Escape the Cubicle: Study STEM

Businesswoman reviewing paperwork at deskThere’s hardly a lack of evidence these days that desk jobs can be killers. Sitting at a desk all day can have adverse effects on health, productivity, and creativity. So if our work environments make large contributions to our health and success, how can we arm the next generation with tools to avoid the monotony of the 9-5 grind? The answer lies in four little letters: S-T-E-M.

Within the STEM community, there is a broad spectrum of potential jobs boasting offices in the most unexpected places. Whether on land or in the sea, STEM professionals have access to countless opportunities to explore and study the world. For a job description filled with challenge, excitement, and engagement, a STEM career may be a perfect fit.

Build Software on the Sea

cline_danelle1_underwater When thinking the term “software engineer,” many people conjure images of a professional hunched over a computer staring at algorithms or interfaces. You may know that a career in software engineering requires the ability to analyze problems from various angles and find multiple viable solutions. But did you also know that software engineers can work in a number of environments, including the sea? Just ask Danelle Cline, Software Engineer with the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute. Whether out to sea to support her projects or sitting in a meeting room overlooking the ocean, her daily work environment is far from boring.

Software engineers work in a variety of fields—from aviation to medicine—and job growth is expected to increase by 30% within the next six years. The sizable salary is also a nice perk; software engineers in America make an average of $73,000 per year. Armed with a knack for problem solving, a creative spirit, and a curious mind, the software engineer can take his/her career almost anywhere.

Tour with Tornadoes

WurmanWorking as a meteorologist entails much more than predicting rainstorms and temperatures on the nightly news. As explained by Dr. Josh Wurman, Meteorologist and Storm Chaser, “a lot of my time is spent traveling, whether I am working on our own missions collecting data for tornadoes and hurricanes, or working on projects for other scientists.” The relative youth of this particular field of study means that opportunities for new research and experiments are varied and plentiful. Whether you want to chase storms or study climate change, there is a bright future for prospective meteorologists.

Boast an Office View of the Natural World

Coconut IslandSince biology is a blanket term for the study of all living organisms, a career as a biologist ensures widespread availability of diverse jobs and favorable fields of study. Whether you’re working to conserve endangered plants and animals in their natural habitats or researching gene expression and epigenetics from a lab on Gilligan’s Island, a career as a biologist oftentimes requires a great deal of contact with the natural world. With the continual meshing of scientific research and technology, a career in biology is a sure bet for innovation and job growth.

 

Where Are They Now? Cool Jobs Alumna Shannon Johnson

johnson_shannon_lab2The last time we spoke to Shannon Johnson, Deep-Sea Research Technician with the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI), she explained that her job as “like watching the Discovery Channel in real-time.” Shannon applies her background in ecology and zoology to solve the mysteries that surround creatures of the deep sea. We recently caught word that Shannon spent an exciting summer collecting deep-sea samples in the South Pacific, so we sat down with Shannon to find out what her tropical endeavors entailed.

Since it has been over a year since we last spoke, why don’t you update us on how you’ve been staying busy as a deep-sea researcher.

SJ: Well, I’ve been working on a number of things. Right now I am working on publishing a paper that describes five new species of deep-sea snails using only their DNA. It’s not totally ground-breaking science, but it’s definitely a new technique. In the past, people have often described animals using their traits—some birds are described using their song, for example—but we are now using DNA for identification.

Can you talk a little bit about what that process looks like?

Since all of the animals I work with are deep-sea animals, collecting them and sequencing their DNA can be a pretty involved process. It isn’t the easiest thing to collect animals from the deep-sea, as many times they are located miles off shore and in specific areas like hydrothermal vents or whalefalls. Another challenging thing about working in the deep-sea is that there is a ton of crypticism, which means that many animals look the same even though they are, in fact, different species with distinct evolutionary lineages.

Since we are working with a number of different types of animals, there isn’t just one way we go about identifying them. Once we have the DNA extracted, there is a number of genes that we can use to tell them apart. My boss has an awesome analogy to describe genetics: all of the different genes we use is like a set of golf clubs. In golf, sometimes you need a putter to make the shot, and sometimes you need a driver. Similarly, we use a number of different genes to identify different species based on the circumstances.

The hard part about DNA sequencing is knowing that the genes mean once it is sequenced. People say that sequencing DNA is hard, but it’s really not difficult. The difficult part comes in knowing what the DNA means once it is sequenced.

So how do you go about matching the DNA to different species once it is sequenced?

