Where Are They Now: Cool Jobs Alumna Dr. Erika Ebbel Angle

Dr. Erika Ebbel Angle

Cool Jobs alumna, biochemist, and former Ms. Massachusetts Dr. Erika Ebbel Angle has had a lot on her plate lately. In addition to serving as CEO and founder of Science from Scientists, a Boston-based non-profit that strives to improve science and technology awareness in local middle school and late elementary students, and filming the Dr. Erika Show, Dr. Ebbel Angle has been hard at work establishing her budding biotech company. We recently caught up with Dr. Ebbel Angle to find out how her many STEM endeavors are going.

Dr. Ebbel Angle writes:

KennedyIn the last couple of months I have been actively working on obtaining funding and launching my biotech company called CounterPoint Health Solutions. In order to allow me the time to do this it was necessary for me to hire an Executive Director (ED) for Science from Scientists (SFS).  In my previous post I spent a great deal of time discussing SFS. SFS sends real scientists into classrooms to teach curriculum relevant, hands-on oriented science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) lessons twice a week for the entire school year. Our goals for SFS include scaling to additional locations both in Massachusetts and Nationally. We have been fortunate to have forged working partnerships and sponsorships from additional companies such as Raytheon and Cubist pharmaceuticals in addition to institutions such as the Whitehead Institute. Growing SFS is one of my main goals and despite hiring the ED, I will still remain active as Chairman and Founder. Hiring an ED for Science from Scientists will allow me greater flexibility to work on starting CounterPoint.

This transition was emotionally and mentally challenging, as I was used to being the CEO :).  Allowing another individual to have this type of responsibility was definitely something I needed to adjust to. Despite these changes, however, I am absolutely excited about CounterPoint. CounterPoint’s purpose is to discover biomarkers which can be used as early prediction tools for various neurodegenerative and cardiovascular conditions, and which can potentially be used as treatments for these same diseases. It was necessary to create a business plan, decide on the initial goals an plans for the company, rent an office, build a biosafety hazard level 2 lab and to start “pitching” the business plan to potential investors. I had limited experience in understanding how a “for profit” is started. It was necessary to learn many things including various types of “stock” and what it meant to have an “A” round of investing. I have been enjoying the sensation of learning new things even though sometimes it can be overwhelming and tiring.

In certain ways challenges associated with raising money for a non-profit are similar to those of a for profit company. However, the scale at which money is raised is different. Many donations for SFS ranged between 10-25 thousand dollars, whereas initial funding for CounterPoint was above one hundred thousand dollars. Yet another adjustment and growing experience for me 🙂

science from scientistsBeing part of this new start-up is just beginning and I am optimistic. In many ways the experience is definitely challenging, as I had grown accustomed to being CEO of Science from Scientists. I had given the SFS “pitch” hundreds of times, which made it a story I was able to tell in my sleep. There was something “secure” and “safe” about SFS. This sensation has now changed to “mutable” and “new.” I have learned that no matter what my feelings are, patience, perseverance and hard-work will at least help to keep things moving forward.

 To find out more about Dr. Ebbel Angle and the journey that led her to her cool job, check out her original Cool Jobs interview!

Meet the SMU Staff: Candice Lawrence

By Candice Lawrence

Over the past year, my position as the STEM Assistant Program Director at the Caruth Institute for Engineering Education has afforded me the incredible opportunity and privilege of working with the SMU STEM Team and hundreds of students and teachers located all over the United States. In this position I serve as Crime Scene Investigation (CSI) Camp Director for middle school students and Professional Development Instructor for teachers. Most of the students and teachers that our programs serve are located at military bases around the country. I have been able to utilize data and feedback from participants to drive our STEM curriculum, and I am always working to align our STEM curriculum to the standards in each state. I also work to educate teachers on how implement STEM activities within the schools’ current curriculum.

DSC_7060Before joining the STEM team I worked with the SMU CSI Camps as a teacher during the summers of 2011-12, and I was thrilled when SMU offered me a full-time position this past summer. I came to SMU after serving as the “Reading” Interventionist for Mabank Independent School District (ISD). I use the term “Reading” lightly. Due to my strong background in collecting data, math, science, and special education, I was pulled to work with different groups of students at different campuses to help prepare for the Reading, Math and Science STARR.

