STEM Career Expo draws hundreds of local students

The atrium of Wilson Hall was buzzing with activity last Wednesday.

Hundreds of students on the hunt for possible future STEM careers mingled and browsed displays and tables set up by professionals. This year’s STEM Career Expo, a perennial fixture at the Department of Energy’s Fermilab, featured over 140 STEM professionals from about 40 organizations, including companies, universities and laboratories.

Fermilab staff shared information about their work as neutrino physicists, accelerator operators, mechanical engineers and more. Professionals in STEM careers outside the lab answered questions from students and discussed career options with them, covering diverse options such as acoustics, chemical engineering, food science, water science and even patenting.

Sameer Israni, a chemical engineer representing Praxair, a company that makes industrial gases such as nitrogen and argon, was one of many professionals who spoke to students.

“Personally, I’m interested in students who have science competency, can work in a team and think outside the box,” he said.

Some students like Jacob Berry, a Geneva High School junior, already knew what they were interested in.

“I like applied chemistry,” he said. “I’m here to learn what someone in engineering does on a day-to-day basis.”

But other students like Asha Lavine and Amanda Gorski, sophomores from York High School, used the expo to broaden their horizons.

“I honestly didn’t know that some of these careers existed,” Lavine said.

For Gorski, who said she was unsure about career choices, the expo was great if you “don’t know what to do with your future.”

Mascara Haseeb, a first-year in Moraine Valley Community College studying to be a mechanical engineer, said she learned about fields she wasn’t expecting to.

“I had no idea there was so much to optics,” she said. “It’s a lot more than just trying to bend light with lenses.”

For these students, the chance to talk with STEM professionals is not just an information session — it is a real-life demonstration that they, too, can succeed in a STEM career.

The expo is supported by Batavia, Geneva Community and Yorkville high schools and the not-for-profit organization Fermilab Friends for Science Education.