Once we get the DNA information for a species, we run it through a database to see if it matches anything. This process is very similar to what happens when someone’s fingerprint is collected and run through a database to find a match. Identifying these deep-sea snails that we have been working with can be particularly difficult because they are so different: they do different things and live in different types of environments. That’s one thing that makes this paper I’ve been working on so important. We need conventional ways of identifying these species.

So if someone were to ask you why the study of deep-sea creatures like these snails is important, what would you say?

That’s an interesting question. I personally like studying these things because I find them really interesting and really cool. But one of the most interesting things about these snails is the unique way that they speciated. Typically animals will speciate—or evolve from being one species to being different species—because of some some long-term major separation that causes a disruption in gene flow. These separations are often caused by physical things like the presence of a mountain range or a large current. These snail species are different because there are three species that actually live together, and yet they are the most distinct species in the genus. That’s a really rare event, especially in the deep-sea, and it presents a really cool opportunity to test evolutionary hypotheses. So in terms of science, these snails are really interesting.

Photo by Yoshihiro Fujiwara

Photo by Yoshihiro Fujiwara

It’s true that these snails will probably never be seen by people except through the photos we take with our underwater remotely operated vehicles (ROVs). I’m trying to grow awareness of what I’m calling the “punk rock” snails—they live in hot acid, they’re covered in spikes and they have purple blood. They’re a pretty charismatic group, they look cool, and I’m naming one of them after the drummer from The Clash. These snails are also interesting in terms of climate change research because they live in hot acid. Oceans are becoming more acidic with the increase of carbon dioxide in the ocean, so in a climate change perspective, these guys might actually be ok.

Something that you said reminds me of something one of our Cool Jobs meteorologists expressed when he stated that scientists are the modern-day explorers. It seems that your field is very similar to that.

Absolutely. I was not at all interested in marine science as a young person because I thought that scientists had the oceans all figured out. But now I get to discover new species all the time. We literally discover new species every time we go to sea, and we’re not always going to exotic locations. Even when we go out in the Monterey Bay we find not only new species, but new genera and new families even.

Shannon will be traveling the oceans again at the end of this month, so be sure to check back to read all about her experiences at sea.

Where are they now? Cool Jobs alumna Cara Santa Maria

Ok, I admit it. As a science communicator I was thrilled by the opportunity to interview Cara Santa Maria, science journalist and former host of The Huffington Post’s “Talk Nerdy to Me,” for our Cool Jobs feature in the fall of 2012. Since I last interviewed her, Santa Maria has undergone a bit of a career change. I sat down with her again to discuss her new gig and how her love of science and science education plays a part in this new role.

D: When we last spoke with you, you were hosting a show called “Talk Nerdy to Me”. Since then you have made a career change. Could you tell us a little bit about what you’re doing now?

Photo Source: takepart.com/live

Photo Source: takepart.com/live

C: I am co-hosting and producing a show called Take Part Live on a new network called Pivot. The show is tailored toward young people and is somewhat cause-driven. This network was founded by the Participant Media film production company, a company which produces a lot of socially conscious films—documentaries like An Inconvenient Truth and Food Inc., and narrative films like The Help and Lincoln. Many of these films are promoted alongside related social action campaigns. Take Part Live is a live, one-hour news/talk show that discusses what’s going on the news and politics. And, quite often in this role I get to talk about science. It’s really exciting for me because I still get to  be a science communicator, but now I get to present science within the greater context of what’s going on in the world. Now I am really able to reach people who may not specifically be seeking science content.

D: Many of our Cool Jobs professionals spoke about the transdisciplinary nature of STEM. It seems that you are touching on this idea with your mention of the “greater context.” Do you often find that STEM concepts play an unseen role in issues that one might think are removed from these fields?

C: Yes. I recently traveled to Washington DC to moderate an event on the topic of science communication. I got to meet and spend time with wonderful science professionals who work in labs, but also with professionals who studied journalism, business, and marketing. These latter professionals are now using their educational background to communicate science effectively.

When we are presenting our news stories there is almost always a scientific side that may not be visible at first glance. We might be able to incorporate components of science, math, or technology in a story that appears strictly political in nature. I think it still comes down to making sure that we are utilizing our critical thinking skills in all of our conversations—that, fundamentally, is what underpins all of STEM education. Science, technology, engineering, and math are all fields that use heavy critical thinking, and we should use evidence-based thinking to make decisions that are not based on intuition but rather the data. I think that’s something we need to see more of in the news.

