PKAL Faculty for the 21st Century

Kathleen Madden

F21 Class of 2006 Statement

Kathleen Madden is Associate Professor of Mathematics at Drew University.

Question: What will undergraduate STEM be like in 2016, given the urgency of new challenges and opportunities facing our nation?

STEM fields are in an exciting period of new discovery thanks in large part to two factors, new technologies and increased interdisciplinary. While these factors are exciting for research, they present new challenges to science educators. We must work together across disciplines to help our students see the interconnections. This may mean offering new majors such as biochemistry. It may mean teaching more cross listed courses or guiding research projects conducted by a team of students with different majors. We must also ensure that students have experience using technology appropriately. They must understand its capabilities as well as its limitations.

Of utmost importance to continued STEM growth is that we extend our efforts to students other than our own majors. If we do not address the decline in STEM interest and skills in K-12 students, we will have fewer and fewer students capable of studying science and mathematics at the undergraduate level. We must also ensure that non-science majors have a good grounding in basic science and mathematics. Many of these students will go on to be the ones controlling the future of STEM in their roles as CEOs and government officials. All educated citizens must have a basic science and mathematics literacy so that they can participate in the discussions and decisions which will impact us all. Public discourse surrounding funding for stem cell research and the teaching of evolution in public schools are good examples illustrating the need for a scientifically educated public. In addition to basic science and quantitative skills, in an age where data is collected in great quantities, all educated Americans should have a basic understanding of inferential statistics.

Finally, in a world that is becoming increasingly interconnected, our students must be able to collaborate internationally. China and India are investing heavily in their science education and are poised to become leaders in technological innovation. In order to stay competitive, we will need to work with our colleagues abroad, embarking on joint scientific endeavors such as the international space station. Our STEM students should have an appreciation for and experience with other cultures in order for them to be good international citizens.