Tag Archives | science

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Civil engineering is a competitive field. If you want to stand out from other applicants, you might think about obtaining a minor or double major in addition to your regular civil engineering degree. Here are just four other areas of study that will complement your current curriculum.

Civil engineers rarely work alone. They coordinate with builders, architects, surveyors, accountants, insurers, risk assessment managers and many other professionals to ensure the safe and speedy completion of their projects. A business background will help you understand all of these areas instead of just one, and you’ll be better equipped to make the “big picture” decisions of your engineering endeavors. Consider a degree in business to make yourself a jack of all trades.

Environmental Engineering
You’ll deal with a lot of environmental issues as you build bridges and dams. From soil tests to geological impact surveys, you’ll need to speak the language and understand the risks before you move forward with your civil projects. A minor in environmental engineering can help you with this. Not only will it broaden your knowledge of engineering in general, but it will also give you a strong foundation in subjects that are bound to come up in your everyday career.

Civil Engineering
An advanced degree in civil engineering will look better to hiring managers than a simple bachelor’s degree. The good news is that you can obtain an online civil engineering master’s degree with nothing but a web connection and a willingness to work hard, so even if you don’t have access to a brick-and-mortar school, you can still further your education and career prospects. Some programs will even accelerate your degree schedule so that you can join the workforce sooner.

Computer Science
As the world becomes increasingly digital, it pays to understand things like programming languages and database management. You might be asked to use a variety of software as you create, plan, alter, design and implement civil structures, and if you have a technical background in computers, you’ll find them a lot easier to utilize than the next person. A degree in computer science will also look attractive to hiring managers when paired with your already-intensive civil engineering studies.

These are just four potential degrees for civil engineers. There are many more, of course, but these ideas should be enough to get you started. Use them to obtain a well-rounded education that will open doors for you in the future.

This article was contributed by guest author Rachelle Wilber.

Image by U.S. Army RDECOM, Flickr

Image by U.S. Army RDECOM, Flickr

Science needs funding to advance beyond the hypothetical stages, and STEM education is the same. Applying for grants can give your school access to materials and equipment that would be unavailable due to district budgeting, and provide your classrooms with a more productive environment for learning. Science grants are important for inspiring and getting kids involved. Here are some of the best options your school should apply for.

GE Foundation: Grants for Science Education
The GE Foundation has granted awards to global educational institutions since the 1980s. Though rather choosy about worthy grantees, GE often provides money to schools and nonprofit organizations for the betterment of science. Grants typically come from the Developing Futures in Education program, focusing on school districts with GE-related business. The amount of money is substantial: $15-35 million, so entire districts can improve curriculum and professional development.

National Institute of Health
AP STEM students are a perfect match for this one. More mature students with inquiring minds can pitch a research proposal that focuses on the medical or health sciences to NIH, which has grant and funding opportunities available. The proposal can be for anything that would advance worldwide health. For example, Hudson Robotics partnered with John Hopkins University in 2014 to bring advanced robotics (the Zebrafish HTS system) into the laboratory. The NIH gifted a sizable grant to furnish the study and improved production with laboratory automation.

Captain Planet Foundation
This grant focuses on environmental sciences and education. The project your school proposes should deal with social interaction and the development of problem solving skills in conjunction with saving the Earth. Grants range from $500 to $2,500, so if the school is looking to build a self-sustainable garden, the Captain Planet Foundation might be able to help.

The GLOBE Program
Global Learning and Observations to Benefit the Environment was formed through a partnership of national governmental agencies. The program has many advantages. First, the GLOBE Program seeks to bring education to students and teachers by giving schools equipment to do soil samples, atmospheric readings, and phenology. Teachers get free training at GLOBE workshops, videos, and continuous access to online materials. Though it’s not exactly money, not having to purchase STEM equipment means huge savings.

Toshiba American Foundation
Is your school lacking in the innovation department? A TAF grant can be applied for online and helps US-based schools K-12. K-5 grade teachers can receive up to $1,000 from Toshiba to bring hands-on projects into the classroom that will teach students more about math and science. There is also the 6-12 grant that gives up to $5,000. You may request equipment, like computers and microscopes, or go further and ask for custom projects.

Grants can change the entire classroom. No matter the size of the grant, every school can broaden the future for both students and teachers by acquiring money and supplies that are essential for personal and community growth.

This article was contributed by guest author Brooke Chaplan.

Science Image by Sean Loosier, Flickr

Image by Sean Loosier, Flickr

The scientist and the writer could not be more different. The former is concise and rational, while the latter often verbose and artistic. Therefore, it should not be surprising that many science students, especially at the university level, shy away from any kind of intensive writing. Others still take every measure to avoid it entirely, painstakingly building their course schedules around classes that assess performance solely based on multiple choice examinations. Though this might be an alarming fact (considering that most of these young people are studying to become our future doctors and scientific leaders) it is not really that surprising.

