May 5, 2013

Women’s Outreach in Materials, Energy and Nanobiotechnology

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Early in the morning of Saturday, April 6, 10th grade girls from across Central New York drove up to two hours to Cornell’s campus to explore careers in chemical and biomolecular engineering. This was the fourth year of the Women’s Outreach in Materials, Energy, and Nanobiotechnology event, organized by the Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering Graduate Women’s Group.

The program was founded with the goal of “identifying bright girls from rural school districts that are mathematically and scientifically inclined” and showing them some of the many areas of research within the field of chemical engineering, said Jennifer Schaefer, a fifth-year grad student in Chemical and Biomolecular engineering who has been helping with the program since its first year.

Over its four years, the program has grown from around 25 to 55 girls, all from rural school districts within a two-hour driving radius of campus and expanded from a four-hour to a six-hour day. The girls spent most of their day touring four different research labs on campus and doing hands-on activities like making nylon or visco-elastic goo. Their parents got a chance to attend information sessions on college engineering programs within New York State and the financial aid process.

At the end of the day the girls attended an undergraduate panel where they could ask Cornell undergraduate engineering students about college life, engineering classes and their experiences as women within engineering. They got a bag full of scientific goodies and an SAT prep book and started the drive back home, hopefully with a stimulated interest in pursuing a career in science or engineering.

Original Author: Kathleen Bitter