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The Foundation is in the STEM

This post is part of the Science Tuesday feature series on the USDA blog. Check back each week as we showcase stories and news from USDA’s rich science and research portfolio.

When I look at tree leaves, the stems always strike me as remarkable.  Although typically slender, they’re pretty resilient, firmly anchoring the leaves to the branches to withstand the extreme whims of Mother Nature.

In the same way that stems provide a sturdy foundation so that the leaves can make food for the tree, science, technology, engineering, and math (frequently referred to as STEM) education provides a strong base for a wide range of activities.

The recent report on agricultural preparedness by the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology detailed a critical need for graduates in STEM fields.  For many people, myself included, interest in STEM starts as an innate curiosity, refined over time with more specific guidance and instruction.

In high school, I dabbled with courses in agricultural science and horticulture, biology and chemistry, physics and calculus.  When my senior independent study aquaculture project went horribly wrong and all of my trout ended up in Davy Jones’ locker, I learned firsthand that sometimes research doesn’t turn out the way you plan it—but that’s OK.  Success or failure, every experiment is a learning opportunity.  And by the time I graduated, I was hooked on science and eager to continue my STEM education in college.

I finished college with degrees in agricultural education, animal science, and environmental science.   My coursework ran the gamut from statistics and research methods to biochemistry, nutrition, and physiology.  The diverse background prepared me well for a job at USDA.  From food security to bioenergy, STEM-related issues are at the crux of the Research, Education, and Economics mission area.  On a daily basis, I draw upon the knowledge and skills gained from my STEM courses.

Even as a parent, my STEM background makes it easier to field my sons’ countless questions.  I can explain why grass is green, how plants use water, what happens when a seed pops through the soil. I’m thrilled to be able to cultivate and nourish my boys’ curiosity and hope that it leads to their pursuit of STEM degrees.

Editors Note: Do you have questions about why you should study STEM subjects?  Ever wondered about the career possibilities of agriculture science degrees?

Join us for an important Twitter chat and tweet in your questions and comments throughout the event.  Please use the #studyagscience hashtag in all of your tweets. You can tweet questions, comments, or just follow along. See you Friday at 2 pm ET!

2 Responses to “The Foundation is in the STEM”

  1. GeoSinam says:

    Good post. One small item – STEM is typically defined as an acronym for the fields of study in the categories of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics. E for engineering, not education. While certainly the quality of education in these mastering these disciplines, addressing education policy & curriculum choices are extremely important, education as subject “in itself” is not considered a STEM field of study.

  2. Ben [USDA Moderator] says:

    GeoSinam: thanks for letting us know. The entry’s been updated. Thanks again!

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