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By David Olson The Press-Enterprise
Matt Valdez graduated with honors in June from UC Riverside’s undergraduate biochemistry program. He is now doing what he loves: Spending hours in a UCR lab in pursuit of a Ph.D. in neuroscience.
But the Moreno Valley man would not be on track toward a career in academia if he hadn’t benefited from federally funded programs aimed at boosting Latino representation in science- and math-related fields.
“If it wasn’t for the financial assistance, I wouldn’t be in graduate school,” he said.
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As a Latino science graduate student, Valdez is somewhat of a rarity. While the nation’s need for more science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM, college graduates grows, the number of Latinos in those fields far lags the national average. Unless more Latinos — now more than half of California’s pre-college pupils — enter STEM fields, the shortage will worsen, experts warn.
A recently released report coauthored by a UCR researcher says programs like the one that paid for Valdez’s senior-year tuition and gave him undergraduate laboratory experience are key to graduating more Latino STEM students.
Lindsey Malcom, an assistant professor of education at UCR, lead author of the most recent report and co-author of the first two, said programs geared toward Latino students reduce hurdles many Hispanics face.
Latino students are more likely to come from low-income families, have parents who did not go to college and attend high schools with high drop-out rates, all factors that reduce the chances of attending and then graduating from college, Malcom said.
Latinos are underrepresented throughout higher education, but particularly in STEM majors, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. In 2006, Latinos were 19 percent of the college-aged population but received only 8 percent of STEM bachelor’s degrees and 3.5 percent of master’s degrees.
Increasing the number of Hispanic STEM graduates benefits all Americans, said Jim Lightbourne, director of the division of graduate education at the National Science Foundation, which funded the reports and spent about $240 million in fiscal year 2009 to broaden the participation of students and faculty traditionally underrepresented in the STEM fields, including Hispanics, African-Americans and Native Americans. Science and technology college graduates fill jobs that are vital to the country’s national security and economic development.
MONEY AN OBSTACLE
For many Latinos, the primary barrier to obtaining a STEM degree is money. Valdez, 25, earned good grades in high school but became a janitor upon graduating so he could immediately start earning money.
Few of his friends at Canyon Springs High School were headed for college, so higher education wasn’t something he thought about seriously.
Valdez eventually realized he needed to go to college to have a stable economic future. He enrolled at what is now Riverside City College, taking classes full time and keeping his graveyard-shift janitorial job.
Nearly 60 percent of graduating Latino college seniors worked an average of 30 or more hours a week while at university, a grueling schedule that the USC reports say reduces the likelihood of completing a degree.
“It’s hard when you work in the middle of the night and have to go to class in the morning,” Valdez said. “I had no social life whatsoever.”
But he pushed himself, transferred to UC Riverside and got his degree. Federal grants paid for all his tuition during his last year at UCR and gave him a stipend his junior year. The grants were accompanied by research that helped further pique his interest in science.
‘ALWAYS PUSHED ME’
Contreras was raised by a single-parent, Mexican-immigrant mother who juggled as many as three jobs when he was a kid and received her bachelor’s degree in business administration from Cal State San Bernardino while he was a teenager.
“My mom always pushed me to do my best,” Contreras said. “She just put that drive in me from a young age. She made sure I was going to college. There was no other option.”
Contreras paid for his first two years at UCR through grants, scholarships, loans and about 25 hours a week working at a movie theater. During the past two academic years, federal and state grants have covered his tuition, allowing him to concentrate on research.
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The New York Times
The National Rifle Association has all but silenced gun research, writes Michael Luo.
In the wake of the shootings in Arizona, the familiar questions inevitably resurfaced: are communities where more people carry guns safer or less safe? Does the availability of high-capacity magazines increase deaths? Do more rigorous background checks make a difference?
The reality is that even these and other basic questions cannot be fully answered because not enough research has been done.
And there is a good reason for that: scientists in the field and former officials with the government agency that used to finance the bulk of weapons research agree that the influence of the National Rifle Association (NRA) has all but choked off money for such work.
”We’ve been stopped from answering the basic questions,” said Mark Rosenberg, the former director of the National Centre for Injury Control and Prevention, part of the federal Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which was for about a decade the leading source of financing for firearms research. Becoming increasingly assertive about the importance of studying gun-related injuries and deaths as a public health phenomenon, studies found that that having a gun in the house, rather than conferring protection, significantly increased the risk of homicide by a family member or intimate acquaintance.
Alarmed, the NRA and its allies on Capitol Hill fought back. Initially, pro-gun legislators sought to eliminate the injury centre completely. When that failed, they turned to the appropriations process. In 1996, the Arkansas Republican Jay Dickey succeeded in pushing through an amendment that stripped $2.6 million from the disease control centres’ budget, the very amount it had spent on firearms-related research the year before.
The Senate later restored the money but designated it for research on traumatic brain injury. Language was also inserted into the centres’ appropriations bill that remains in place today: ”None of the funds made available for injury prevention and control at the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention may be used to advocate or promote gun control.”
