This is the third in a series of blogs highlighting key themes and outcomes from FasterCures’ Celebration of Science, which brought together over 1,000 scientists, educators, industry executives, policymakers, and patient advocates to celebrate the scientific achievements of the last 20 years and jumpstart a new wave of discovery.
At the recent Celebration of Science, Earvin “Magic” Johnson said one of the keys to inspiring the next generation of scientists is “to keep making it cool for the kids.” Throughout the weekend celebration, leaders in science, policy, and business touted the importance of encouraging young people to go into science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields, and making sure there are positions available for them after their education.
Panelist after panelist shared remarkable advances that are making this such an exciting era of scientific discovery (just check out DARPA’s cheetah robot). However, when young scientists complete their studies, they seem to have a hard time breaking into academic careers – only 14 percent of those who graduate with a doctoral degree in biology or life sciences attain an academic position within five years. As Steven Chu, Nobel laureate and United States Secretary of Energy, put it, “You can’t just educate people; you have to make sure they have jobs.”
The average age for a scientist to receive his or her first NIH grant is 42, which is more evidence that young people are facing barriers. It takes a lot of motivation for a young scientist to stay inspired that long before they see their job turn into a career.
Budding scientists who are being inspired by their high school chemistry teachers today need to be confident that this field will have opportunities for them tomorrow. “The most important thing we can do is capture the imaginations of the next generation,” said Eric Lander, president, Broad Institute of Harvard and MIT, and co-chair, President's Council of Advisors on Science & Technology.
Encouraging the next generation of researchers was a theme throughout the Celebration of Science, and it was the focus of the panel “STEM Education and Job Prospects for Young Investigators.” The panelists discussed the importance of internships, networking, diversifying the field of science, and the need for adequate funding. No one wants to hop on a sinking ship, much less aspire to be its captain.
That is why the Celebration took every opportunity to honor young scientists (a future Nobel laureate could be pictured at the left). As FasterCures Chairman Michael Milken said, “This is the century of bioscience. Problems that don’t appear to be solvable will be solved by bioscience. To do all of this you need talented people.” By renewing our commitment to science, we can ensure that those talented young people have opportunities in the laboratories and at patients’ bedsides.
Kids idolize sports heroes, who are invited to the White House when they win championships. The Celebration of Science honored scientists and patients who are the heroes to millions by discovering effective treatments for debilitating diseases and inspiring others with their stories of survival. Although they may not be household names, they showed how cool science can be.
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