Naperville Central workshop invites girls to explore STEM possibilities
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A story about smashing things is what Cassidy Schneider remembers most from the first GEMS summer workshop she attended three years ago.
As a freshman at Naperville Central High School attending the scientific career exploration event for girls because science was always her favorite subject, Cassidy heard "insightful" speeches from physicists, engineers and biologists.
But the one that most captured her attention at the event she now organizes with fellow members of the school's GEMS Club, or Girl Engineers, Mathematicians and Scientists, was an "I love my job" story a Fermilab high-energy physicist told.
"I remember her saying 'I get to go into work and I love what I do — I get to smash things together and see what comes out of them," Cassidy said. "It was really inspirational."
Katherine Seguino, Naperville Central's instructional coordinator for science and the GEMS Club adviser, said she hopes this year's event will inspire more girls to explore the broad possibilities of careers in science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM fields.
"Sometimes you just need to show there's a lot of different career paths out there and that's what I think the intent of our workshop is," Seguino said. "You can do whatever you want. There are no rules or barriers; it's up to you to decide what interests you."
The fourth annual GEMS summer workshop, scheduled for 12:30 to 4:30 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 7, at Naperville Central High School, 440 W. Aurora Ave., will bring 17 panelists in four categories and a keynote speaker to an estimated 100 area girls in sixth through 12th grade.
Panelists in physics, biology/medicine, technology and engineering/design will share the paths to their careers and answer questions from students who can attend the workshop for $5. Some panelists work at universities or labs like Argonne National Laboratory or Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory, while four are college students.
"We have a few Naperville Central alumni coming to talk about their experiences and why it's a great opportunity for girls to go into STEM," Cassidy said.
Seguino said women who are interested in science often pursue careers in medicine as doctors or nurses, but the GEMS workshop can open their eyes to other possibilities that use some of the same skills.
"Maybe you could be an engineer who makes prosthetics instead — it's still in the health field but from a different angle, using your mind in a different way," Seguino said.
Participants can register online at gemsworks.org, but are asked to bring the $5 fee for snacks and a T-shirt when they arrive at the school. The afternoon includes a keynote speech from Adina Luican-Mayer, a physicist with the Center for Nanoscale Materials at Argonne National Laboratory, three breakout sessions and closing remarks.
"I hope it has the ability to just excite them about careers in science and math and engineering and give them the opportunity to see from real women what does that mean and how does that fit into their lives," Seguino said. "The more real you can make it, the better it's going to be."
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