CU Denver Graduate School launches Mini-STEM School

Known as the STEM subjects, the words alone can be intimidating — science, technology, engineering and math. But these disciplines are the foundation for careers today and far into the future.

The challenge is to take the fear out of studying STEM and present the subjects in an engaging way. “The key is to revise some prejudice, such as ‘you have to be super smart to do well in science,’ or ‘math is hard and boring,’” explains University of Colorado Denver Graduate School Associate Dean Inge Wefes, PhD.

The solution this winter is the Mini-STEM School, a series of eight free evening lectures open to all generations, which Wefes describes as both “inspiring and exciting.” The diverse lecture topics range from Evolution and the Origin of Life to Computer Vision to Mathematics for Peacekeeping and Humanitarian Emergencies. “Our speakers will break away from conventional textbook knowledge,” Wefes says. “They are passionate about their work and they are eager to spark interest in others and make their passion contagious.”

One of the series’ speakers is Indrani Pal, PhD, assistant professor in the department of civil engineering. Her challenge will be presenting The Climate-Water Nexus to an audience of laypeople.

“Starting with water availability, distribution, and climate, I’ll explore the further association water has with energy, health and food security issues at this present time,” Pal says. “I like communicating science in non-technical language. When I was a graduate student at Cambridge University, I taught science and engineering in an outreach program to 7- to 12-year-olds. That was the ultimate fun. So, how could I pass up this opportunity?!”

To keep the interest level high, Pal’s presentation will include both movie clips and interactive discussions.

The innovative Mini-STEM school will be held on the Auraria campus starting Jan. 30 and continuing through March 20. The series is free, open to the public and includes free parking. Participants are required to register in advance, and anyone who attends at least six of the eight lectures will earn a Certificate of Participation. The two-hour sessions will begin at 7 p.m. and will include a question-and-answer session.

The CU Denver Graduate School is modeling this first-time Mini-STEM School after the University of Colorado School of Medicine’s highly successful Mini Med School, which is approaching its 25th anniversary. “We would like to emulate the success of Mini-Med School and turn this into an annual event,” says Wefes.

It’s the kind of event that has the potential to funnel more students into STEM disciplines, and ultimately, she says, into STEM careers. “The STEM employment sector foresees a workforce shortage in the near future. Students from STEM disciplines, especially those with advanced training, will have a much smaller chance of facing unemployment in tough economic times.”


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