|Students from Economedes High School in Edinburg look at samples through microscopes at The University of Texas-Pan American Friday, May 18 during UTPA's second annual Physical Science Day. UTPA's Departments of Physics and Geology and Chemistry hosted 150 students from all three high schools from the Edinburg Consolidated Independent School District on campus to inform them about opportunities in pursuing STEM-related careers.|
About 150 students from the three high schools of the Edinburg Consolidated Independent School District watched UTPA faculty members and teaching assistants perform experiments — and at times participated as well — that explain how physics and other sciences are used to solve problems throughout the world.
UT Pan American's Departments of Physics and Geology and Chemistry began hosting the event last year as a way to inspire and encourage high school students to consider studying STEM subjects and pursue careers in these fields, including teaching these subjects.
In some of the demonstrations, students saw the effects of natural disasters such as mudslides and earthquakes, the differences in temperature of colors and how velocity is measured.
Students heard about what programs UTPA has to offer in physics and other science subjects, as well as programs that prepare students to become educators in the STEM fields. They also learned about scholarship opportunities to help them pay for their college education.
Economedes High School students Alyssa Martinez and Haley De La Rosa said they were impressed by the experiments and are thinking about taking more physical science classes in college.
"I think I enjoyed the chemistry the most, along with the biophysics, the one with the cloud, the generator," De La Rosa said, referring to one of the experiments. "I found that most interesting. I already had an interest before this in physics but I think it has just been heightened."
The students said they appreciated UTPA reaching out to them with this event.
"I think it's a really positive thing for students, especially high school, especially nowadays, kids aren't informed about these things and it's nice they'll do this to get more students involved," Martinez said. "I was thinking about going to Baylor, but now I'm thinking about staying here and maybe going to med school because of all these programs that are available here."
The need for professionals in the STEM fields, including physics, is great, as Baby Boomers in those types of jobs are starting to retire. In Texas, which is home to many companies and organizations in the STEM professions, students will be required to take physical science in the ninth grade starting this fall, said Dr. Dorina Chipara, assistant professor of physics at UTPA.
Unfortunately, many students are not familiar with physics and how it can be applied in the real world, Chipara added. That is why events such as this one provide the University the opportunity to inform students about physics and related sciences and expose them to what studying these subjects has to offer them.
"Physics is the mother of all sciences," Chipara said. "It is explaining what is around us in the universe, it is explaining the chemistry, explaining the biology, it is explaining the engineering. This is the basis for all sciences."
The UTPA faculty members said they would like to expand this event to include more school districts to visit the campus and have their students learn more about the opportunities in pursuing physics and other STEM fields.