60 Seconds with…
Dr Angela Colbert, knight vice president education at the frost science museum, Miami
How important is a STEM-trained workforce for the industries of the future?
A well-trained STEM workforce is instrumental to economic success. Throughout history, times of greatest prosperity are also linked to increases in STEM education and investment. This makes having a strong STEM-trained workforce essential for many industries of the future, including advancements in technology, medicine and quality of life.
Diversity and inclusion in the current STEM workforce are lacking, how can organisations like Frost Science contribute to evening this out?
For decades, Frost Science has created educational opportunities for underrepresented individuals in STEM, including the nationally recognized RiseNET which encourage girls to explore engineering, and CHISPA which encourages Hispanic communities to engage in STEM education programs. In addition, Frost Science has been the only science museum in the nation to host an Upward Bound Math and Science program at its location which mentors first-generation college-bound youth while providing a rich STEM curriculum and college prep coursework. These programs are just a small example of the impact that Frost Science and other museums can have on helping to diversify the STEM workforce.
Can you tell us about some of the educational initiatives at the museum and the impact they’re having?
In addition to those mentioned above, of which the Upward Bound Math and Science program is still ongoing, Frost Science strives to inspire individuals of all ages and backgrounds to enjoy science and technology, to better understand ourselves and our world. This mission helps drive all the educational initiatives at Frost Science, from our nationally-recognised ECHOS curriculum which introduces STEM to preschool learners, to our award-winning seasonal camps that provide a hands-on approach to science learning. From quick engagement opportunities at the museum, and in the community through our outreach program, to more in-depth, multi-year development initiatives with youth and life-long learners, Frost Science provides a variety of programs to meet the needs of the community and we have seen positive results with increased enrollment in STEM majors in college, children who didn’t like science but then have it become their favourite subject, to even just an individual who finally understands a science concept that they never did before, we are striving to make science accessible.
What is the value of engaging the wider public in science and, more specifically, the evolution of medicine that we’re witnessing with advanced therapies?
Education is a key component to advancing science. The public’s perception of science and the evolution of medicine are key to its future success. In general, people are always hesitant of things they don’t know about or fully understand; it’s completely natural. However, educational events that provide the public with the chance to understand the science behind treatments and how cool and awe-inspiring new advancements in medical technology are can shift that perception to one that is much more positive, which in turn, will get these individuals talking to others they know about what they learned with correct information.
How can we better connect the industry to young people and the wider public to bridge the information gap and better share knowledge?
One of the best ways to connect with the public is to interact with them. For example, partnering with local organizations, especially ones who work with underrepresented youth, to provide educational programs. The knowledge transfer happens when there is a personal connection. Relating to people is one of the most effective ways to help them understand complex scientific topics, in addition to speaking a common language. Most fields have a very specific vocabulary that is unknown to anyone outside of that field (and sometimes even people in that field!), and thus being able to break concepts down and unite them with vocabulary that is familiar to the public is crucial for successfully communicating with them. It isn’t easy, but using hands-on activities can help!
With over 10 years of experience, Dr Angela Colbert oversees the development and implementation of all educational initiatives both within the museum and for the broader local community. Working across departments and with community partners like universities, local and national non-profit organizations, and industry partners, Colbert directs the development and delivery of science-rich programming for visitors of all ages and abilities, including programming to increase access and inclusivity to the museum.
Colbert first joined the museum as a part-time content expert for an exhibition on hurricanes. Colbert received a Bachelor of Science in mathematics education from the University of Central Florida and earned her PhD in meteorology and physical oceanography from the University of Miami Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science, where her research focused on how climate change impacts hurricanes.