Central Michigan University is helping to prepare students majoring in science, technology, engineering and math to meet the demand to fill more than 1.2 million STEM jobs. The U.S. Department of Commerce estimates that jobs in STEM areas will grow 17 percent by 2018, nearly double the growth for non-STEM fields, but most will remain vacant because there will not be enough qualified workers to fill them.
“CMU offers outstanding programs, hands-on research experience to undergraduates and is committed to providing the best education possible, as evidenced by the construction of a brand new, $95 million Biosciences Building scheduled to open for classes in January 2017,” CMU Provost Michael Gealt said.
Here are the stories of four STEM undergraduates and how CMU is preparing them well for a career in the STEM disciplines:
In the Sciences…
Named Young Botanist of the Year by the Botanical Society of America in 2013, CMU senior and biology major Hillary Karbowski from Three Rivers, Michigan, utilized the CMU Herbarium as part of her senior research project to document biodiversity and investigate potential effects of climate change, pollution and invasive species.
Working with associate professor of biology Anna Monfils, Karbowski helped upload more than 18,000 digital images, CMU’s complete herbarium collection, to an online database that will increase global communications about small collections.
“We currently work in a time when there is limited global access to herbarium data,” Karbowski said. “To have the opportunity to work on networking a natural science collection like that of the CMU Herbarium is great because we will be the first herbarium in Michigan to have our collection available online. I’m proud to be a part of it.”
Fine-tuning a robot’s motor for The Dow Chemical Co. is all in a day’s work for CMU senior and electrical engineering major Blake Dyewicz. The Hope, Michigan, native is a member of a CMU School of Engineering and Technology senior design team and also recently completed an internship at Dow, where he accepted a full-time job offer to work after graduation in May 2015.
“We are in the process of designing a robot that will fill four containers at a time, using part of the current manual equipment,” Dyewicz said. “It’s currently someone’s job at Dow to use a syringe and fill vials with precise, varying amounts of high-viscosity liquids. Dow asked us to design a system to automate the process.”
Led by the expert guidance of associate professor of engineering Shaopeng Cheng, Dyewicz is working on the robot’s motors and controllers while other teammates work on the robot’s design and make sure that the system developed can be manufactured.
‘Nanotechnology’ and ‘trapping photons’ are examples of conversation topics frequently overheard in CMU’s photonics lab in the Engineering and Technology Building. It’s also where CMU sophomore and engineering major Katherine Kolar from Brighton, Michigan, works with Adam Mock, assistant professor of engineering.
“I come from a family of engineers,” Kolar said. “Part of the reason why I came to CMU was because it’s common for undergraduates to get involved in advanced research here, so that was a huge draw for me.”
Kolar is developing nanotech, or extremely small, materials that absorb photons, discrete bundles of particles of electromagnetic energy. Her goal is to create materials that can scatter and trap photons to create an electrical current that are less expensive than current technologies. Such materials can make things like solar panels much more efficient and cheaper.
CMU senior Devan Walworth can’t wait to graduate and expand her numerical analysis on a corporate scale. The Holt, Michigan, native has a double major in actuarial science and statistics and already has employment secured as an actuary at Jackson National Life Insurance Co. when she graduates in May 2015. Working with statistics professor Felix Famoye on a project initiated by Rockford senior and actuarial science and statistics major Nicole Feinauer, Walworth helped conduct a review study of the actuarial science program at Central.
“We interviewed other schools about their programs, contacted companies in the Midwest about what they look for in job candidates, and surveyed our current students and alumni about their opinions of CMU’s program,” Walworth said.
Walworth and Feinauer analyzed the collected data and developed a new plan for CMU’s actuarial science major that will further strengthen program graduates and make them even more competitive. The plan will be presented to faculty in late November and will include creation of a new major map, seminar course, insurance studies and exam tracks, and removal of certain courses.