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Getting girls excited about science and math

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(BPT) - “My research experiences have shown me that, in spite of what statistics say about women in science, any girl with a passion for exploring unanswered questions can and should be persistent in pursuing that work,” says Sara Volz, 17. “Being female should not hold anyone back from science or engineering.”

Volz won the grand prize and $100,000 in the 2013 Intel Science Talent Search, the nation’s oldest and most prestigious high school science research competition, for her research of algae biofuels. The competition inspires students to tackle some of the world’s biggest challenges, from cancer treatments to natural disaster solutions. This year, nearly half of the 40 finalists were female.

According to the Department of Commerce, women currently hold fewer than 25 percent of jobs in science, technology, engineering and math fields, but job opportunities in those areas are expected to grow almost twice as much as other occupations by 2018.

Parents of girls currently in junior high or high school can encourage their daughters to stay interested in science and math by supporting their education in the subjects, both in the classroom and in extracurricular activities. To help inspire girls to pursue science, female Intel Science Talent Search finalists share their experiences on how they stayed involved:

* Develop a science network. A support team of like-minded classmates and friends can strengthen a girl’s interest and success in science and engineering subjects.

* Find a mentor. Teachers, neighbors, parents of friends and even business leaders in your community make great mentors in science and math. They help girls visualize the exciting path ahead of them.

* Get your hands dirty. You can only learn so much about science by reading a textbook. Immerse yourself in hands-on experiences, in the laboratory or out in the field. Actually doing science is what makes science so fun.

* Embrace your unique perspective. Research has found that men and women approach problems from different angles, which gives girls interested in science the ability to provide new and creative suggestions.

* Prepare to be surprised. Science is fun. Girls can learn and explore cutting-edge territory and be involved in researching breakthroughs in science. These breakthroughs, from medical treatments to environmental solutions, can lead to changing the world.

* Don’t give up. Stereotypes exist, but they shouldn’t prevent a girl from doing something she loves. Instead, embrace the challenge of going against socially-constructed limits and wow everyone.

As the 19 female finalists in the 2013 Intel Science Talent Search prove, girls can succeed in the fields of science and math and enjoy what they’re learning, as well. Those who explore and study these subjects have excellent future career potential and will embark on a journey of discovery in their learning.

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