Muirlands Middle School’s annual Science Technology Engineering Arts and Mathematics (STEAM) Career Day drew presenters from myriad walks of life to clue students in on the ins and outs of their professions on Feb. 6.
The lineup of presenters at the La Jolla middle school included a surgeon, several professors, a cellist, a cake decorator, a public health researcher, a print journalist, a registered nurse, clinical and forensic psychologists, an author and an artist, among others.
Muirlands STEAM Career Day chairs were Anna De Angelis and Jackie Fisk.
Presenters met in the middle school’s auditorium to get a group picture taken before moving on to address questions from students in three different classes.
"Our sixth annual STEAM day was a tremendous success,” said Muirlands Principal Geof Martin. “I heard so many of our students talk about the experience of having our presenters share the passion for the work they do. I believe experiences like these can shape the path our students take as they think about their future. I also hear from presenters about being back in a school, talking with students. I hope we can continue to have an annual STEAM day, the effort planning pays off for all in our community.”
Two student's reactions to their presenters were both positive.
“As a student here at Muirlands, I love learning about the many jobs I, along with others in my class, could have,” said seventh-grader Emma Weibel. “This year, my favorite presenter was Kathy Cooperman. Her amazing speech incorporated her life as both a lawyer and writer, and she explained things like what she had to do to be a lawyer and how she was able to publish her first book. Her presentation was not only interesting but inspired me to read her book. I kept thinking about the presentation all day.”
“It is an educational experience in which one gets the chance to learn about possible careers and what they entail,” noted eighth-grader Nathan Rifkin. “I enjoyed Elizabeth Villa’s presentation of biochemistry and how various mutations can lead to Parkinson’s disease.”
Presenters enjoyed themselves, too.
"During STEAM day, I presented to sixth and seventh graders about the daily life of a professor at UCSD and about our research,” said professor Galia Debelouchina in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry. “We work in the field of nuclear magnetic resonance, which in many ways is very similar to magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), a diagnostic tool used in hospitals. … I tried to show aspects of my job that are probably less known to the general public. For example, students were very surprised to find out that we use graphic design programs on a regular basis to make cartoons explaining our research, or even cover art for scientific journals. … Overall, STEAM day was an inspirational and enriching experience for me too. … I was reminded that not that long ago, I was just like them, curious and excited to learn about the world. I hope my presentations inspired some of them to think about the job of a scientist in a different way and to explore career paths they never saw themselves exploring before.”
"I offered the kids a choice via show-of-hands: should I talk about being a lawyer or being a writer?” said Kathy Cooperman, who is both. “The kids surprised me by being more interested in law. I gave a brief spiel on what I'd done, then opened the room up to questions.”
Added Cooperman, “The kids were fiercely practical, asking about money, work/life balance and, of course, war stories. I tried to be honest, warning them that working for big, civil firms means big salaries, but terrible hours. Criminal is way more fun, but less lucrative. The kids' questions about writing novels were also pragmatic: how to get an agent, how to get a publisher, how to make up stories, plotting, etc. I told them there is no magic secret to writing — it's hard work that can be done a gazillion ways. The kids perked up when I reminded them that writing is not just about novels. Most of pop culture is ‘written’ by someone — films, TV shows, plays, video games and (to an extent) reality shows are all written by somebody."