North Carolina Sea Grant

November 7, 2014 | Katie Mosher

Posted Nov. 7, 2014


Heather Heenehan is a doctoral student in marine science and conservation at Duke University. A blogger for the Girls in STEM series for The Huffington Post, she has a master’s in environmental management from Duke and a bachelor’s in environmental science from the University of Connecticut. At Duke she studies the sounds of Hawaiian spinner dolphins in their resting bays off the Kona Coast of Hawaii Island. She also finds time to participate in many different outreach activities including the Females Excelling More in Math Engineering and Science (FEMMES) program. She also is on the leadership team for the Scientific Research and Education Network (SciREN). She has been an educator as well, with The Wetlands Institute in Stone Harbor, New Jersey and SeaWorld in Orlando, Florida.

If you want to talk to women in STEM in NC, you should come to SciREN!

I was listening to a great NPR story about women in STEM — science, technology, engineering and math — fields the other day. Kelly McEvers leads the piece by saying, “If you want to talk about women in science” that you should really talk to Dr. Frances Arnold, a California Institute of Technology professor and engineer. Easier said than done of course. What if you don’t live in California and can’t easily go to Professor Arnold’s office to chat? What if you live in, say, North Carolina? Where should you go? Who can you talk to?

Lesson plan workshop.

Many women attended the lesson plan workshop. Photo by Kerry Irish.

The free Scientific Research and Education Network (SciREN) Triangle event on Nov.13 is one space where educators can come talk to women in STEM fields about being a woman in a STEM field. For the past two years I have been extremely lucky to be on the leadership team for SciREN, founded three years ago by Ethan Theuerkauf and Justin Ridge at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s Institute of Marine Sciences. The leadership team has since expanded to include Avery Paxton, also at UNC IMS, Justin Baumann and Kate Augustine at UNC-Chapel Hill, myself and Alyse Larkin at the Duke University Marine Lab, Patrick Green and Eleanor Caves at Duke main campus and Seth Theuerkauf and Doreen McVeigh from NC State University. (And yes we all get along even if we don’t all cheer for the same sports teams!)

At our preparatory lesson plan workshop, generously sponsored by North Carolina Sea Grant in September, 50 STEM researchers gathered to work on their lesson plan ideas, with 20 teachers there to help them. It was at the lesson plan workshop that we all realized just how many women in STEM are involved in SciREN. Although we didn’t count, I would bet that 90 percent of the researchers in the room were women. Then I was curious about the breakdown of our event participation. Well…

60% of all of the participants in our networking event on the coast in February 2014 were women.
67% of the STEM researchers registered to participate in our Triangle event are women.

I am always inspired by the excitement and passion at SciREN events. And the upcoming SciREN Triangle event is no exception. I am excited about the fact that many of our STEM researcher participants are millenials like myself. I am inspired by the number of women in STEM participating in SciREN. But ultimately, we, the whole leadership team, are so excited to provide a diverse set of STEM researchers and research to teachers and ultimately to students in the State of North Carolina. You will find men and women, undergraduate and graduate students, postdocs, professors, etc. in a huge range of STEM fields.

SciREN provides the space for educators to not just talk to and interact with STEM researchers but also offers the opportunity to find classroom materials based on cutting edge research in the STEM fields and make connections for future classroom visits and collaborations.

Shannon Brown

Shannon Brown, one of the SciREN Women in STEM participating in the Triangle event. Photo courtesy Shannon Brown.

On Nov.13, we will hold our third networking event and our first in the Research Triangle of North Carolina at the N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences in Raleigh. We have 150 researchers from the STEM fields ranging from psychology, math, physics to biology, engineering, chemistry… the list goes on… registered to participate.

Over 270 educators also are planning to attend. As of a few days ago we had teachers from 26 of the 100 North Carolina counties represented —Alamance, Bertie, Carteret, Catawba, Chatham, Craven, Cumberland, Durham, Edgecombe, Franklin, Gloucester, Granville, Guilford, Harnett, Johnston, Lee, McDowell, Orange, Pamlico, Polk, Rutherfordton, Sampson, Wake, Warren, Wayne and Wilson. We pride ourselves on the fact that SciREN helps get cutting edge research into classrooms and supports researchers generating that content for the classrooms. We also pride ourselves on the spaces we create for interaction between educators and researchers.

So, if you are in the neighborhood and are interested in meeting our amazing set of researchers and collecting classroom-ready materials, we would love to have you join us between 5:30 and 8 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 13 at the N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences. For more information on SciREN please visit our website or read more below. And please register on our website — — to be entered into drawings for great prizes.

If you’re closer to the coast of North Carolina, our third SciREN Coast event will be held Feb.12 at the N.C. Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores, with our North Carolina Sea Grant lesson plan workshop falling sometime in January!

More about SciREN

Here is a quick run-down about SciREN and what we are all about. SciREN is a graduate student-led network that aims to connect local STEM researchers and educators to foster the dissemination of current research and ultimately enhance the science literacy of today’s youth. The goals of SciREN are to 1) establish a lasting network of researchers and educators, 2) facilitate cooperation and collaboration between members of the network, 3) bring current research and researchers into local communities and classrooms and 4) support researchers in developing broader impacts, strengthening outreach efforts and improving communication skills.

We aim to achieve our goals and mission through annual networking events and lesson plan workshops. The networking events bring researchers and educators to the table for face-to-face interaction and exchange of ideas and materials. The lesson plan workshops help researchers translate their work into classroom-ready exercises that meet state and national standards. We have had two successful networking events on the North Carolina coast and have connected close to 500 educators and researchers already.

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