Navigating Science and Art – NAU Review

Navigating Science and Art – NAU Review

A grant from the National Science Foundation is funding a unique project aimed at increasing diversity in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields by including art in science education.

The goal of the project, he said, is to figure out how best to strengthen STEM identity for traditionally marginalized students Alison Singer, assistant professor in the Department of Biological Sciences and the principal investigator on an approximately $500,000 grant. STEM identity is often overlooked but is a critical contributor to student success.

“STEM identity, which includes things like a sense of belonging and confidence in one’s abilities, is vitally important for student retention and success in STEM education and careers,” Singer said. “Traditionally marginalized students tend to have less strong STEM identities and are more likely to drop out of STEM majors than non-marginalized students.”

Karen HaubensackAssociate Research Professor, and Javier Ceja Navarro, associate professor, both in the Department of Biological Sciences, are the co-principal investigators on the project. They said the primary goal of this project is to instill a strong STEM identity and sense of belonging among underrepresented students.

“We need to expand our network in order to ‘capture’ more minds, more energy, and more perspectives to help find solutions to critical environmental problems,” Haubensack said. “At NAU, we do a good job of providing students with the strong preparation they need to enter STEM fields, including plenty of options to join labs and participate in research. But we know nothing about the impact of participating in research on these students, especially students Who don’t traditionally participate.

The intersection of science and art

This is a particularly important point for Singer, who is a writer herself. She believes that having a creative outlet can help a person become a better scientist, and this project is an excellent way to test that hypothesis.

“There is evidence that representation, research, and perhaps creativity are important in STEM identity development, but most research focuses on only one of them at a time, and research in the creative arts is particularly limited,” she said.

This program examines this intersection in several different ways. It will include teaching about diversity and inclusion, research opportunities, and creative outlets to better understand how students develop their identity in STEM fields.

For example, there will be a summer research program that focuses on the early stages of research, such as observing, asking questions, and knowing what to do with those questions. Students who participate in the program will take a course in artistic or creative writing that allows them to reflect on their identity as a scientist through creative expression. This will include collaboration with arts and writing faculty to ensure students have valuable experiences.

“It’s really important for students to see themselves represented in STEM fields and have opportunities to do research, and we’ll find out if having a creative outlet is important as well,” Singer said. “If students can develop stronger STEM identities, they are more likely to continue their studies and enter the workforce, and having a diverse STEM workforce means we get more diversity in perspectives and ways of knowing.”

Understanding how students develop STEM identities will help teachers help foster this identity construction in the future, she added.

Image: A bronze sculpture by Neil Galloway, assistant teaching professor, called “The Best Part of the Deforestation Awakening,” which explores the environmental and social consequences of industrial monoculture coffee farming.

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Heidi Toth | NAU Communications
(928) 523-8737 | heidi.toth@nau.edu

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