Students at The University of Texas-Pan American heard inspirational career advice from a Nobel Prize Laureate and top-notch educators during the first day of Hispanic Engineering, Science and Technology (HESTEC) Week, which featured a day set aside for University students in the fields of education, engineering and the sciences.
UTPA science and engineering students had the opportunity to receive advice from 1973 Nobel Prize in Physics Laureate Dr. Ivar Giaever, who told more than 200 students if they can develop an invention that makes a significant difference in today's world, they too can some day become a Nobel Prize Laureate.
Giaever, who is known for his pioneering work combining tunneling and superconductivity which he received his Nobel Prize for, participated in the second annual UTPA Science Symposium, one of many events during HESTEC's Math and Science Educator Day, Sept. 26.
The Norwegian born physicist advised UTPA students if they wanted to receive a Nobel Prize medal one day, they should possess the following: curiosity, competitiveness, creativity, stubbornness, self-confidence, skepticism, patience and above all luck he said.
During his presentation, Giaever also gave background on how the Nobel Prize came about and he talked about great scientists like Albert Einstein and inventors such as Thomas Edison. He also posed a question to the audience about Nobel Prize winners being crucial in the world of science and engineering.
"If Einstein had not lived, we still would have had the Theory of Relativity, no question about it. If Einstein had not gotten it, then somebody else would have," he said.
UTPA senior Robert Carreon, an electrical engineering major, said he enjoyed listening to Giaever's points of view on science and the words of wisdom he bestowed on the future scientists and engineers. Carreon said he learned that scientists and engineers do not have to be deep into the philosophy of science, they just need to be more original and want to create a change in the world.
"If you ever want to excel in the scientific world and win a Nobel Prize and be distinguished, it is not about being deep in the water, but about being inventive, simple and making discoveries and not letting simple things pass you by because that simple thing could be a major discovery," Carreon said.
Nobar Cortez, a senior electrical engineer major, said he enjoyed the chance he was given to meet with the Nobel Prize Laureate and pick his brain on some theories in science.
"It is not often you get to meet somebody like that and it was great to see what you want to aspire to become in the future," Cortez said.
During the UTPA Science Symposium, students also heard from Dr. John Purcell, currently Monsanto's Global Lead of Scientific Affairs, who directs a diverse global team that concentrates on the benefits and issues related to the company's biotechnology product portfolio. Purcell spoke on "Biotechnology and the Future of the World's Food Supply." Another speaker was Dr. Lokenath Debnath, chair of the UTPA Department of Mathematics, who spoke on "The Dual Nature of Man and Science."
Additionally, more than 200 students who are studying to be teachers at UT Pan American attended the College of Education Student Symposium.
Dr. J. Michael Ortiz, president of California State Polytechnic University-Pomona, shared personal experiences that led him to his current position, as well as offered words of inspiration for the budding teachers.
"The number of lives you are going to touch as educators is going to be significant," he said. "You are going to be molding the future of the Valley and the state of Texas."
With a long history as an educator, he said it is essential for beginning teachers to maintain focus, develop a support structure and network with peers, as more than 50 percent of people who enter the teaching profession leave after five years.
Ortiz also talked about the opportunities and challenges facing teachers today, including the fact that 50 percent of Hispanic students drop out before they reach high school.
"The way you organize your classroom has a significant impact on students' attitudes toward math and science," he said. "Your goal should be getting students into a university. We can overcome all challenges by winning over one classroom at a time. HESTEC is a platform for different people to get involved in teaching math and science who bring with them a cultural awareness like many of you do."
Sheri Klug, director of the Arizona State University Mars Education Program - which provides hands-on opportunities for teachers and students to participate in Mars explorations - shared ways to get K-12 students interested in space, as well as incorporate lessons about the "red planet" into their curriculum.
"Since Mars exploration missions will be happening every 26 months, as a teacher, you can start to use the same curriculum to teach about Mars punctuated with new discoveries in the future to get your students involved," she said. "We work with teachers and create activities that coordinate with things you are going to be teaching anyway. We replace worksheets with things that are actually happening in the real world."
Klug reminded the soon-to-be educators to encourage their future students to be curious, ask questions and to help them realize that there are many career opportunities available in science, math and technology.
"Your students need to have a vision for the future," she said. "Teaching students about Mars and space exploration gives them an awesome opportunity to know that there are still things that need to be discovered. We hope that you all are going to be able to open those windows for students and feed those interests, appetites and curiosities."
College of Education Student Symposium attendees also heard from Dr. Gerhard L. Salinger, program director in the Instructional Materials Development Program in the Division of Elementary, Secondary and Informal Education in the Directorate for Education and Human Resources at the National Science Foundation.
Salinger presented the results of a study - America's Lab Report - about the current state of high school science laboratories and how they contribute to science education, as well as the attributes a teacher must possess in order to be effective in today's classroom.
"Teachers must have a thorough knowledge of the subject, pedagogical content knowledge, classroom management skills and understand and love children," he said. "Teaching requires practice. It's like learning to play a musical instrument. You practice, you think about what you are doing and you model what other good teachers do." With more than 25 years of experience teaching physics at the college level, Salinger, also offered practical advice to the future educators.
"It isn't important that you know everything - you can't know everything. It's important that you know how to deal with not knowing something and use those opportunities to tell your students 'lets learn this together,'" he said. "Even though you are constrained by state assessments, I encourage you to think about different methods of instruction."