May 22, 2009
Physicist urges students to consider careers in math, science
"Science Talks to You," a traveling science-and-math-as-a-career lecture series, made a stop at Northwest on Thursday, May 21. The event, which drew about 70 people to the Garret-Strong Science Building, was sponsored by the University of Missouri's Office of Science Outreach and hosted by Northwest's Missouri Academy of Science, Mathematics, and Computing.
Dr. Robert Duncan, professor of physics and vice chancellor for research at the University of Missouri-Columbia, was the featured speaker. Duncan has been traveling around the state meeting with teachers and administrators and speaking to groups of high-school students about pursuing careers in science, mathematics and technology.
"We're trying to connect more closely with fellow educators," Duncan said. "We really want to be more engaged in teaming and partnerships in science education all across the state. We certainly see a lot of advantages in being closer to our colleagues."
A large group of community members, faculty and Missouri Academy students attended the lecture, during which Duncan talked about the advantages of pursuing a science- or math-related career -- advantages that can include high salaries and professional acclaim. But the real pay-off, Duncan said, is the thrill that comes with discovery.
"Nature is one fascinating puzzle," Duncan said. "When you figure something out in an objective, scientific manner, the process is very exciting."
Duncan said there are expanding career opportunities in science and math, but that the number of qualified college graduates is not keeping pace with demand. Programs like the Missouri Academy -- a two-year program for gifted high-school-age students -- serve as an excellent gateway into both fields, he said.
"We urgently need more scientists and engineers," Duncan said. "Groups like this that get together with the same shared value of applying the scientific method to the things they don't understand are groups that go far."
The Missouri Academy is an accelerated, residential program for young people academically talented in science and mathematics during what would be their final two years of high school. It is located on the campus of Northwest Missouri State University in Maryville. Students who complete the program receive their high school diploma from the Academy and an associate of science degree from the University.
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