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Oct. 15 “Ask Me Anything” event featuring astronaut Dr. Cady Coleman to build momentum for STEM Week

Area high school, community college, and university students will have an opportunity to ask astronaut Catherine “Cady” Coleman, Ph.D. anything on Oct. 15 as part of a virtual conversation with the local hero. “Ask Me Anything: A Conversation with Astronaut Cady Coleman” will foreshadow a week-long series of events to celebrate Massachusetts STEM Week Oct. 19–23, 2020.

In its third year, Massachusetts STEM Week Oct. 19–23 is a statewide celebration to raise awareness of and interest in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education and employment opportunities. Massachusetts STEM Week is organized by the Executive Office of Education and the STEM Advisory Council in partnership with the state’s nine regional STEM networks. Westfield State University serves as the lead institution for the Pioneer Valley STEM Network (PVSTEM NET). In addition to the Oct. 15 event, PVSTEM NET will host a STEAM Virtual Showcase on Thursday, Oct. 22 at 6 p.m.

“As we continue to work to encourage more young people to pursue careers in STEM, it is critical to provide opportunities to learn about the exciting possibilities in this field,” said Lt. Governor Karyn Polito. “Thank you to Dr. Coleman, Westfield State University, and the Pioneer Valley STEM Network for partnering to help students see themselves in STEM.”

Massachusetts STEM Week highlights the ongoing efforts to educate and engage in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, according to Jennifer Hanselman, Ph.D., PVSTEM NET regional manager and dean of Westfield State’s College of Mathematics and Sciences.

“This year’s theme is aimed at encouraging and supporting underrepresented youth, especially Black and Brown students, in STEM fields to pursue STEM careers as well as to bolster their persistence through STEM education with a mentor that is engaged, supportive, and shares in the many unique parts of their identity,” she said.

Coleman, an advocate for inclusion in STEM

“Dr. Coleman’s story is an inspiring and empowering one, especially for young women as they consider careers in STEM,” said Hanselman. “Throughout her career, Dr. Coleman demonstrates how scientists and engineers not only provide powerful insights into the world around us and advancing technologies, but she also emphasizes the importance of distilling that information to the public.

“Dr. Coleman exemplifies the value of a STEM education; she inspires us with her commitment to inclusion in STEM and her focus on social and environmental justice.”

A western Massachusetts resident, Coleman received her doctorate in polymer science and engineering from the University of Massachusetts Amherst in 1991. She joined the NASA astronaut corps in 1992 and has spent a total of 180 days in space, accumulated during two space shuttle missions, and a six-month expedition to the International Space Station (ISS), where she acted as the lead robotics and lead science officer.

Coleman is a vocal advocate for inclusion in STEM/STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art, and mathematics) fields and a sought-after speaker on a range of topics. Currently a research affiliate at the MIT Media Lab and Global Explorer in Residence at Arizona State University, she consults on space-related work, including microgravity research. She’s an amateur flute player, best known for her “Space Duet” with Jethro Tull’s Ian Anderson and her work from space with the acclaimed Irish band, The Chieftains. Coleman also coached actress Sandra Bullock from the ISS in preparation for Bullock’s astronaut role in the 2013 Hollywood film “Gravity.”

Massachusetts STEM Week

STEM Week’s theme is “See Yourself in STEM,” with a focus on the power of mentoring. Women, people of color, first-generation students, low-income individuals, English language learners, and people with disabilities are underrepresented in STEM industries and make up an increasing portion of the overall workforce, but the demographics of STEM fields have remained largely the same, as more young people are needed to see themselves in STEM fields.

PVSTEM NET STEM Week activity highlights include:

Ask Me Anything: A Conversation with Astronaut Cady Coleman
Thursday, Oct. 15, 2020, 6:30 p.m.
Catherine “Cady” Coleman, Ph.D., is a former NASA Astronaut and retired Air Force colonel with more than 180 days in space, including two space shuttle missions and a six-month expedition to the International Space Station (ISS), where she acted as the lead robotics and lead science officer. As an advocate for inclusion in STEM, it is fitting that she will lead a dynamic question-and-answer session with students, giving them an opportunity to ask questions about her STEM story, her experience on the ISS, the recent SpaceX mission, and other related topics. This event is open to high school, community college, and university students. Registration is required.

STEAM Virtual Showcase
Thursday, Oct. 22, 2020, 6 p.m.
Guest speaker: Westfield State Assistant Professor of Biology Jason Ramsay, Ph.D., a biologist and biological illustrator

PVSTEM NET will host its first STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art, and mathematics) Virtual Showcase. Students and members of the community can share their STEM-related art during this session. Ramsay will share an example from his biological research, and PVSTEM NET will later share the creative work of the Pioneer Valley. Participants are encouraged to register and submit their work in advance (file format is a photo or short video clip (< 20 sec). They will receive Zoom credentials when they register. All attendees will receive a certificate of participation.

STEM Week Event Registration
Are you planning a STEM Week activity in your class, school, remote learning center, or at home? Register your event. Share your STEM/STEAM activity, and stay connected with PVSTEM NET. 

Resources
Westfield State University’s College of Mathematics and Sciences;
PVSTEM NET;
Massachusetts STEM Week;
Questions: Jennifer Hanselman, Ph.D., PVSTEM NET regional manager: jhanselman@westfield.ma.edu

About the Pioneer Valley STEM Network
PVSTEM NET aims to enable area businesses, institutions of higher education, local school districts, regional workforce development professionals, community-based organizations, and various municipal or civic leaders to increase the number of area students who participate in career-related programs in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM), while also increasing the number of qualified STEM teachers and improving educational offerings in area schools.

Media Contact:
Lorraine U. Martinelle
Communication Officer
Westfield State University
lmartinelle@westfield.ma.edu

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