Why Physics as a Separate Discipline?
Physics is how the world works, it’s how the universe works. We see it in everyday life. Physics is the most fundamental science discipline. It is the science that leads to all other sciences. Understanding key areas of physics (Mechanics, Material Structure, Electricity and Magnetism, Optics, Nuclear & Anatomic Physics, and Modern Physics) allows the deepest understanding of how the world around us works, and develops a foundation for strong analytical and research skills, in other words, it promotes critical thinking. Studying physics on a comprehensive level turns excitement into real knowledge and ensures there are enough qualified graduates to fill in critical engineering positions: mechanical engineers, electrical engineers, and others. Physics will help in whatever field the student chooses.
Although Physical Science is a small portion of current Science curriculum in K-12 education, the level and scarcity of topics presented leaves many critical materials and real-life problem solving out of the curriculum. Since Physical Science is not taught in middle school as a separate discipline, our students receive at least 20 times less material than the students in other countries. This has a direct impact on the daunting results of our students’ position within global education: our top students scoring below peers in 25 countries on mathematics literacy, and below 17 countries in science literacy! Let’s once and for all solve this problem.
As a Physics professor at University of Colorado Colorado Springs (UCCS), director of the Center for Advanced Technologies & Optical Materials, I have the privilege of working with a variety of students, academics, and technological professionals from varying backgrounds. This experience has allowed me to play an active role in the research and development of future technological trends, and to understand what skills and knowledge are required from the students and new professionals in order to be strongly competitive in the technological workforce.
The jobs and demands of the future will be dictated by the biggest problems that the world will face: energy, health, food supply, and water accessibility. No matter whether the technology or solution exists today or must be developed, the skills that will be in most demand in the United States and the world will be connected to finding best solutions to the above problems. Scientists and Engineers will be addressing a lot of these problems.
Unfortunately, there is a common trend in the United States and Colorado region: there are not enough Science & Engineering (S&E) professionals to sustain the level of innovation that our industries demand today and in the future. Only 16 percent of undergraduate students choose science and engineering as a major. And studies show that of those, less than 40 percent of college students majoring in science, technology, engineering or math actually finish the degree. Pursuing S&E careers has been normally associated with the highly demanding and “hard” study of such subjects as Mathematics, Physics, Computer Programming, Chemistry, Biology and many other subjects.
Are these subjects hard? No…they are just introduced to many students in the United States too late! Middle school is the key.
As part of the See The Change USA team, I am extremely excited about helping our future generations start learning the amazing world of Physics in middle school.
Why? Physics is the science that leads to all other sciences. Understanding key areas of physics (Mechanics, Material Structure, Electricity and Magnetism, Optics, Nuclear & Anatomic Physics, and Modern Physics) allows the deepest understanding of how the world around us works, and develops a foundation for strong analytical and research skills. Many amazing initiatives have been launched to spark curiosity and excitement about science. Studying physics turns excitement into real knowledge and ensures there are enough qualified graduates to fill in critical engineering positions: mechanical engineers, electrical engineers, and others. Connecting physics with computer programming, mathematics, chemistry, and biology completes the full package required to succeed in college and beyond.
I am humbled and honored to share this new era of American education with you!
We Have a Deficit of Science & Engineering Talent in the United States – The long-term prosperity of our Nation will increasingly rely on talented and motivated individuals who will comprise the vanguard of scientific and technological innovation – S&E professionals. The statistics supporting this statement are a strong testimonial to an urgency and scale of the problem all of us face.
Attrition of S&E Students at the University Level
More than 40 percent of students in the United States who start as engineering and science majors end up switching to other majors or even dropping out of school.2
We Rely Heavily on Foreign-born S&E Talent
33 percent of all U.S. STEM (Science, Technology, Engineer, and Math) students in U.S. universities are foreign students on temporary visas, and 57 percent of U.S. postdoctoral fellows in STEM fields hold temporary visas.3
Students in Other Countries Are Outperforming Our Highest-achieving Students
U.S. 15-year-olds in the 90th percentile (our top students) scored below their peers in 29 countries on mathematics literacy, and below 12 countries on science literacy.1
Lack of Qualified S&E Professionals to Satisfy Industry Needs
It’s difficult to recruit employees in the U.S. with the skills, training, and education the companies need, despite unemployment at over 8% and millions of Americans seeking jobs.2 (dpiX, Honeywell, Lockheed Martin, etc.)
Foreign-born Doctoral Degree Holders Constitute an Increasing Share of the S&E Workforce
Representing about 50% of the workforce in engineering and computer science, 37% and 43% of the workers in the physical sciences and mathematics.3
Just in the state of Colorado, within the next five years, we are facing the point of no return.
By 2018, Colorado will experience 57,000 shortage in S&E professionals.
Remember, this is an outlook of just one state! On a national level the trend continues to grow.
Sources: 1. Colorado Department of Education. (2012). Pupil Membership by School and Grade level; 2. Colorado Department of Education. (2012). Graduates and Completers by District; 3. National Center for Education Statistics. (2011). The Condition of Education 2011; 4. George Town University, Center on Education and Workforce. (2012). STEM