StudentsPrior to Mabank ISD, I was employed with McKinney ISD at Dowell Middle School. My principal, Dr. Logan Faris, and my mentor, Melissa Johnson, molded me into a “data junkie”. My passion for tracking each student with each state standard was born at Dowell Middle School. The students’ data results drove my instruction and my ability to differentiate that instruction for each student’s success. I worked closely with our team, with our administration and with our Response To Intervention department to track each student and project their success on the state science assessment. I am currently pursuing my PhD in Education, Curriculum and Instruction while also obtaining my K-12 Administration Certification. My passion for data-driven instruction has helped me choose my topic for my doctoral dissertation.

Candice's classroom activity on density.

Candice’s classroom activity on density.

My current and previous positions, along with my previous experience, have enabled me to provide guidance and work with a diverse group of students, not only academically, but culturally as well. I have the proven ability to develop lessons and activities aligned with Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills while ensuring all learning styles are present. By maintaining a safe learning environment I have been able to effectively promote student success and learning.

Candice and her lovely family.

Candice and her lovely family.

My ultimate goal as an educator is to provide an opportunity for the love for learning and growth. If I share my own passion for learning I feel students will see that learning can be fun and exciting, and that continual learning can present more opportunities in the future. I believe each and every student can learn. In order to be the best educator I can be I try to develop curriculum and activities around each student’s interest and level of learning. My ultimate goal is to encourage the application of content concepts to real-world contexts. I foster critical thinking skills and problem solving. Each student has the ability to reach the high standards set by the classroom educator.


Where Are They Now: Cool Jobs Alumna Riana Pryor

Riana Pryor, MS, ATC

When most people think of the medical field, a career working with athletes might not be the first career they picture. People like our Cool Jobs alumna (and sports enthusiast) Riana Pryor, however, spend their medical workdays on the athletic sidelines. Pryor, an athletic trainer with the Korey Stringer Institute in Connecticut, has been hard at work providing the tools and research needed to prevent dehydration, heat stroke, and death in sports. We recently caught up with Riana to get the scoop on what she has been working on lately.

Riana writes:

Working at the Korey Stringer Institute (KSI) at the University of Connecticut, we just finished a year-long study looking at the number of high schools in the United States who have access to athletic trainers (ATs).  Partnering with the National Athletic Trainers’ Association (NATA), we contacted the athletic directors of over 10,000 high schools!  With the help of over 40 UConn students we received a 50% response rate – much greater than expected!


Photo courtesy of ksi.uconn.edu

Photo courtesy of ksi.uconn.edu

We found answers to the number of schools with athletic trainers, number of athletes with access to ATs, position types (full time, part time, clinic outreach, etc), barriers to hiring ATs, perceived medical coverage at schools that do not employ athletic trainers, and much more.


With this information we hope to understand how high schools are protecting their student-athletes and where there is room for improvement.  This is a big step forward for athletic trainers, as medical professionals, and we hope to see the number of employed athletic trainers increase as we raise awareness of sport safety in the high school setting.

 I am currently analyzing the data and will present the findings at the upcoming NATA national conference this June in Las Vegas, NV.  Keep checking back on the KSI website  for results!

 To find out more about Riana and the journey that landed her this cool job, check out her original Cool Jobs interview!

Apps help put the “T” in “STEM”

It is hardly news that modern technology has given us access to a breadth of knowledge at a moment’s notice. With organizations and corporations around the world adopting these modern technologies, we are seeing a wider variety of smart phone and tablet apps that give the world access to whole new realms of information and knowledge.  Check out the apps listed below to get some of this knowledge in the palm of your hand!

Aspire Institute’s STEM AppWe had the opportunity to contribute a CSI activity to the STEM App launched by the Aspire Institute this spring. The goal of this app is to provide a daily STEM activity that parents and kids can do together. Aspire wrote a wonderful blog post about this app last April, so rather than reading our second-hand version of this post, you can check it out here!


NASA App for Android and iOSJust when we thought NASA couldn’t get any cooler… The NASA app gives you VIP access to tons of NASA content, including images, videos, NASA television, mission information, news, satellite tracking and much more! And here’s the best part… it’s free!


“Solve the Outbreak” iPad App from the CDCThanks to a follow-up email from Allison Brown, our CDC contact and Cool Jobs professional, we were recently made aware of the CDC’s new “Solve the Outbreak” iPad app. Many jobs are emerging in the field of public health, and this app gives teens and young adults a glimpse into the life of a working epidemiologist. In this interactive, engaging app, you get to decide what to do: Do you quarantine the village? Talk to the people who are sick? Ask for more lab results? Get the app to learn about diseases and outbreaks in an engaging way. Oh yeah, it’s free too.

