Adam Maltese, an associate professor of science education, works with students at the Make, Innovate, Learn Lab Makerspace. Maltese is studying how women and young girls first get interested in STEM careers.

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A $1.2 million IU project is looking into why women make up such a relatively small percentage of STEM jobs and what has encouraged women into those fields. 

In 2017, while women made up more than 50 percent of U.S. college-educated workers, only 24 percent of U.S. women were involved in science, technology, engineering and mathematics careers, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce

The study conducted through the IU School of Education, explores how children become interested in STEM careers and topics and maintain interest into college, according to an IU news release. 

The project, Role Models in Engineering Education, is led by Adam Maltese, an IU professor of science education.

Maltese previously published research in a journal for the American Educational Research Association which indicated women were more likely to highlight a teacher or mentor for encouraging them to pursue STEM careers. 

Men, on the other hand, were more likely to say they were interested through interior motivation. 

The original study, published in the AERA journal which Maltese co-authored with Christina Cooper, an assistant professor of biology at Corban University, was based on a survey of almost 8,000 people. The study included students, faculty, professionals and staff from various places and STEM fields.

Maltese explained in the release the project aims to explore those differences more fully. 

“I think the important thing is to get away from the notion that one strategy will work to get all students interested in STEM,” Maltese said in the release. “If we recognize that differences exist in how people get interested, and embrace that diversity when we work to increase interest, I think we’ll see better outcomes.”

The three-year program is funded though the National Science Foundation and in partnership with the Tufts Center for Engineering Education and Outreach at Tufts University in Massachusetts, according to the release. 

The program is aimed at crafting a clearer understanding of how undergraduates can act to encourage interest in STEM fields for women.

College engineering students are organizing an outreach program for elementary students through Tufts University which researchers will use to identify how young women select role models and develop interest in STEM careers, according to the release.

Dominick Jean

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