The United States rose to superpower status through a necessary, aggressive push towards innovation and scientific discovery in the last century. Many of the technologies developed in the last one hundred years were products of research funding by the U.S. government. In the old days, the gap between discovery/invention (public sector) and product development (private sector) was more easily traversed and companies were more than willing to take that leap. What scientists and engineers viewed was almost certainly drastically different from what consumers viewed, but either way, it was progress.
The world is a much different place now. Research funding (minus stimulus funding) has remained stagnant and the outlook is bleak.
One of the overlooked aspects of this funding is the community outreach and broader impacts that result from grants. This includes money for paying undergraduates and graduate students for research conducted in the grantee’s lab. From personal experience, most of the undergraduates that came through our lab when I was a graduate student were STEM majors. However, this is misleading because the goal after receiving their B.S. was to attend a professional school including medical, dental, and pharmacy schools. To date, only one out of twenty or so undergraduates from our lab later attended a STEM graduate program.
Why aren’t more students interested in STEM?
“A society’s competitive advantage will come not from how well its schools teach the multiplication and periodic table, but from how well they stimulate imagination and creativity”
–Albert Einstein, 1953
- Bill Nye capturing the essence of how I think about science (sciencebasedlife.wordpress.com)