Surprise, surprise, I am a STEM student. Many of you already know this but let me say it again. I spent 4.5 years at the university working towards my Masters in Industrial Engineering. While I don’t identify so much with the Industrial (read business) part of my degree, I feel more at home in the engineering department. My friend Tyler, who is an English graduate wrote this post about Creativity in STEM yesterday and since his blog doesn’t have a freaking comment section, I have to write a counter post because 140 characters on Twitter is hardly enough to adequately respond to his post. So go on, read it. I’ll wait for you to come back when you’re finished.
Okay. I hope you all read his post by now because otherwise you’re probably a bit lost. Moving on then. First of all, this is based off my German experience, universities work a bit differently here as they do in the US. We mostly don’t pay student fees and if we do, they are really low. (I know the funding he talks about is probably not from fees but whatever.) While I studied it was 500€ per semester. No biggie. I am familiar with the whole debate about not having enough STEM students because we’re told this constantly over here as well. The thing is, there aren’t enough engineers, mathematicians and physicists to satisfy demand. It’s true. And just because we’re told there is a high demand doesn’t mean more people start studying these subjects because to most, maths are gross and physics stupid and what do you need the shit for anyway, right? Wrong! As far as I know, there isn’t a huge increase in STEM students over here just because we’re told to study it.
The reason STEM graduates are paid more is simple economics: We have a high demand of STEM folks but not enough to satisfy demand so the companies that need them are in competition with each other trying to secure their supply. On the other hand we have an abundance of humanities graduates with only few job opportunities for them (that being in traditional humanities fields unlike you’re an oddity like Tyler) so of course the employers can afford to not offer a lot of money for their employees because there sure is one who will work for the money because it beats being unemployed.
I also don’t know anything about how departments are funded but what I do know from my studies is that the money my engineering department got wasn’t a lot either. Most of the cool things they have, they finance through third party financing which means they actually do projects for the free market. You need a new laser because the old one is broken? Well, don’t expect the university to pay for it. Go out and find a company that pays you for your consulting or development support.
Of course I can only speak for myself and the people I studied with but we all can write complete sentences. Complicated sentences. Hell, I can do so even in two different languages! And I can’t help but wonder if maybe something is fundamentally broken with the American school system if your engineering students can’t express themselves in words because as I understand it, we engineers actually have lots of stuff to explain. Sure, we prefer to use a diagram whenever possible because it can oftentimes explain something so much better than 50 words or even more could do and I don’t see anything wrong with that. I may not be able to analyse my way through a poem but that’s mostly because a lot of it seems highly speculative and subjective to me whereas maths and physics rely on constants and logic that I can handle and understand. They’re bound to empirical data, things I can actually grasp, rerun and still get the same results. I can measure the noise of a machine at one place and even though the surroundings may be completely different, still get the same results if you know what kind of measuring system to use. It’s amazing.
Water at see level boils at 100°C while it freezes at 0°C.
Everything in this world is made up of atoms. Protons and neutrons. A whole bunch of different quarks. Everything is moving, always. Until you hit 0K.
I never fully mastered the art of where to put a comma or when to use a semicolon. Especially not in English as we were never taught so and German is confusing on so many levels. But having studied humanities would not have magically made me know how to either. I agree that we all should have broad studies, just because I studied engineering doesn’t mean I have to limit myself to that though. And from what I can tell, Tyler didn’t so either. Even though he has an English degree, he works in STEM but I don’t think this makes him any better equipped to handle life per se. Just as I am not better equipped because I studied engineering. I think of it as two different ways of looking at the same problem.
And now I think I lost my train of though some place but hey, this thing is almost at 1,000 words. So. Much. Word. Vomit. (I’m sorry.) What I actually wanted to say is, I didn’t feel rightly represented by Tyler’s post and the assumption that physics and maths limit your thinking in a way humanities do not. I just don’t feel that. I am also plenty silly and creative.
A while ago I did write a post about Women in STEM because despite this being 2014 and us females being told for YEARS that we should get into STEM, there are still not enough of us around. I still work in a field (and a company) dominated by men. Out of the 12 engineers there are only 3 women, myself included. There needs to be something done about this. And I do believe the root of all evil lies in our early education an upbringings. We’re being type cast, boys do this, girls do that. You get a doll while you get a truck for christmas. Hey, you show promise in the field of STEM so focus exclusively on that. Ew, maths sounds difficult, let me hide in my books. Like Virginia Woolf said many years ago in her famous essay A Room of One’s Own, we should just all forget about sexes to be true and great writers. Why not extend that thought? While talents should be supported, they should not be a way of pushing a person into a corner.