A UBCO researcher is being recognized for her work empowering underrepresented people in science and engineering.
School of Health and Exercise Sciences professor Jennifer Jakobi was recently named the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada chair for Women in Science and Engineering. Jakobi is the founder of the Integrative STEM Team Advancing Networks of Diversity (iSTAND), a program aiming to promote science and engineering education through camps and school outreaches. It also aims to recruit and retain underrepresented people in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).
Jakobi said she started this program because she saw the need to engage youth in hands-on science activities, especially for girls.
“Research shows that young girls are interested in science. We just need to make a connection with them as early as possible,” said Jakobi in a press release. “I started small by visiting classrooms and explaining how science can create a meaningful and positive difference in all our lives.”
The program also seeks to increase the number of women and underrepresented in STEM. As a woman, Jakobi has always been a minority in her field. Women make up less than one-quarter of the people employed in STEM careers in Canada, according to a Statistics Canada study in 2019.
The disparity is even starker for racialized people. The majority of STEM programs at post-secondary institutions are predominantly white. Research published in the NASPA Journal About Women in Higher Education in 2017 suggests that having Black, Indigenous and faculty of colour will inspire underrepresented students to pursue STEM majors and careers.
“Being alone is not easy. So you build a protective shell, and loneliness hardens your shell.”
Jakobi also hopes to change the landscape of STEM in Canada. “The aim is not to just increase the number of women and under-represented persons, it is to create positive cultures where participation is not an act of bravery,” she said.