New book: How to keep STEM support from falling short

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In 2012, the White House put out a call to increase the number of STEM graduates by one million. Since then, hundreds of thousands of science students have started down the path toward a STEM career. Yet, nearly half of all undergraduate students studying in a these fields will abandon their major before graduation according to a study from the National Center for Education Statistics Institute of Education Sciences.

"The first impressions of many STEM majors are often introductory survey courses that only scratch the surface of a field," said Andrew Zureick, a former chemistry undergrad at Dartmouth University. "Faculty interaction is limited given large class sizes, students get lost in the shuffle, and many times students feel like the rest of a major in the sciences will be like this. When students leave their science major, it's often before pursuing upper level, topic-specific courses where you become better acquainted with cutting-edge research and new developments in a field."

Zureick and three fellow Dartmouth students, Justin Bauer, Yoo Jung Kim, and Daniel Lee, wanted to find a way to help more students make it to graduation. Together they created What Every Science Student Should Know (University of Chicago Press) with the hopes that aspiring scientists would realize they were not alone when it comes with the unique pressures and frustrations of their majors.

"Science is challenging, but it's also shrouded in lots of misconceptions that scare many students away. We want students to understand that with the right guidance and work, they can succeed in STEM," said Kim.

The authors used their own experiences as recent science graduates and also drew from their time as editors of the Dartmouth Undergraduate Journal of Science.

"By sophomore year, I had racked up several Bs and B minuses in my STEM courses," Kim said. "I wondered whether I was cut out to be a biology major. Thankfully, my faculty and student mentors at Dartmouth College helped me to change my attitude and study habits. Starting junior year, I aced my courses. After that, I asked my student mentors to join me in writing a book that would enable other students to succeed in their STEM majors."

The author team interviewed dozens of successful scientists as well as fellow students in order to gather the best advice for surviving the ups and downs of undergrad life. They wanted What Every Science Student Should Know to be a personal mentor for students.

Chapters cover the entire college experience, including choosing a major, mastering study skills, doing scientific research, connecting with mentors, finding a job, and, most important, how to keep their love of science.

"My hope is that reading this book will give students a solid understanding of what to expect and prepare for during their college careers," said Bauer. "I believe that this understanding will leave them much better able to deal with the challenges that they will face."

All four of the authors are still pursuing careers in the STEM fields. Bauer is studying for his MD at the University of California, San Diego. Kim is a first-year medical student at Stanford University. Zureick is currently a medical student at the University of Michigan while Lee is a medical student at Harvard Medical School.

What Every Science Student Should Know publishes on May 23, 2016 from The University of Chicago Press.

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Lauren Salas
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