The Future is STEM


Photo credit: Billion Oyster Project/CCERS

Having been a student, professor, college administrator,
parent and now director of a federal agency, the onset of the school season has
always played an important role in my life. Every year I am excited by our
country’s growing emphasis on engaging increasingly diverse students in STEM
fields early in their K-12 education. In the past weeks, NSF announced the 2017
, which will expand on the inaugural 2016 NSF INCLUDES awards’
success in broadening participation in science, technology, engineering and
mathematics (STEM). These awards are broadening STEM participation on a
national scale and uniting a wide variety of collaborators to nurture young
scientists and engineers.


Photo credit: ESA

Whether you are in Kindergarten or college, starting strong
is vital to any successful school career. It’s never too late to learn about
NSF-funded STEM education programs.

For example, NSF’s CyberCorps:
Scholarship for Service
program provides scholarships to students pursuing cybersecurity-related
studies. In return, recipients work after graduation in government positions
related to cybersecurity for a set period of time. If you’re a community
college student with a STEM-based solution to a real-world problem, you may be
interested in NSF’s Community
College Innovation Challenge
. And one of NSF’s best-known programs for
broadening participation is the Louis Stokes
Alliances for Minority Participation
. This program works to boost the
numbers of students successfully completing high-quality degree programs in
STEM fields. Broadening participation in STEM education through programs like
these invites new ideas and perspectives that will help us meet pressing global

These are just a few of the many programs NSF supports. I
encourage you to explore all the graduate
and undergraduate
opportunities available to you. If a program doesn’t fit your major or field of
study but still excites you, I hope you explore your passion. You may learn you
have a talent or interest you weren’t aware of, and individuals with STEM
skills do not necessarily follow a linear path. Having gone from receiving a
bachelor’s degree in English to a doctorate in Physics, I’m living proof that
there is no set pathway to a STEM career or entry point for STEM education.
STEM skills enable pathways to many careers, STEM and non-STEM alike.

I hope you have a great year!