By TYLER ELLYSON
KEARNEY – The opportunities in STEM-related fields are endless.
These high-skill, high-wage jobs are projected to grow more than twice as fast as other occupations in Nebraska, and most of them require a bachelor’s degree or higher.
“The STEM workforce is an area that’s continuously evolving. There are so many new careers out there in science, technology, engineering and math, including some we don’t even know about yet,” said Amy Nebesniak, an associate professor in the University of Nebraska at Kearney’s Department of Math and Statistics.
Nebesniak and other UNK faculty promoted these opportunities Tuesday during an event that brought nearly 130 high schoolers to campus. Science Day gives students from across the state a chance to learn more about UNK’s academic programs and the professional paths they can take.
“We want students to know that UNK is a great place to study science, math and the other STEM areas,” Nebesniak said. “These are exciting programs that anyone can be part of.”
The high school juniors and seniors explored subjects such as biology, chemistry, engineering, health sciences, math and physics while participating in a variety of hands-on lab and classroom activities at UNK’s Bruner Hall of Science and Discovery Hall, a state-of-the-art STEM building that opened in fall 2020. The event also included a campus tour, planetarium show and free lunch provided by the College of Arts and Sciences.
Bailie Mills-Burress, a science teacher at Cody-Kilgore, brought 17 students to Science Day. They made the four-hour trip on Monday, ensuring everyone was energized for the event.
“This is a great opportunity for them to experience a college campus and begin thinking about their future,” Mills-Burress said. “The excitement, engagement, collaboration and critical thinking I’ve witnessed has been amazing. It’s been a phenomenal experience for them.”
Mills-Burress was attending Science Day for the first time, and she’s already planning to return with another group of students.
“It will be on my list for sure,” she said.
Adams Central High School senior Serese Janssen and her classmates traveled a much shorter distance. She’s quite familiar with UNK – it’s one of her top college options – but there was still plenty to discover.
“I love science, so it’s nice to see the different areas of science and learn more about the programs offered here. Maybe there’s something I didn’t know about before,” she said.
Janssen is interested in aviation; however, she hasn’t picked a specific career path yet.
“I’m excited to see what the possibilities are,” she said.
In addition to Cody-Kilgore and Adams Central, students from Ansley, Cambridge, Clarkson, Hastings, Heartland Lutheran, Kearney Catholic, Lawrence-Nelson, Loup City, Nebraska City and Pleasanton participated in Science Day.
Chemistry professor Scott Darveau hopes they all left campus with some newfound confidence.
“So many students think science is hard and it’s not for them. But if we can show them a little bit of that wonder, then maybe they’ll realize, ‘This is cool and I can do this,’” said Darveau, who led an exercise using electrochemical cells and voltage meters to measure the reactivity of metals.
“Science is the basis of so much of our society,” he added. “Our technology comes from science. Our advances in medicine come from science. Anything they can relate to and that we have in our modern society ties back to science, and we need people to study that now so we can advance in the future.”
UNK will host its next Science Day on Jan. 27.
Students and teachers can register for the event by contacting Laura Jensen at email@example.com or 308-865-8001. The registration deadline is Jan. 9.