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I want to know whether students of any ethnicity/gender will be convinced to consider a research career through reading humanizing stories of various scientists (also of various ethnicity/gender). I also want to find evidence of whether or not women and minorities are under-represented in scientific research careers. My assumption has been that they are under-represented but I want more specific evidence. I also want to know what others had done in an attempt to show students that research is an option for them. Has anyone previously measured the effect of popular literature on career choice? What other strategies have been attempted?

1. National Science Foundation. (2007). Women, Minorities, and Persons with Disabilities in Science and Engineering: NSF 07-315. Washington, DC: National Science Foundation (http://www.nsf.gov/statistics/women/).


This contains the most recent statistics regarding education and employment of various groups of people in science and engineering. The inequity is largest at the employed doctoral degree level. Seventy-five percent of such scientists are white while black and Hispanic scientists make up just 3.5% and 3% respectively. While over half of undergraduate biologists are women there are twice as many males employed as faculty in every Carnegie classification.

2. Porta, Angela R. (2002). Using Diversity Among Biomedical Scientists as a Teaching Tool. The American Biology Teacher 64 (3): 176-182.

This was a clever idea in which students in a Cell Physiology class at Kean University designed a questionnaire and were assigned various scientists that they requested to complete the questionnaire. Then each student presented his/her assigned scientist’s responses to the class. This introduced the concept of diversity in scientific research and made the students realize that anyone can do science and not just white men in lab coats. This article also talked about the importance of role models.

3. Luckenbill-Edds, Louise. (2002). The Educational Pipeline for Women in Biology. Bioscience 52 (6): 513-521.

This paper looks at the progress that women have made in biology with regard to choice of major and advanced schooling and employment. They have reached parity in choosing a major but not in advanced schooling and employment. The author suggests that there may need to be a change in the culture of science in order to be more inclusive. The weed-out model is said to discourage both males and females.

4. Fallon, Diane. (2003). Accepting, Embracing and Striving: Describing Student Responses to Diversity Issues. CASTL Program, Carnegie Foundation (http://www.carnegiefoundation.org/pr...y=63&topkey=21).

This was a project from an English professor in a community college. She tried an activity to stimulate students to broaden their views on diversity and found that sometimes this was only a temporary change and they then fell back on more simplistic views. This cautions me to follow-up on students after the semester in which I gather data. When I ask them about their perceptions of diversity in science this may be a temporary opinion and may not impact their career choices in the long term.

5. Salmela-Aro, Katariina and Jari-Erik Nurmi. (2007). Self-esteem during university studies predicts career characteristics 10 years later. Journal of Vocational Behavior 70: 463-477.

This Finnish study looked at over 200 students and determined their level of self-esteem and correlated this with job satisfaction and success. Those with higher self-esteem had a more stable and successful career (at least over the short term of the study). While I could find nothing about why students make the choice to pursue scientific research I have seen info regarding the importance of role models. I can imagine that having role models more like oneself would increase confidence and self-esteem and lead to increased success. I may want to include questions to assess students’ self-esteem before and after reading the popular scientific literature.

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