If, for example, we are leading a discussion on the sequester, this type of conversation can sometimes get very heated and complicated. We often look for someone to blame, and we want to get at the root of these issues. Being able to use the evidence and data available instead of just jumping to conclusions can empower us to formulate educated opinions. I often use the tools I gained from my science education when presenting different topics.

D: Then do you think it’s a fair statement to say that communication can serve as a bridge between many different stories and concepts?

C: Definitely. It is so obvious now in the digital age that there are great scientists doing great things. But, if nobody is around to tell the public why those things are great, the work of these professionals can seemingly happen in a vacuum. Changes in legislation and opportunities for funding are often prompted by public support. People have to know what’s going on in science. They don’t only have to know about it, but they also have to know why it matters to them, why it’s important.

D: You talk a little bit about how your network is geared toward cause-driven work, but can you explain how empowering people with information can lead to action?

C: Every time we do an interview with someone who has done something impactful, we provide the audience with information for how they can get involved. You also don’t have to be an active participant to take action—even when you’re passively observing you are still participating in the news.

I think that’s a really important point to make. One-way communication is still participatory, because every time we learn something new it illuminates our understanding. Knowledge takes us out of a fearful state. If the information isn’t available to us, and if we don’t take the initiative to choose programming that will bring us that information, it can be difficult to break out of that fear cycle.

I just interviewed a man who wrote a great book about nuclear war. He wanted to write this book because our younger generations weren’t alive during the Cold War, and we didn’t grow up with fallout bunkers and bomb drills. But there are still nations with massive nuclear arsenals, and nuclear accidents still happen, which makes this issue a political problem with  major STEM underpinnings. The takeaway from his interview was that it is important to know this stuff. How better to be prepared than to know what you are being prepared for? I think that’s a really important point.

D: During the last interview, you spoke about how you didn’t initially plan on a career in science journalism, but rather you basically fell into it. Do you know people who work as science communicators and always knew that was the career they wanted?

C: I don’t think I know one person in this field who always wanted this type of career. I have met some young people who are starting to work toward it—they are taking both science and journalism/communication classes and are putting together their own curricula—but every science journalist, on-air personality, and writer that I know didn’t follow a clear path into their respective professions. It’s funny how many things actually happen during the career phase and not necessarily during the education phase.

I do, however, think that we are one of the first generations for which this has become a viable career choice, so it’s cool to see young people making their own path. When someone asks me how they can work into a career like mine, my biggest piece of advice is not to be afraid to walk through doors that are open, even if they don’t appear to be on the path you envisioned for yourself. Almost everyone I know that has been really successful in my field or related fields never anticipated that this was what was in store for them; they either really loved science and grew to love outreach, or they were writers and journalists that stumbled upon science.

D: Is there a piece that you’ve worked on in your new job that you are particularly proud of or that you thought was particularly interesting?

C: There’s a cool segment that we have on the show called NewsVille, which is the game show-esque segment of the show. During this segment we pair an audience participant with one of our comedians, and we ask them questions about the news. There are three different segments of NewsVille: the first one is Headlines or BS We Just Made Up, in which the participants try to discern real headlines from fake ones. In the second segment, called Now or Then, we ask participants to determine whether certain headlines are from 2013 or sometime in the past. In Science or Science Fiction, the third segment, we determine how well participants can separate real science news from fictional science news. I find it particularly fun to work on Science or Science Fiction because we get to present science stories that aren’t necessarily common knowledge. Sometimes we may discuss the discovery of a new species of animal, and sometimes we report a new improvement in solar technology. It’s interesting how often people don’t really realize how far along we are in scientific technology.

I’m also developing a new segment right now, so hopefully in the coming weeks I will be doing a regular “wow” piece about something really interesting happening in science news. I’ve also been able to interview some really great people, which is always one of my favorite parts.

 

So there. Now that you are well and truly inspired by this communication powerhouse, what do you think you can be doing to blend your love of science with communication?

The Coolest of the Cool (jobs, that is)

We talk a bit about our Cool Jobs campaign that we launched on our websites last fall. While we completely encourage everyone to take an hour, a day, a month to peruse all of these wonderful interviews, we thought that we would take a second to highlight a few of these wonderful professionals. All of these men and women offered incredible wisdom about how they landed their careers and how students might follow in their footsteps. But some of them offered really wonderful life stories and incredible insights into the struggles they faced or the dedication required of them…

And don’t forget that our STEM Works websites offers four different versions of these interviews containing questions aimed specifically for different age groups: Elementary, Middle School, High School, and Undergraduate. So if you really love one of these articles and want to show it to your students, group, or children, be sure to find the version that is best suited for them!

