madiSTEM inspires the next generation of STEM leaders

madiSTEM Conference 2024

JMU hosted its 15th annual madiSTEM: Making a Difference in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics conference on March 23. Directed by professors Celes Woodruff and Colleen Watson from JMU’s Department of Mathematics and Statistics, and professor Mike Lam from computer science, the one-day conference attracted more than 200 6th-8th grade girls from Virginia and surrounding states.  

The conference aimed to inspire and empower middle school girls; noting that there are far fewer women than men in STEM fields, Woodruff explained, “I want to help encourage these young women and let them know that there’s a place for them here if they want it.”

Orthopedic surgeon Dr. Sophia Leung set the tone with her keynote speech, “Breaking Stereotypes: My Journey into Orthopedic Surgery.” She shared the challenges she overcame while studying to become a board-certified surgeon and urged attendees to pursue their goals with passion and perseverance.

Following the presentation, attendees participated in workshops led by faculty and students across diverse STEM fields. From mineral makeup and probability games to birdwatching for citizen science and coding app development, these workshops offered hands-on activities promoting teamwork and critical thinking. Adults could accompany their child, participate in panel sessions, or attend an admissions and financial aid presentation.

ISAT professor Carol Nash captivated the audience with her archaeology research, highlighting how her work gives a voice to individuals lost to time. She emphasized that the true value lies not just in the artifacts unearthed, but in the stories and insights they reveal about past civilizations. “It’s not what you find,” she remarked, “it’s what you find out,” underscoring the importance of understanding and preserving cultural heritage.

Attendees gained insight into collegiate STEM education, inspiring them to continue their STEM journey through middle and high school. “madiSTEM gives young people the opportunity to see themselves as future STEM practitioners,” Lam explained. “The event also encourages JMU students to volunteer and engage with the larger community around them.”

Learn more about the madiSTEM and join the mailing list to receive information about next year’s conference.

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by Dorian Crawford (’27)

Published: Friday, April 12, 2024

Last Updated: Wednesday, May 8, 2024

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