naval Postgraduate School. Through “Junior Researcher”, students see how their STEM learning translates in the real world; they experience authentic research and connect with their peers, they build relationships with STEM mentors, and they gain a sense of the impact they can have in STEM at an age when key academic and career decisions begin to be made. STEM teachers involved in the program build skills, and acquire tools and networks, to enhance their teaching and career-preparation for their students through impactful, authentic research experiences that fit within curricular boundaries.
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Publications Publications, theses (not shown) and data repositories will be added to the portal record when information is available in FAIRS and brought back to the portal
Data Publications, theses (not shown) and data repositories will be added to the portal record when information is available in FAIRS and brought back to the portal