The Animal Kingdom IconAnimal Kingdom

Katrina McCauley always knew she wanted to work with animals, but the journey to becoming a Zookeeper wasn’t easy. McCauley, armed with the educational background and ability to promote herself, broke into zookeeping and has been building her relationship with Colo, the oldest gorilla in a zoo, ever since. Read more to learn how McCauley spends her days as a Zookeeper at the Columbus Zoo! Read article.

Extreme Weather IconExtreme Weather

Lightning struck when Dr. Josh Wurman landed on the Discovery Channel’s reality series Storm Chasers and the IMAX film Forces of Nature.  Dr. Wurman was joined by his colleague Dr. Karen Kosiba to discuss what life is really like as a meteorologist and tornado chaser. A fun fact about this interview is that it was literally conducted while these two storm chasers were en route to a site in their meteorology van.  Read article.

Medical Innovations IconMedical Innovations

After a chance introduction to the field of public health, Allison Brown caught the bug! She passed up medical school to become an epidemiologist and now travels the world for the CDC to solve some of the world’s biggest public health problems. Read on to see why Allison’s interests are contagious! Read article.

Robotics IconRobotics

Robots are not just a thing of science-fiction.  Robots are in places you might not expect, whether they are helping people around the house or traveling to Mars.  We caught up with Dr. Chris Jones, former Director of Research Advancement with iRobot to discuss the power of mentorship, the emerging market for robotics, and even “soft” robots!  Read article.

Space IconSpace

We couldn’t conduct an interview related to space without first going to world-renowned NASA! Luckily, we were able to speak with Carlie Zumwalt, who is one of NASA’s Flight Dynamics Engineers. So what was this girl who works for such a high-profile organization like? She was surprisingly humble, incredibly candid, and wonderfully addicted to hard work. Her article is definitely a must read. Read article.

Under the Sea IconUnder the Sea

Shannon Johnson, Deep-Sea Research Technician with the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI), described her job as like watching the Discovery Channel in real time. Shannon explores the oceans through the use of ROV’s, or Remote Operated Vehicles, and gets to discover new things about the ocean every day. Oh, and not to mention that her office is in one of the most beautiful coastal areas on the West coast… Read article.

Video Games IconVideo Games

Kelly Murphy, a Video Game Designer for Walt Disney, spends his time balancing tight deadlines for game releases while ensuring Disney games are exciting to play and keep gamers’ coming back for more. Read more to learn what makes a Video Game Designer such a cool jobs here.

Wind Energy IconWind Energy

At first glance this job might not seem very wind related… but it’s more wind related than you might think. After entering a Ph. D. program in aerospace engineering, the current of Jonathan Colby’s career swept him away from aerospace and toward renewable energy. Jonathan now works to turn the flow of New York’s East River into clean, renewable power. Read on to learn how blue water turns into green energy. Read article.

BeakerOther STEM Subjects

Because we are very aware that the wonderful world of STEM includes far more than the subjects above, we feature didn’t limit our interviews to these subjects alone. One of the professionals featured in this section is green chemist Dr. John Warner. Many products in our world today are made with toxic materials. Now, picture a world without toxins – no pollution, no hazardous materials, and no harmful products. Green Chemists, like John Warner PhD, are working to make this dream a reality. Learn what makes Dr. Warner’s work not only important to us, but critical for generations to come. Read article.

The Power of Putting Our Heads Together

Ok students, this one’s for you.

Our story today started when we came across this article about a group of over 1,000 programmers who gathered this month at Penn for the world’s biggest university hackathon. Ok, before you think us too provocative, according to this article the term hacker does not allude to crime and espionage— rather it simply means build. So anyway, the fact that over 1,000 brilliant minds all joined together for “the programmer’s version of a slumber party, science fair, and Super Bowl rolled into one” got us thinking about something that we heard many times in our cool jobs interviews.

If you aren’t familiar with our Cool Jobs feature, it’s probably one of the coolest things that we have posted on our websites. We tracked down over 50 current STEM professionals and asked them to share their stories about how they ended up in their careers. These professionals also offered practical advice to students about how they too could follow in their footsteps and land themselves a similar career. And one of the main things we kept hearing from these STEM all-stars over and again was how students should get involved with other people who share their interests.

