September 23, 2011
By: Yi-Ke Peng, Staff Writer
Source: Times Union
ALBANY -- Starting next summer, a class of middle- and high-school girls will enter a five-year program to learn about nanoscience careers, thanks to a new partnership between the University at Albany's College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering and Girls Inc.
The initiative will be Girls Inc.'s first Eureka! program in New York -- a national initiative established by the nonprofit female empowerment organization to introduce young women to opportunities in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).
The program is the first of its kind to introduce girls to nanotechnology, "the field that will define their educational paths and career opportunities in the 21st century innovation economy," said Alain Kaloyeros, senior vice president and CEO of the NanoCollege.
While women make up a little more than half of all undergraduates in America, they account for only about 20 percent of engineering undergraduates, according to 2003 data from the Society of Women in Engineering. The program seeks to spark interest in STEM-related careers in the critical period between 12 to 18 years old when girls are beginning to set educational and career goals.
"The girls we work with come from really tough economic circumstances," said Judy Vredenburg, national president and CEO of Girls Inc.
The girls will start with a four- to six-week "intensive interdisciplinary and hands-on experience" during the summer at the NanoTech Complex and continue with additional educational activities during the school year, with opportunities to participate in paid internships in STEM-related fields. The learning environment cultivated by the program "will give girls a true 'foot in the door,'" Kaloyeros said.
"I never expected that this sort of venture would start here at the college," New York State Assembly Majority Leader Ron Canestrari said. "To have a program that would bring young women into this area of endeavor, which is not only intellectually stimulating, but also where the jobs are in the future, is critically important. And of course, the contribution that they would make to our state, to our region, to our nation is not to be underestimated."
Canestrari said he will ask the Assembly for additional support for the initiative. Stephen Janack, spokesman for the NanoCollege, declined to reveal the amount secured by program. The NanoCollege and Girls Inc. are still working to figure out the cost and other details, he said.