Hey everyone! Things have finally calmed down in my life enough for me to sit down and start responding to people. I really like the discussions that I’m seeing pop up on this thread. I pretty much agree with everything posted here. There are a whole shitton of problems with STEM, including its perception to the public, its lack of representation, and the false concept that science is purely apolitical.
Here come some specific, directed responses:
@padraic_padraic - To answer your question about my research, it’s basically about using ML to quickly predict and discover new pharmaceutical drug molecules.
@therealtakeshi - I super agree. I recently read this article, and boy howdy, it is fucking scary what can happen if we don’t account for the biases in our training data.
@TheElectricFields - I had pretty much the exact same problem as you, but with math. Hated it in high school, and super loved it in college. I don’t think it even had to do with quality of teaching because both my high school teachers and college professors weren’t that great. I think it was the fact that I was studying with likeminded people who actually wanted to learn the subject matter, rather than being forced to take it (which is the case in high school).
@Peregrin - I totally agree. When I tell people I am doing a PhD in physics, they immediately assume a) that I am smarter than them and b) I will solve some major world problem with science in the next 3 years. I absolutely hate both of these reactions. I always make it a point to say that doing a PhD doesn’t require intelligence, it just requires discipline, as does anything else if you want to become really good at it. As to your second point, I see another manifestation of this problem all the time in research. For example, when people cite a bit of code or software that was used to generate their results, they cite a paper by the original author of the code. This means that the people who worked on improving the code and adding new features usually don’t get any recognition for this work at all.
@sparkyclarkson - I absolutely agree with point 1. this is a major reason why STEM by itself is not enough. I do think, however, that applying the scientific method to any problem quickly identifies what CAN be done to solve it in an efficient manner (compared to trying solutions with a random trial and error approach). At that point, the question of what SHOULD be the case can be applied. As to your second point, I was of course aware of that fact even as I set that goal. I want to teach for reasons of personal fulfillment: seeing the enthusiasm that comes with a student finally understanding a subject that they were struggling with is incredible to me. And yes, CRISPR is definitely a good example of a potentially terrifying technology.
@SpaceButler - I don’t think the concept of STEM inherently recognizes itself as something more substantial than other fields. I do think capitalism has significantly contributed to establishing this connotation that STEM is more academically serious, mainly because of the commercialization of technologies that result in a more direct line to profit (which is king in a capitalist society). As to your second point, the reason I said STEM professor rather than physics is because my undergraduate and masters training was in chemical engineering, not pure physics. I could see myself teaching math, physics, or certain chemistry courses. I agree that there is a degree of disconnect between having a PhD (that requires you to conduct new research) and teaching at the college level. While this is maybe the exception and not the rule, I can honestly say that I would not be where I am right now if not for the mentoring I received from Ph.D. students that were teaching assistants during my upper division undergraduate courses. These grad students were researchers that were working at the cutting edge of the subjects that were taught in my upper div courses. For example, I got a lot of help in my reaction kinetics course from TAs that were developing new catalysts in their research labs. I have been emulating their example now that I am a TA myself.
@Justin - I think that advances in technology will more quickly bring about the overthrow of capitalism for the reasons you mention. I just hope that there isn’t a significant backlash against science as a discipline as a result.