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University of Missouri

Helping STEM Branch Out

MU focuses on graduate student training in STEM fields.

Angela Speck

Angela Speck, a professor of physics and astronomy, wants to improve graduate student training in science, technology, engineering and math. She is shown on the Physics Building roof with Memorial Union tower in the background. Photo by Nicholas Benner.

rom Benjamin Franklin to Steve Jobs, America’s mythos has been one of innovation and Yankee ingenuity.

The U.S. needs more science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) graduates who will fuel the next generation of American invention.

But Angela Speck, a professor of physics and astronomy and recipient of a 2013 William T. Kemper Award for teaching excellence, says the need for STEM education is even more basic.

“If you want to understand decisions about sequestration of carbon [having] to do with global warming or choices that are made with [fuel] standards in cars, you’re not in a position to judge those things without a good basic science literacy,” she says.

Speck directs MU’s efforts within the Center for the Integration of Research, Teaching and Learning, a collaboration of 25 universities nationwide. It helps current graduate students become better STEM teachers on every rung of the educational ladder.

In science, teaching is often secondary to lab research. Speck uses the classroom as a laboratory to discover better methods for teaching those with physical disabilities and different learning styles. Speaking slowly and clearly, for instance, helps students with poor hearing, eyesight or for whom English is a second language keep up. “Inclusivity helps everyone,” she says.

Find out how a blind doctoral student in science education teaches others to make the classroom more inclusive.