Dr. Chris JonesPeople like Dr. Chris Jones, a researcher with the high-profile company iRobot, suggested that kids interested in robotics can get hands-on experience with robotics by participating in such competitions as First Robotics.

DOW

Dr. Josh Wurman, a meteorologist and storm chaser that you may recognize from the Discovery Channel’s series Storm Chasers, advises students to get involved in meteorology clubs in the local area. And if your school or community does not have a group for your subject of choice, don’t let that stop you… start one! You might be surprised exactly how many of your peers are interested in the same things you are!

So yes, it’s definitely cool that over 1,000 programmers got together at Penn to create amazing things. But we think the coolest part of this story is how it illustrates what is possible when people get together. Whenever like-minded people from different backgrounds and with different experiences join together, the whole is almost always greater than the sum of the parts. So get out there and join a club, a competition, or a community event… or start your own!

But enough from us… what do you think? Have you participated in a cool event or club recently?

Closing in on the Perpetrator

Day 4 of our CSI investigation began today, and our girl campers are closing in on the perpetrator. But before getting to work, our girls were visited by the local branch of the FBI. FBI agents are often seen in television shows and movies, so these professionals separated fact from fiction to give our campers a realistic look at what a career in the FBI entails.

Once we said our goodbyes to these professionals, the campers were back at it, continuing the biometrics activities from yesterday. Gait, iris, hand, and ear recognition were the name of the game this morning!

Stay tuned to learn all about the fun activities we’ve got planned for this afternoon… The rumor is that DNA is involved!

Where Are They Now: Cool Jobs Alum Dr. John Palmer

Source: espn.go.com

Source: espn.go.com

You know the story… Super Bowl XLVII, the Baltimore Ravens lead the San Francisco 49ers 28-6, when all of the sudden… the lights went out. Officials were scrambling, players were pacing the field, and fans were eager to get back in the action. Super Bowl XLVII will live on in infamy for the 34-minute delay caused by a power outage. So how do things like this happen at such crucial times, and, more importantly, who gets called in to deal with them?

???????????????????????????????Forensic engineer, and Cool Jobs alum, Dr. John Palmer answered the call to determine what caused the blackout at the Super Bowl. Forensic engineers like Dr. Palmer are charged with investigating fires, explosions, and electrical system failures. Ironically, Dr. Palmer’s analysis of the power outage at the Super Bowl narrowed the cause of the event to “an electrical relay device that [was] installed specifically to prevent a power failure at the dome.” (source:espn.go.com)

toasterBut this investigation was not an unusual workday in the career of Dr. Palmer. His job calls him to investigate product or system failures, and he focuses, in particular, on cause and origin analysis of electrical accidents, electrical equipment failures, electrical fires, structural fires, vehicle fires, and explosions. The scope of the investigations he conducts ranges from house fires started by a toaster to large power plant explosions resulting in 600 million dollars in damages. If there’s one thing Dr. Palmer can count on from his job, it is a wide variety of projects!

To learn more about Dr. Palmer’s cool job as a forensic engineer, be sure to check out his original Cool Jobs interview!

Where Are They Now: Cool Jobs Alum Tim Marshall

Tim Marshall, Civil Engineer and Meteorologist

When disaster strikes, our cool jobs alumni are there. Tim Marshall, Civil Engineer and Meteorologist, has been busy responding to the devastating tornado in Moore, Oklahoma. Somber events like this one leave an abundance of damage in their wake, and Marshall gets called in to assess that damage—“mother nature’s fingerprint,” he calls it.

Marshall recently spoke to NPR’s Melissa Block to discuss his assessment of the structural damage in Moore, Oklahoma. In his interview with  NPR he drew attention to the positive changes in the structures of Moore following the devastating tornadoes in 1999 as well as the concerning oversights in those structures. He also discussed how buildings leave evidence of how they failed to withstand large tornadoes, even when these structures are no longer standing. “Even a house that is no longer there provides ample evidence for us,” he explained. Something as small as a nail can leave a mark, and that tiny mark can explain how an entire wall had failed.

MarshallMarshall is no stranger to the wrath of tornadoes. During his Cool Jobs interview he spoke of how a tornado he personally experienced as a child amplified his natural curiosity toward weather.  “I really didn’t know what this thing was that came out of the sky and did all of this damage, and I got very interested in the damage itself” he explained. Marshall now assesses the damage caused by major natural disasters in the hopes that he can help communities avoid fatal flaws in building construction.

Check out his full NPR interview, or find out more about Tim Marshall’s journey to his cool job in his original Cool Jobs interview.

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!

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!