The University Office of Strategic Initiatives will be hosting a panel today discussing minorities in science, technology, engineering and math fields — also known as STEM fields.

Joel Tohline, director of the Center for Computation & Technology and moderator for the event, expressed the need for students to become interested in STEM fields at the University.

“Federal agencies that fund STEM research, such as the National Science Foundation, Department of Energy and National Institutes of Health are absolutely committed to providing strong financial support to universities that seriously involve students from under-represented groups in nationally recognized research programs,” Tohline said in an email to The Daily Reveille. “Louisiana’s reputation as a state that cares about the nation’s future can be impacted in a tremendously positive way if LSU’s diverse population of students becomes engaged with research groups such as LA-SiGMA.”

Heather Dylla, program coordinator for Innovation through Institutional Integration, gave some insight on how the program has been working to attract students to STEM fields. The project is funded by 50 on-going education, mentoring and research grants, which benefit students and teachers from a post-grad level to elementary school.

“The I3 project strives to attract and ultimately retain students in STEM through supporting initiatives such as these that are valuable in their pursuit of careers and developing a sense of community in the STEM disciplines,” Dylla said in an email to The Daily Revielle.

Juana Moreno, associate professor in the department of Physics and Astronomy and a faculty member at the Center for Computation and Technology, said the panel will cover topics such as their personal career paths, their insights about the importance of diversity in research groups, how the number of minorities and women on the sciences can be increased and how to avoid unintentional biases.

Moreno said she believes minorities have different experiences in STEM fields as opposed to other fields like liberal arts.

“I think many people has [sic] pre-conceived ideas such as girls are not good in math or minorities are not smart enough,” Moreno said in an email. “That needs to be changed to get more women and minorities in math and sciences.”

The panel’s guest speakers include John Harkless, associate professor of chemistry at Howard University; Janet Ruscher, professor of psychology and associate dean for graduate programs in Tulane’s School of Science and Engineering; and Zakiya Wilson, executive director of research, education and mentoring programs at LSU.

The panel will take place today at 2 p.m. in Nicholson Hall, room 130.

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