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Are you looking for a certain type of STEM app but can’t seem to find it? Do you know a technologically-minded student? Why not have that student make the app? Organizations like CoderDojo and TekStart teach students how to develop apps through the use of code. If you know a technologically-minded student who wants to get into coding, check to see if there is an organization like this in your city. After all, there can never be enough STEM-related apps!

Why I Now Think STEM Jobs are Cool

In 2012, I was brought onto the STEM team at SMU’s Caruth Institute for Engineering Education to work on the Cool Jobs initiative, which launched last fall. Having come to the team from a non-STEM related field, I was completely unprepared for the impact these interviews had on me. During the interview process, I spoke to STEM professionals from all over the country whose jobs were as diverse as their locations. One thing is for sure—these professionals, and those out there like them, make our world and everything in it go round.

Dr. Josh Wurman from the Discovery Channel's Storm Chasers

Dr. Josh Wurman from the Discovery Channel’s Storm Chasers

For those of you unfamiliar with the Cool Jobs interviews, these interviews provided a rare glimpse into the jobs, lives, and journeys of working STEM professionals from across the broad STEM community. These articles provide practical information and advice for students interested in pursuing a career in STEM, but the most striking aspect of these accounts is the human voice these professionals lend to the issue. Interview participants showed that there are many paths that lead to STEM professions; there is no single way to pursue, or even to identify, one’s passion in life. Some of the professionals we spoke with knew from an early age that they were meant for STEM, and others followed a winding road to their current STEM career.

Carlie Zumwalt, NASA

Carlie Zumwalt, NASA

If there is one constant that spans the entirety of this showcase, it’s that STEM professionals found a variety of ways to turn their passions into careers they absolutely love. I remember the excitement in the voice of Carlie Zumwalt, Aerospace Engineer with NASA, as she discussed the possibilities her position allows her to consider (like putting a human on Mars).

Cara Santa Maria

Cara Santa Maria

Cara Santa Maria, Senior Science Correspondent for The Huffington Post and Host of “Talk Nerdy to Me”, said that she is constantly inspired by the relationships she makes with remarkable STEM professionals, all because of her career. I felt honored to speak with these inspirational people, and I feel even more honored to share their stories with this community so they may continue to inspire people from around the world.

While many of these interviews showcase high-profile professionals and organizations, I was also struck by the realization that STEM professionals are everywhere! Many of the people I have known and worked with are hard at work applying STEM principles to solve problems and create solutions that address the many needs of our world. If you enjoyed our Cool Jobs series, I challenge you to find a STEM professional near you; they might be closer than you think! Talk to them, listen to their stories, and see if their experiences can apply to your own journey.

Brian small

Brian Groark

Speaking of STEM professionals being everywhere—the newest addition to our Cool Jobs showcase comes to us from our own work family. Our director, Lindsey Groark, happens to be married to a STEM professional working in the field of construction. Brian Groark, Electrical Construction Senior Project Manager with Truland Systems Corporation, turned an early interest in construction into a rewarding STEM career. He now spends his days working on large-scale construction projects, transforming them from holes in the ground into the buildings we live in, work in, and play in.

Be sure to check out Brian’s interview, then stay a while and peruse our wonderful showcase of STEM professionals!

Meet the STEM Team!

To prove that this initiative is run by real-life human beings and not animatrons, we thought we would take a moment to introduce our STEM team here at SMU’s Caruth Institute for Engineering Education.  First at bat is the founder of STEM Works, Dr. Delores Etter.

photo-etterDr. Delores Etter is an engineer, scientist, innovative leader and the director of SMU’s Caruth Institute for Engineering Education and the Texas Instruments Distinguished Chair in Engineering Education. Originally from Oklahoma, Dr. Etter has held high level, appointed positions with the Department of Defense as well as teaching positions at the U.S. Naval Academy, Stanford, and the University of New Mexico. And if you weren’t impressed yet, the Navy’s annual Top Scientists and Engineers award is even named after her! Her many initiatives are aimed at ensuring all young people are able to have fun, interesting and challenging experiences in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.  We are so lucky to have Dr. Etter leading the mission and vision of this STEM portfolio.

