STEM Career Expo at Fermilab draws hundreds of students

Technical Division employee David Harding talks to a high school student during the 2010 STEM Career Expo at Fermilab.

On Wednesday, April 13, an estimated 550 students and parents from the western suburban Chicago area visited Fermilab to talk to scientists and professionals at the STEM Career Expo.

“As a science laboratory, it is our responsibility to train the next generation of scientists,” said Susan Dahl, Fermilab Education Office. “We wanted to give the students a real experience talking one-on-one with people working in the industries.”

This was the fourth year for the STEM Career Expo at Fermilab, which aims to help high school students get a better understanding of the type of work people do in various jobs and figure out what interests them, Dahl said.

“Freshmen can start thinking about what courses they want to take in high school,” Dahl said. “Students getting ready for college can acquire firsthand knowledge of various career paths by speaking with professionals in those specific fields.”

Mark Bollinger, deputy manager of the DOE Fermi Site Office, said the event provided a much-needed opportunity to emphasize to students the importance of science and engineering in society.

“If we glorified scientists and engineers as much as we did the athletes, we wouldn’t have a problem, it would be easy,” he said.

Students and parents alike expressed gratitude for the opportunity to talk with scientists and engineers in their post-event evaluations.

“The professionals were so helpful and clear, explaining what they do and how it works,” wrote one parent from Geneva.

A sophomore from Geneva High School wrote, “I really liked being able to just pick the brains of everyone here and learn about everything they had to offer.”

Bollinger said he was encouraged by the students’ enthusiasm.

“Personally, it was invigorating to see all the interest in science,” Bollinger said. “It was great to have them all come to Fermilab and be able to highlight what we do.”

— Christine Herman