Iowa STEM Blog

Thursday, July 7, 2021

In 2020, the Iowa Governor’s STEM Advisory Council launched STEM Essential. The podcast features leading advocates and other voices in the conversation around STEM education. Episodes have examined a number of STEM-related topics, with students, legislators, business partners and STEM professionals appearing as guests. 

Now, the STEM Council is releasing weekly episodes of the fourth season of STEM Essential, celebrating ten years of STEM progress in Iowa. Before or even after you dive into the new season, take a listen to some episodes of seasons past. 

Season One: Current Conditions and Future Outlook 

Episode One: Dr. Aris Winger 

The first episode of STEM Essential is still one of the most downloaded episodes of the series. Featuring Dr. Aris Winger, the episode focused on equity in STEM education and how educators can help all students find their place in STEM. 

Dr. Winger is an assistant professor of mathematics at Georgia Gwinnett College and the co-founder and CEO of Mathematics Enrichment for Diversity and Learning (MEDAL). His work suggests that every child should feel welcome and valuable in STEM, even if they are not the highest performing student in the class. 

In this episode, Dr. Winger discusses his view on how STEM educators have the power to create positive experiences for students to keep them engaged in the subjects, even if they don’t come easy.

Highlighted quote: “Being able to do that (acknowledge some students have been left out and address biases), allowed me to stop looking at my math classroom as a math classroom. I started look at those people as individuals, and that started to have me teach people and not mathematics. We should be teaching people, not mathematics. Teaching people, not biology. Teaching people, not chemistry.” 

Season Two: STEM Jobs of the Future

Episode Five: Gabe Glynn

The second season of the podcast focused on how STEM is shaping the jobs of the future and what Iowa can do to help prepare students to take on those roles. Gabe Glynn is the co-founder and CEO of MākuSafe, a wearable safety technology company in Central Iowa. He is also a member of the Governor’s STEM Advisory Council. 

His organization utilizes STEM to help create safer working environments for not only Iowa workers, but workers across the United States. Glynn’s passion for worker safety was, in part, inspired by an incident in his great grandfather’s life. By taking time away from work, Glynn’s ancestor narrowly avoided a deadly workplace accident. Now, MākuSafe is helping prevent other workplace hazards by collecting data through wearable technology. 

In this episode, Glynn discusses the importance of creativity in STEM and how human work will continue to guide and change automation. 

Highlighted quote: “There’s going to be less swinging of the hammer…we’re developing technology that can overcome some of those physical things. But we need people to design, engineer, program, run this kind of stuff, process the data and understand it.” 

Season Three: Vaccination, by STEM! 

Episode Two: Dr. Patricia Winokur 

During the third season of STEM Essential, host and Council executive director, Jeff Weld, and guests dissect the science behind vaccine development and how STEM in Iowa helped fight a worldwide pandemic. Episode two featured Dr. Patricia Winokur, a born and raised Iowan who helped run trials for vaccines that have been used to fight COVID-19 across the world.

Dr. Winokur is the director of The Vaccine and Treatment Evaluation Unit, as well as the executive dean of the University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine and a professor of internal medicine specializing in infectious diseases. She leads the vaccine research program at the Evaluation Unit, which is one of only nine programs in the nation funded by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. 

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the Evaluation Unit became one of the sites for a clinical trial of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. As the principal investigator, Dr. Winokur helped test the efficacy and safety of the vaccine. Those efforts resulted in thousands of Iowans—and many others across the globe—being able to receive the vaccine and receive protection from COVID-19.

In this episode, Dr. Winokur explains what an mRNA vaccine is, how it was created and tested, and the years of science behind the accomplishment. 

Highlighted quote: “We are thrilled that the speed happened and we got a vaccine as quickly as we did, but there have been decades of work going on…where there is a lot of science that has gone into that culminating event. We have for 50 years been understanding things like RNA...but over the past 20 years we have really been honing our understanding of different types of molecular vaccines. So, this is not a fast vaccine in that regard. We’ve been working toward this…” 

The newest season of STEM Essential is streaming now. Tune in on Spotify, Apple Podcasts or on the STEM Council’s website.

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