STEAM trend gaining traction at Brock

While science and art may seem worlds apart, one enthusiast of the two fields has found a new place to combine them — at Brock University.

Brock Science Mentorship Program participant Lauren Kelly is passionate about science and discovery, but also has a love for art. Finding a university program that allows her to combine these interests has been a top priority for the 17-year-old Chippawa native as her high school graduation draws near. Her time in Brock’s mentorship program helped Kelly to find her future path — a double major in Physics and Visual Arts at the University.

Science Mentorship Program participants display their Brock embroidered lab coats following the program’s Feb. 22 symposium.

The unique combination is an example of a growing trend known as STEAM — science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics — that takes traditional STEM to the next level by incorporating arts practices traditionally left behind.

Kelly was introduced to Brock’s long-running Science Mentorship Program through her high school science teachers. Secondary school science and co-op teachers across Niagara annually encourage and nominate gifted students to participate in the program, which is designed for students who are highly interested in science, demonstrate significant scientific curiosity and are capable of working independently.

Along with on-campus orientations and workshops, participants are paired with mentors who conduct research in a subject area of interest to the student. The partnership offers the unique opportunity to pursue a real-life scientific investigation in a university environment.

Knowledge of her artistic background led Kelly to be paired with Physics Professor Edward Sternin, who helped her to work on a project that incorporated creative elements.

“My project was a little outside the norm,” Kelly said. “I designed a new web page for the Physics department to visually highlight professors’ research.”

The goal of the ongoing project is to attract prospective graduate students to Brock’s Department of Physics.

Under the guidance of her mentor, Kelly determined that a new approach would generate more interest from prospective students, so she set about to create videos of professors discussing their personal research.

“These videos attach a personality to the names and faces students see online,” she said. “In each video, professors address their research interests and graduate study opportunities. With this personal touch, the videos bring students closer to walking around and being inside the facilities.”

The experience gave Kelly the opportunity to learn more about video editing and coding. The result is a more dynamic, realistic and approachable view on graduate student life that seamlessly combines both scientific and artistic elements.

On a more personal level, the experience led to Kelly’s decision to come to Brock.

“Before, university seemed very foreign, but now a lot of my old fears and uncertainties have vanished,” she said. “I am familiar and comfortable with the university setting. I have also been introduced to many great opportunities and have learned about the facilities and resources here at Brock.”

Kelly said her experience working alongside Sternin has also been invaluable. Along with providing insight into the field of physics, she credits her mentor with great guidance when it came to the design and functionality of the web page.

“The Department of Physics here at Brock is a close-knit community. I have met many inspiring students and professors,” she said. “I would like to thank them all and Dr. Sternin for the great experience.”

More information on Brock’s Science Mentorship Program is available on the Faculty of Mathematics and Science website.

Applications for the 2018-19 program are open until Friday, March 23.

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