The prohibition is striking, firearms researchers say, because there are already regulations that bar the use of CDC money for lobbying for or against legislation. No other field of inquiry is singled out in this way.
“You can’t legitimately pursue a long-term research agenda to really understand a particular problem unless you have ongoing, stable research-dollar support,” he said.
”So with the questions that are being raised by this latest tragedy, there’s no clear research funding that would help answer those vexing questions that have been raised.”
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NASA Updates Target Launch Date for STS-133 and STS-134. Click here for new dates.
NASA wants to put a picture of you on one of the two remaining space shuttle missions and launch it into orbit. To launch your face into space and become a part of history, just follow these steps:
First…Select the Participate button at the bottom of this page and upload your image/name, which will be flown aboard the space shuttle. Don’t have a picture to upload? No problem, just skip the image upload and we will fly your name only on your selected mission!
Next…Print and save the confirmation page with your flight information.
Later…Return to this site after launch to print your Flight Certificate – a commemorative certificate signed by the Mission Commander. You can also check on mission status, view mission photographs, link to various NASA educational resources and follow the commander and crew on Twitter or Facebook.
Are you a student between the ages of 13- 18 who loves science? Do you have a good idea for an experiment that you’d like to share with the world?
In 1996, two young computer science students, Larry Page and Sergey Brin, had a hypothesis that there was a better way to find information on the web. They did their research, tested their theories and built a search engine which (eventually) changed the way people found information online. Larry and Sergey were fortunate to be able to get their idea in front of lots of people. But how many ideas are lost because people don’t have the right forum for their talents to be discovered? We believe that science can change the world-and one way to encourage that is to celebrate and champion young scientific talent as we do athletes and pop idols.
To help make today’s young scientists the rock stars of tomorrow, in partnership with CERN, The LEGO Group, National Geographic and Scientific American, we’re introducing the first global online science competition: the Google Science Fair. It’s open to students around the world who are between the ages of 13-18. All you need is access to a computer, the Internet and a web browser.
You may have participated in local or regional science fairs where you had to be in the same physical space to compete with kids in your area. Now any student with an idea can participate from anywhere, and share their idea with the world. You build and submit your project-either by yourself or in a team of up to three-entirely online. Students in India (or Israel or Ireland) will be able to compete with students in Canada (or Cambodia or Costa Rica) for prizes including once-in-a-lifetime experiences (like a trip to the Galapagos Islands with a National Geographic Explorer), scholarships and real-life work opportunities (like a five-day trip to CERN in Switzerland). And if you’re entering a science fair locally, please feel free to post that project online with Google Science Fair, too!
To enter, register online and create your project as a Google Site. Registration is open through April 4, 2011. Please note: you must get parental or guardian consent in order to compete. You can check out the complete rules here. After April 4, we’ll begin judging and will announce our semi-finalists in early May.
The semi-finalist projects will be posted on our online gallery, where we’ll encourage the public to vote for a “people’s choice” winner. From our list of semi-finalists, we’ll select 15 finalists to bring their projects to Google headquarters on July 11 to compete in our final, live event, where world-renowned science judges will select a winner in each age category, as well as a grand-prize winner.
Here’s an example of a great science fair project site to inspire you. We asked Tesca, a U.S. high school senior from Oregon, to create it for us based on an award-winning project she’s been working on for years. Tesca’s objective is to make hospitals more efficient using artificial intelligence-a world-changing goal, to be sure.
So if you think you’re the next Albert Einstein, Marie Curie-or Larry Page or Sergey Brin-sign up today for the Google Science Fair. Prove once again how science can change the world!
(un-redd.org) - Deforestation and forest degradation, through agricultural expansion, conversion to pastureland, infrastructure development, destructive logging, fires etc., account for nearly 20% of global greenhouse gas emissions, more than the entire global transportation sector and second only to the energy sector. It is now clear that in order to constrain the impacts of climate change within limits that society will reasonably be able to tolerate, the global average temperatures must be stabilized within two degrees Celsius. This will be practically impossible to achieve without reducing emissions from the forest sector, in addition to other mitigation actions.
REDD - Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation in Developing Countries – is an effort to create a financial value for the carbon stored in forests, offering incentives for developing countries to reduce emissions from forested lands and invest in low-carbon paths to sustainable development.
It is predicted that financial flows for greenhouse gas emission reductions from REDD could reach up to US$30 billion a year. This significant North-South flow of funds could reward a meaningful reduction of carbon emissions and could also support new, pro-poor development, help conserve biodiversity and secure vital ecosystem services.
Further, maintaining forest ecosystems can contribute to increased resilience to climate change. To achieve these multiple benefits, REDD will require the full engagement and respect for the rights of Indigenous Peoples and other forest-dependent communities.
To “seal the deal” on climate change, REDD activities in developing countries must complement, not be a substitute for, deep cuts in developed countries’ emissions. The decision to include REDD in a post-Kyoto regime must not jeopardize the commitment of Annex I countries to reduce their own emissions. Both will be critical to successfully address climate change.
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