Computer science is the science of choice for campers in SciGirls Coding Camp. This is one week when we want our campers' eyes on the screen.

The culmination of years of hard work, the dissertation defense is as much an ordeal as it is a ritual.

A new three-year, $1.2 million grant will change the way girls are taught science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) in informal educational settings around the country.

Hundreds of scientists work at the National MagLab, and you'll often find them conducting experiments or working in their offices. But with the start of a new academic year, many are now in the classroom, teaching the next generation of scientists and engineers at Florida State University (FSU), the University of Florida (UF) and the Florida A&M University/FSU College of Engineering.

Teaching is a big part of the MagLab's mission. In fact, more than 200 of our top-notch scientists hold faculty appointments, about half of whom, including physicist Irinel Chiorescu (pictured above), teach formal classes on campus.

"The act of teaching is intrinsically connected to research," explained Chiorescu, who is showing students how to "think like a scientist" in his FSU physics lab this semester. "If we teach our students well, we will have top scientists in the future."

It's not all about making the students better, however. Teaching makes Chiorescu a better scientist — and a better science communicator.

"Teaching gives the opportunity to put research topics into a different perspective, adapted to undergraduate students," said Chiorescu. "This not only attracts bright undergrads to our research group, but helps me bring clarity to manuscripts and presentations about our work."

MagLab faculty also teach outside the classroom, advising the more than 300 undergrads, grad students and postdocs who conduct research right here at the lab. Although the environment is different, the benefit to both the teacher and the teached is the same.

"I really enjoy getting different aspects from students and postdocs," said MagLab spectroscopist Riqiang Fu, who has advised many early-career chemists and biologists in his career at the lab. "It widens my view towards any problems and allows me to design experiments from different perspectives."


Text by Kristen Coyne. Photo by Stephen Bilenky.

In July 2016, eight middle and high school girls attended the SciGirls Coding Camp, which introduced them to single-board computers called Raspberry Pi.

This week at the lab, 46 girls are just having fun with science!

Held just a few weeks after the co-ed MagLab Summer Camp, SciGirls provides an alternatively all-female setting for girls in grades 5-8 to experience science. The campers hear from role models and mentors in STEM fields and take part in dynamic, hands-on activities that explore biology, chemistry, physics, engineering, forensic science and meteorology.

"By having these young ladies involved in a wide range of science experiences, the MagLab hopes to build a foundation of interest in science at a critical time in their educational development," explains camp coordinator, Carlos Villa. "SciGirls Summer Camp gives them the confidence to attempt and succeed in higher level science and math courses in middle and high school. Ultimately, we hope they continue on to amazing accomplishments in science careers."

SciGirls is held in partnership with WFSU, and more than 300 girls have participated in the program since launching in 2006. A recent study of a group of former SciGirls showed that half went on to major in a STEM field.

Follow along with the campers by watching video diaries and reading journals uploaded each day to the SciGirls blog.

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Text by Kristin Roberts. Photo by Stephen Bilenky.

This week at the lab, girls are sitting down in front of a bunch credit-card sized computers to claim their rightful share of the coding pi.

That's "pi" as in Raspberry Pi, the name of the single-board computers these middle and high school girls will be using to learn programming. Over the course of a one-week camp, the students could help reverse a troubling trend: Their slice of the growing pie of well-paid computer science jobs has been steadily shrinking because fewer and fewer women study or work in the field.

The statistics have bothered Roxanne Hughes for some time. As director of the MagLab's Center for Integrating Research and Learning, she works to encourage women and underrepresented minorities in the sciences. While those numbers have been inching up in most categories, for women in computer science they're in a decades-long slump.

But this week's camp may help that downward-sloping line bounce back up in coming years. Each girl each will receive a computer, some instruction, lots of encouragement, and free reign to explore and create.

"Do you want it to say, ‘Good morning, how are you doing today?' when you turn your computer on?" suggested Sandie Chavez, who is co-teaching the camp. "You can do that. Let's show you how to do that."

Chavez has offered this experience before through Creators Camp, an organization she co-founded. Fear often comes between girls and computer science, she said: This camp destroys that boundary. "What we want to do is take that intimidation factor out of this male-dominated career path," she said, "and to say, ‘Ladies, we're about to have so much fun.'"

The profession's nerdy, quirky image is another boundary, said Hughes: Unfortunately, girls put off by the stereotype will be at a disadvantage in the sciences and many other fields, she added, where the ability to code is becoming increasingly important.

"The more we can get girls in safe spaces to explore gaming, coding and what they can do with computers," said Hughes, "the more likely they are to recognize the positive benefits of computing, have an interest in computing and be more motivated in getting involved in computing as a career."


Photo and text by Kristen Coyne.

MagLab educators taught lessons in electricity and magnetism at the 4th USA Science and Engineering Festival.

This week at the lab, 20 undergraduate science majors from across the U.S. are doing real research in chemistry, physics and biology that will be critical to them as they pursue careers in science.

These young scientists are in their third week of the lab’s ten-week Research Experiences for Undergraduates program. The long-running program pairs undergrads with researchers at the lab, giving them a realistic taste of the challenges and rewards of science.

“It’s dealing with all the little pitfalls of doing actual research, as opposed to doing a lab in their chemistry class,” said Jose Sanchez, who manages the program through the lab’s Center for Integrating Research and Learning. “This is going to be very great for their resume. For those attending graduate school, an REU program is practically mandatory because graduate school is all research-based.”


Text by Kristen Coyne. Photo by Jose Sanchez.

When a grad student's first publication lands in the top-tier journal Nature, you can bet it's not beginner's luck.

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