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Thursday, April 2, 2009

PITT-BRADFORD GEMS SQUAD WORKSHOP TO ENCOURAGE GIRLS IN ENGINEERING, MATH AND SCIENCE

Girls in Engineering, Math and Science
BRADFORD, Pa. – The University of Pittsburgh at Bradford will hold a workshop to encourage Girls in Engineering, Math and Science (GEMS) on Saturday, April 4, by giving them a chance to see microbes up close, treat athletic injuries and take part in other hands-on activities.

The full-day workshop will feature Pitt-Bradford faculty members presenting a variety of hands-on science and math activities and giving middle school girls a chance to explore the sciences both as areas of study and potential careers.

More than three dozen students from Floyd C. Fretz, St. Bernard, Ridgway, Smethport, St. Marys and Cameron County middle schools will take part.

The students will be able to choose from 12 workshops involving hands-on learning about physics, sport and exercise science, nursing and other health careers, math, crime scene investigation, chemistry, biology and athletic training.

Sessions include classes on perception and the senses, mutants, spectrophotometry and a chance to perform skills practiced by registered nurses.

Dr. Lauren Yaich, associate professor of biology and chairwoman of the division of biological and health sciences, is on-campus coordinator of the GEMS Squad workshop, which was suggested to her by two teachers at Floyd C. Fretz Middle School.

Science teacher Lisa Neely said that three years ago, she and a math teacher at Fretz took a group of 35 girls to the one-day Sally Ride Science and Math Festival in Virginia. While she was thrilled with the turnout, the trip itself was “horrific,” she said.

Neely and eighth-grade science teacher Cindy Murphy then found a closer program in Williamsport, and were soon filling half of the 50 spaces at the bi-annual SMARTGirls workshops.

“After our third trip, Cindy Murphy and I talked about trying to start something similar with Pitt-Bradford,” she said.

Murphy, who is now curriculum specialist for the Intermediate Unit 9, working with school districts in McKean, Elk, Potter and Cameron counties, said that the teachers considered trying to do something themselves at Fretz, but that “really, the goal is to show girls that more is available.”

When the teachers approached Yaich, “she was right on board with it,” Murphy said. “The professors at Pitt-Bradford were great.”

While girls have made strides in math and science in recent years, Murphy cited figures from the Congressional Commission on the Advancement of Women and Minorities in Science, Engineering and Technology Development that said by eighth grade, twice as many boys as girls show an interest in science, engineering and technology careers.

And college engineering, physics and computer science programs, remain predominantly male, according to The Washington Times.

Yaich hopes to influence girls while they’re still excited about science by showing them the academic and career possibilities that exist in the sciences.

“Middle school is the age where you either engage them or lose them,” she said. “I think women have a lot to add to science.”

For more information on GEMS, contact Yaich at (814)362-0260 or yaich@pitt.edu.

For disability-related needs, contact the Office of Disability Resources and Services at 814-362-7609 or arj4@pitt.edu.

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