Lindsey smallNext at bat is our fearless leader, Lindsey Gates Groark. Lindsey is the SMU Caruth Institute for Engineering Education STEM Program Director and provides strategic guidance and leadership for the Institute’s STEM portfolio including the Kids Ahead and STEM-Works websites and CSI Camp programs. Prior to joining SMU, she was a defense contractor where she worked as an analyst supporting strategic communications, collaboration, and strategic planning initiatives. Although this was a great gig and she met a lot of amazing people, Lindsey decided that she wanted to focus more of her attention on social and educational issues which is how she ended up here at SMU. Originally from Washington, DC, she received a BA from Virginia Tech and will graduate later this month with her M.A. in Community Leadership from Westminster College in Salt Lake City, UT (round of applause!). She is excited about all of the possibilities for what to do with her extra time!

Candice smallCandice R. Lawrence is the SMU Caruth Institute for Engineering Education STEM Assistant Program Director.  Candice comes to us from the classroom, where she taught adult education and middle school science, math, and reading for 15 years. After working with us as a teacher for our SMU CSI Summer Camp program for two years, she made the transition to our team and now manages the CSI camp program. Candice loves to apply her knowledge of education to come up with new ways to implement CSI curriculum into current classroom curriculum.  She holds a Master of Education-Adult Education and is currently pursuing her Doctorate of Education in Curriculum and Instruction.

DanielleDanielle Caldwell is the Social Media Communications Director here at the SMU Caruth Institute for Engineering Education. For many years Danielle was convinced she was allergic to the terms “science” and “math”, but after joining our team she describes herself as a former-sciencephobe-turned-enthusiast! After initially joining the team to develop and execute the Cool Jobs feature on the Kids Ahead and STEM-Works websites, Danielle now runs the social media and community engagement aspects of the STEM team. She holds a B.A. in Cultural Anthropology from the University of Utah and is currently pursuing a Master of Strategic Communications from Westminster College.

Yeah, we’re a pretty small team, but we also have some amazing SMU undergraduate research assistants helping us keep our STEM portfolio afloat. These students study a variety of disciplines ranging from political science to engineering, but all share an interest in teaching youth about the vast world of STEM. They are also always willing to lend us their mug shots and serve as crime suspects for our CSI program! Thanks guys!

Leaving our print on the world of CSI

Okay, so we promise this blog won’t be completely focused on our programs, but before we jump into the meat of STEM we want to introduce you to our CSI programs. In addition to the Kids Ahead and STEM-Works websites, we have a set a programs focused on Crime Scene Investigation (or CSI). Building on the popularity of TV shows such as CSI: (Enter City Name Here), NCIS, Bones, and many others, we thought that using the framework of CSI would be a great way to introduce students to the vast array of STEM used in solving crimes. Sure, the TV shows demonstrate some of this, but we wanted to take it a step further and give students the opportunity to engage in hands-on activities that would excite them to learn more. Hence, our CSI Camps!

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The SMU CSI Camp program started in 2010 with a pilot summer camp offered on SMU’s campus. We welcomed 80 middle school girls from the Dallas community and introduced them to the science and technology behind CSI through various hands-on activities and expert presentations. Realizing that this was an effective (and fun) way to teach STEM content and skills, we continued building on the summer camp program and have spent the last few years expanding this program in order to offer it in communities around the country. Using the framework of a mock crime, campers at our CSI camps investigate evidence through hands-on activities and are introduced to exciting careers related to CSI.  Within this portfolio we now offer:

  • CSI Summer Camps: week-long camps for middle school students
  • CSI Camps-for-a-Day:  one-day camps for middle school students
  • CSI Teacher Workshops: ½ day, 1 day, and 2 day workshops for teachers

This blog will include information from our CSI camps including: activities and modifications to use in your community; stories from these events; and information about how to participate in these events. We will also build on the CSI content available on the Kids Ahead and STEM-Works websites in these posts. If you have participated as a teacher or counselor in any of our CSI events in the past and want to share your experience, please let us know!

These programs are also something that you may be able to get involved in or request for your community. If you are interested in having us come to your community to offer a Camp-for-a-Day or Teacher Workshop, please contact us at CSIcamps@smu.edu.

For a sneak peek at the happenings during a CSI Summer Camp, check out this recap video from the 2011 CSI Summer Camps.

We would like to thank the Office of Naval Research and the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Research for their generous support of the SMU CSI Camp programs.

Happy National Teacher Day!

We wanted to take a moment out of our busy day (and think you should too!) to thank all of the teachers out there! 

Don’t mess with our teachers!

We’ve had the honor of working with hundreds of amazing teachers over the last few years and never cease to leave these engagements feeling inspired. You are the ones that educate, foster, enrich and inspire our youth and instill in them the confidence, discipline, and self-awareness that will serve them throughout the rest of their lives. You make a difference in the lives of the students you work with and pour your hearts into your work on a daily basis. We are still learning from the teachers around us and thank you all for the opportunity to work with such an amazing group of people!

