STEM careers offer opportunities beyond traditional fields

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Texas A&M recruiter recommends self-motivation and other tips for students.

By Matthew Reyna 

sac-ranger@alamo.edu

Students need to be scientifically literate to empower themselves, a Texas A&M University recruiter said Feb. 19.

Rodney Ray’s 30-minute presentation at the Mathematics, Engineering and Science Achievement Center included advice on the importance of STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) majors, approaching professors and picking the right transfer university.

The event, “Opportunities for Minorities in STEM,” was a part of this college’s Black History Month series.

Being scientifically literate helps students form knowledgeable opinions about current events, which empowers them to seek meaningful change in the world, Ray said.

Ray cited the mischaracterization of GMOs (genetically modified organisms) as an example of the need for better scientific literacy.

Widespread public ignorance on the use of GMOs has led to their vilification, Ray said. People do no realize GMOs can be used to efficiently feed the hungry in impoverished countries.

Ray encouraged students to explore the vast opportunities in scientific fields that are now available because of new technology, such as 3-D printing.

There are scientific jobs in places the average person would not think to look, he said.

Some of these jobs are in Hollywood. Movies such as “Interstellar” and “Jurassic World” are examples of fictional movies that need real-life scientists to serve as consultants and make the films more authentic, Ray said.

Ray said he believes the current college generation is more “scientifically literate” and has a greater interest in science than past generations.

He offered a quote from astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson’s Twitter account: “Students who earn straight A’s in school do so not because of good teachers but in spite of bad teachers.”

Students should value a challenging, well-rounded education over a perfect GPA, Ray said.

His presentation stressed the importance of picking the right university and being proactive at that school.

“Closed mouths don’t get fed,” Ray said.

For example, students should not be afraid to approach research professors if they are seeking opportunities in a desired field.

He described work-study positions as a good way for students to get a foot in the door.

Ray cited the wide variety of choices work-study offers, and the fact that professors do not have to pay work-study students out of their research grants because they are taken care of by the school.

Ray also said he believes Texas A&M offers the highest pay and best opportunity after college for STEM majors in Texas. He cited animal science as a field where a Texas A&M graduate would have an upper hand over graduates of different colleges.

After the presentation, he said the main message he hoped to convey was “the importance of STEM and being scientifically literate.”

Ray said the scientific innovation he is most excited for is 3-D printing because of “the implications it has to make changes beyond science and across disciplines.”

After his presentation, the 2015 San Antonio College Black History Committee awarded Ray with a plaque that honors positive role models in the community.

Dr. Kelly Nash of the UTSA physics department also was scheduled to speak but was unable to make it, event coordinator Dee Dixon announced before the presentation.

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