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Conference encourages STEM career paths for female students

Female students in grades 6-12 across the Valley attended the Expanding Your Horizons Conference led by STEM Saturday hosted by The Fresno County Office of Education and sponsored by Fresno State’s Downing Planetarium.

Jonathan Dueck, director of STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) education said he believes it is important to have events like this for students.

“We have fewer students entering those types of majors and career pathways than some of the other developed nations, and we especially have a lower number of girls in comparison to boys,” Dueck said.

“We want to promote STEM for all.”

Dueck said he wants to help show that it’s possible for anyone to attain a career in this field.

“We want them to see that going into a STEM career is a cool thing to do, exciting thing to do, and an accessible thing to do,” Dueck said.

“That it’s not just for the boys. It’s not just for the students who are getting As. There are still options for you that can excite you and really promote a good career, a good job and a good life ahead of you.”

Melinda Dixon, a teacher at Glacier High and Mountain Home School Charter, brought her female students from her 8th grade math class to the conference. Dixon said she herself was one of the few women in her graduating class to pursue a math degree.

“Hopefully, there’s going to be more women that pursue that degree,” Dixon said.

He said she believes families need to do more to encourage their children to pursue STEM-related careers.

“Especially the ones that are adept in mathematics and science, to pursue that and not other things that are easier,” Dixon said. “There’s brilliant brains out there, and they just need to be encouraged by either parents or teachers to pursue that.”

The conference involved many professional women and students in STEM who held special sessions to educate students about possible career paths.

One of the sessions was led by the Fresno State Physics Outreach program and exhibited physics concepts through experiments.

Don Williams, director of Physics Outreach, said he wanted to help participate and show young students how interesting it can be to study physics.

“Even at Fresno State in our physics department, we only have out of our 50 majors… only about six women in there,” Williams said. “It’s terrible.”

Williams said he arranged for most of his female students to participate in the session to show girls that it’s possible to study and know about physics.

Roya Edalatpour was the keynote speaker at the conference and talked about her journey to pursuing her electrical engineering degree and currently continuing on to pursue a dual M.D.-Ph.D from Boston University.

Edalatpour spoke out to young girls at the conference and said she believes that anything is possible for them and their futures.

“I look at your faces and I see the future of this country,” Edalatpour said.

She advised students to persevere and take advantage of all possibilities.

“Continue to seize the opportunities that are there for you,” Edalatpour said. “Whether it’s at your school or whether it’s beyond that.”