Our opinion is one thing but the most important impact a teacher can make is on his or her students. One of our summer campers said it best when he wrote, “You guys are awesome and amazing and are leaders, funny, exciting, cheerful, smart, kind and every word you can think of, you are it… When I grow up I want to be all of you guys combined. You guys together make something special – a sparkle in the sky, a star…you light up.”

As Dr. Rita Pierson states in her TED talk “Every child deserves a champion, an adult who will never give up on them, who understands the power of connection, and insists that they become the best that they can possibly be.” Thank you for being those champions and for making a difference in so many lives.

For Dr. Rita Pierson’s full TED talk (definitely worth spending 8 minutes of your time!) see the video below.


So what are STEM-Works & Kids Ahead?

So, you’re wondering about our websites, eh? Check out this video for a snapshot of what we’re doing.

The dire state of STEM education in the U.S. is scarcely news to many of you out there. It has been noted time and again that our nation’s youth are falling behind many countries in the world in both interest and aptitude in the STEM subjects. Our STEM team knew that we had to do something to help encourage interest in STEM subjects, hence, our Kids Ahead and STEM Works websites were born.

So, what are Kids Ahead and STEM Works?

Kids Ahead is designed to support middle school students interested in STEM disciplines. This website, Kids Ahead, is an initiative to provide kids with hands-on opportunities to learn about STEM content and skills and excite them to learn more. Kids Ahead features articles, activities, and interviews with professionals in nine different STEM subjects. These subjects are:
Animal Kingdom
Crime Scene Investigation
Extreme Weather
Medical Innovations
Under the Sea
Video Games
Wind Energy

The links to these topics then direct the student to materials for hands-on projects that can be used for fun during a kid’s free time, for a boy/girl scout group or even for a possible science fair project. The website leverages outstanding materials developed around the country by providing a single place where these materials and activities can be accessed. Students are also able to access STEM events and organizations within their specific community on our locations page. We currently feature 29 communities across the U.S. and we are constantly adding new locations.
As a companion site to Kids Ahead, we developed another website – STEM-Works. This site aims to provide STEM resources to parents, teachers, mentors, volunteers and anyone who has a passion for science and engineering. All content that is available on the Kids Ahead web portal is also available in a similar format for adults on STEM-Works. The difference between the two websites is the intended audience: Kids Ahead is for kids; STEM-Works is for adults working with kids.

In fall of 2012 we also added an additional feature to STEM Works that we are particularly excited about: Advocacy. Here, STEM advocates can access STEM-related lesson plans, publications and virtual field trips for free!

If you haven’t yet visited our websites, now’s your chance to check them out! If you have already, we want to hear from you. Have you been able to use information from our websites in the classroom or in your community? Tell us all about it!

STEM-Works Blog Inaugural Post

Hello STEM crusaders!

After months of hard work by our team here at STEM-Works we are thrilled to bring you the STEM-Works blog. Through our STEM endeavors over the last few years, we have been lucky to connect with many individuals in this vibrant community. We have talked with you face-to-face during our CSI programs and conference participation, interacted with you online through our Kids Ahead and STEM-Works websites and have become “friends” and “followers” through our social media accounts. After connecting with so many wonderful people, we really wanted to have a platform to better engage with you and to share exciting STEM content, ideas, and people.  Enter the STEM-Works blog.

Our vision for this blog is two-fold. First, we have an exciting lineup of content that we’re excited to share. We will be connecting you with fabulous content on our websites, providing recommendations for how to incorporate this content into classrooms and afterschool programs, featuring a variety of guest bloggers from the STEM community (some of our cool jobs professionals will be stopping back in to say hi), and keeping you up to date on the goings on of our CSI program. This blog will take the content on the Kids Ahead and STEM-Works websites a step further by asking you to engage through stories of your experience with the content, ideas for modifying the content to make it more classroom-friendly and suggestions for new content.

Our second goal for this blog is to facilitate discussion among members of the STEM community. While the blog may have our name on it, we really want this platform to belong to you! We will touch on a number of STEM-related issues and topics, and we invite you all to participate in the conversation. We’re new to this, so tell us if you think something is awesome, or if you think something doesn’t work! After all, we’re all in this together!

Get ready to learn some cool things, discuss important topics and ultimately to celebrate the wonderful, wide world of STEM!

ImageSTEM-Works Team