Fairbanks women of science reach out to students

Posted: Sunday, February 03, 2002

FAIRBANKS (AP) -- Ryan Middle School hosted a meeting of the minds Thursday afternoon, giving teen and preteen girls a chance to meet some of Fairbanks' leading female scientists and mathematicians.

Girls handled live starfish and drilled and riveted sheet metal at the symposium, an event aimed at introducing young women to the benefits of pursuing studies in math and science, said Bob Bordelon, a science teacher responsible for putting together the workshop.

''I see a lack of interest in math and science with girls and I wanted to spur up that interest again,'' Bordelon said. ''I put two and two together and wanted to show role models and opportunities in math and science.''

Bordelon began pulling the event together only two weeks ago, but nearly 30 professionals volunteered for the assignment. Aircraft mechanics, engineers, marine biologists, nurses, architects, botanists, radiologists and pharmacists answered questions for 250 students.

For Katrina Sanborn, a seventh-grader, the trade show atmosphere was ''pretty cool.'' She said she has no idea what career to pursue but the workshop gave her a greater interest in science.

Kathleen McCullom, environmental health and safety manager for Williams Alaska, said not only is science fun and challenging, but it opens doors in life.

''No one ever told me in eighth grade that science was cool,'' she said. ''I'm telling the girls to follow what is challenging and interesting because that's what makes life fun.''

Heather Patterson, a University of Alaska Fairbanks marine biology graduate student, said she wanted to demonstrate what science can be.

''I want them to see the cool stuff we do and show them what the options are,'' she said. Hers was a popular, and wet, exhibit where girls could play with sea urchins, clams, crabs and barnacles.

Stressing the importance of advanced skills in math and physics, Nicole Molders, a University of Alaska Fairbanks professor of atmospheric science, showed on a laptop computer how she studies climate conditions. While research may indicate that girls in middle and high schools lose interest in math and science, she said, by the time they get to college, females often turn out to be the best science students.

Just making girls aware of careers in engineering was the goal of Carol Adamczak, a civil engineer at UAF.

''They may not have a clue about the engineering curriculum,'' she said. ''I want them to see the possibilities for careers.''

It was a school trip to meet engineers that introduced the field to her, she said. ''I always liked math and science but I didn't know what I could do with it.''

Army Lts. Alicia McKeag and Jen Trainor talked up military careers.

''The Army is a great way to go,'' said McKeag, a labor and delivery nurse. McKeag told girls she was active in math and science clubs throughout high school and the Army paid her way through Clemson University.

''It all ties together,'' she said.

Trainor, an engineer, said her field is dominated by men, but is diverse and offers a lot of opportunities to women.

''It's wide open to them and it's challenging,'' she said.

Aircraft mechanic Vickie Domke of Tamarack Air said she was there to spur interest and enthusiasm among the girls.

''I want them to know they can do it. If I can do it anybody can.''

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