E. E. Just Symposium
On October 4-5, Dartmouth hosted the second annual E. E. Just Symposium in celebration of the work of Ernest Everett Just, who graduated magna cum laude from Dartmouth in 1907 and went on to become a pioneering African American scientist in biology, a STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) field. The symposium focused on the future of STEM disciplines in our society and offered a wide spectrum of talks on topics ranging from human longevity to the age of the universe.
After opening remarks from President Hanlon, the symposium went on to emphasize the importance of collaboration and of studying STEM disciplines in order to enhance a variety of fields. The symposium served as a reminder that a strong factor in raising the standard of living and general well being of a society is good education in STEM subjects. One particular example showcasing this connection was a talk by Dr. Gary Weber, who introduced a new spin on neuroscience. He not only classifies different stages of meditation using scientific methods, but also works to develop a systematic track to bring the type of enlightenment he has experienced to others.
Another key theme of the symposium was how liberal arts education can promote an appreciation for interdisciplinary research. Advancing STEM education is not simply about training more scientists, but creating a workforce with both a strong liberal arts background and technical abilities. Two days of talks demonstrated how modern problems often need to be addressed by teams with diverse experiences. “These talks have inspired me to look into new research directions,” physics graduate student Mallory Guy remarked. “Also, it’s interesting to see how even the most abstract topics can be made accessible to a general audience if well presented.”
Professor Jim Gates, a physicist and one of President Obama’s advisors on science and technology, gave the keynote address. He hoped that the surprise caused by the poor results of American students on PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment) would evoke a reaction similar to the one following the “Sputnik crisis,” which motivated American space research. According to Gates, a key to ameliorating educational disparity involves an increased focus on STEM learning.
Professor Stephon Alexander, the E. E. Just 1907 Professor of Natural Sciences, organized the symposium, and the event coordinator was Christine Head. The Dean of Faculty Office and the provost sponsored the event.
by Jannis Bielefeld
photo by Eli Burakian ’00