First Bay Area STEM Career Day Engages High Schoolers in Science

By Rebecca Smith

For high school students, even those who love science, it can be hard to imagine what it’s like to be a working scientist. 

What does a biomedical research scientist or a spacecraft engineer do all day? How do scientists turn their ideas into companies? What is big data, and what does it mean to work for a big data company? Can you be a scientist and not work in a lab? Are there science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) careers if you’re a people person?

The first San Francisco STEM Career Day aimed to answer these questions and more for the nearly 100 freshmen and sophomores from San Francisco’s Thurgood Marshall and Phillip and Sala Burton High Schools who attended the March 11 event. Organized by UCSF’s Science & Health Education Partnership, the STEM Career Day brought the students to UCSF and neighboring institutions to learn about a wide range of educational pathways and careers in STEM.

Over the course of the day, STEM professionals spoke with students about their careers, how they became interested in STEM, and the obstacles they have faced. The students visited different workplaces, including a number at UCSF, such as the Human Performance Center, a parasite lab and the Resource for Biocomputing, Visualization, and Informatics (RBVI) group.

Students also visited other San Francisco organizations such as the QB3@953 incubator, big data company Splunk, the science broadcaster Discovery Digital, biotech companies Bayer and Prosetta, as well as the San Francisco Wastewater Treatment Plant and the Heron’s Head EcoCenter. Students also had the chance to talk informally with a variety of STEM professionals during a speed mentoring lunch.

In addition to support from UCSF as the lead organizer, the first San Francisco STEM Career Day was supported by a broad coalition from across the city including: Bayer HealthCare, BayBio, San Francisco Office of Economic and Workforce Development, San Francisco Unified School District, San Francisco Chamber of Commerce, San Francisco State University and Cal State East Bay. SF STEM Career Day was sponsored by Bayer Healthcare with additional support from JP Morgan Chase through QB3.