Speaking from experience, to excel at any scientific discipline (at least in the classroom) you learn early on that memorization and mathematics are more important than coherent prose. You get marks for what you know, not how well you communicate it. One word answers are best, bullet points are rewarded and sentences unnecessary. Beware of being stylistic or using advanced syntax; these practices are likely to lower your mark regardless of whether or not they enhance your work.

You could argue that this lack of emphasis on writing is an inherent quality of the scientific study – and you would not be wrong. The humanities and social sciences by the very nature of their subject matter not only lend themselves more easily to written evaluations, but quite often they require it. Therefore, the ability to write, and write well, is unintentionally cultivated in students of these disciplines because it is often the key to getting higher grades. Complex arguments and new insights are almost impossible to assess using multiple choice questions, whereas you don’t need an essay to confirm that a biology major knows what the genetic material is (Answer: DNA).

Though a good explanation for this anti-writing trend in science, it by no means justifies it. Writing is an essential part of our existence, especially in the modern global society. Face to face communication will only get you so far, but to really have an impact you need to be able to clearly transfer your ideas to paper. What good is all of this knowledge if you can’t communicate it in a way that will get people to sit up and take notice? Many researchers are doing brilliant work and publish incredible findings on a regular basis, but their prose is so convoluted, confusing or technical that their genius gets lost in translation.

As a result, the term “scientist” has almost become synonymous with “poor writer”. While this is by no means true of everyone pursuing this profession, it is quickly becoming a stereotype. Though not fundamentally negative, this label is not one that should be allowed to persist and I commend the various educators that are personally making an effort to remedy the situation. However, a lot of the interventions come too late. By the upper years, students have become used to a certain style of assessment and they are reluctant to change. Academic writing needs to be a priority from the start in order to allow science majors a chance to improve and gain confidence in their ability. The importance of good writing should never be an afterthought.

Image by Saint Louis University Madrid Campus, Flickr

Image by Saint Louis University Madrid Campus, Flickr

Many universities have breadth requirements stipulating students must take classes outside of their specialized programs. A science student must take at least one arts, humanities, or social science course, and vice versa. This article is a life raft for those fish-out-of-water science students who have trouble writing essays or understanding Shakespeare – to help their transition from successfully studying cell structure to symbols.

Keep a flexible perspective

Do not approach your first humanities class like you have all previous science classes. Allow the class itself to adjust your perspective by what you read and learn. Science classes have a very distinct method of teaching and testing – almost always structured with multiple choice questions and lab sections. Be prepared to study differently than you have for previous exams. While the same level of rigour is used in arts classes, the approach can be different. At the rudimentary level, the humanities hold more grey areas. The answer to an essay question can go beyond “yes” or “no.” The rules of grammar don’t change, but Shakespeare’s sonnets can be interpreted in a variety of ways. This difference is reflected in the disparate testing methods for arts vs. sciences: argumentative essays vs. multiple choice, respectively.

Contextualize using a general authority in the field.

Apart from your assigned readings, find out if there is an established authority in the field you are studying, and read their major works (your readings may already contain these sources). American studies, anthropology, Celtic studies, classics, history, philosophy, public policy, religion, women and gender studies – all of these fields contain a handful of works considered essential to understanding the basic principles of that field. For example, most political science students have read Karl Marx’s Communist Manifesto. By reading a couple chapters or a good summary (SparkNotes is a quick and dirty resource), you can glean the jargon used and apply it to your essay. Sometimes you can find these major sources through a simple Google search, but you can also ask your TA or professor. Your drive to learn more about their field of study will impress them – bonus!

Make your situation known to the TA or professor.

Simply tell your TA that this is your first course in their field of study, and that you want to exceed expectations despite your inexperience. They will likely appreciate your initiative and honesty. Ask specifically for tips on how to write the essay, such as general points to touch on, and how you should contextualize the topic. To avoid outright asking “What should I put in my essay?” Say, “This is what I think I should include in my essay,” or “From my impressions in class, this is what I think you are looking for,” and then tell them! Hopefully your professor/TA will confirm your hypotheses or correct you – either way, you get invaluable information you would not have gained by keeping to yourself.

Look at past tests and assignments.

Humanities final exams usually include a major essay question that you must write in class. Writing an in-class essay can be a challenge for science students, as it is vastly different from the multiple choice testing format. To prepare, go over your class notes and establish major themes in the class, using multiple assigned readings. Some schools collect past tests and exams from their classes and make them available to students. Studying past tests will also give you an idea of how to approach the final essay and exam – do the past tests ask essay questions, or short answers? What themes are present? Has the same question been asked five years running? Use these past tests in conjunction with your class notes to identify patterns in the class content and prepare some points to use for your final essay in advance.

Any science student can succeed in the humanities using their pre-existing skills. The key is to apply them in a new way outside of the “multiple choice mindset,” using research to capitalize on your critical thinking and memorization skills. Evidence and sound logic is needed for an argumentative essay, just as it is for a lab report. The bottom line: in studying for the arts, be scientific.