Let's Encourage - Not Discourage - Our Youth to Engage in Science

Let's Encourage - Not Discourage - Our Youth to Engage in Science

07.16.12 | By Jennifer Wall

Last weekend, the Washington Post featured an article about the current state of science jobs in the U.S., with a particular focus on such jobs in the biopharmaceutical industry. In my opinion, the article painted a very negative and somewhat misleading picture about the science jobs landscape and for the most part, sent a discouraging message to students pursuing careers in this field.

At a time when the White House, members of Congress and various other stakeholders are encouraging younger students to enter the science, technology, education and math (STEM) fields to help grow the economy and ensure that the U.S. remains the world leader in innovation, we shouldn't be discouraging our nation's youth from following their dreams of pursuing advanced degrees in the life sciences.

This is particularly relevant point, as many scientists believe we are entering an era of unprecedented potential in the life sciences as we better understand the genetic and molecular underpinnings of disease. And as the population ages, this work will only become more important.

The reality is that while the biopharmaceutical industry has not been immune to the economic downturn, it continues to be one of the leading sectors in the U.S. that supports STEM jobs. In fact, this industry is projected to be a rare source of jobs growth among STEM fields over the next few years, according to the Manufacturing Institute.

Just a few days after the piece ran, I was perusing the Post again and saw a great letter to the editor (below) that pretty much summed up what many people in the industry, including myself, were thinking after reading the article. Enough said!

Letter to the Editor

Published: July 11

Regarding the July 8 front-page article "Scientists heeded call but few can find jobs":

As a college student majoring in biology, I find it lamentable that young men and women of science are finding a dearth of available jobs after spending years in school. But Kim Haas, a pharmaceutical researcher who the article reported told her daughter, "Don't go into science," seems badly misguided.

Anyone who would discourage a child who loves math and chemistry from pursuing a career in science because it might be difficult to find employment might not be a scientist for the right reasons. Energetic men and women must be encouraged to enter the sciences despite these obstacles. In fact, those individuals who are passionate enough about their work to stick with it during times of hardship and who hunger to expand their, and our, knowledge of the world are the very ones we most want in the positions of prestige within the scientific community.

This prognosis of doom and gloom should be seen as a catalyst to redouble our efforts to foster creativity, ingenuity and admiration for the sciences.

Daniel Jordan, Washington

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