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American Chemical Society AMA: I am Karl Booksh, a professor of chemistry and biochemistry at the University of Delaware. Ask me anything about getting more opportunities for people with disabilities into STEM careers!
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Hi Reddit! Karl here. I am a professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry at the University of Delaware. I have a successful research group with over 100 publications and 5 patents on the design and application of chemical sensors. I’m a Fellow of the American Chemical Society and Fellow of the Society for Applied Spectroscopy. I broke my neck BASE jumping in the Grand Canyon during Spring Break my freshman year of college. OK, really it was playing flag football, but I’m working on a much sexier legend. I’ve been active in promoting inclusion of underrepresented groups, especially persons with disabilities in STEM for the past 15 years. I’ve chaired the ACS Committee on Chemists with Disabilities and am current chair of the ACS Diversity and Inclusion Advisory Board. I’m also Principal Investigator on a newly renewed NSF research experience for undergraduates (REU) grant to get research experience for students with disabilities interested in advanced STEM degrees. http://sites.udel.edu/seli-ud/ People with disabilities (PWD) continue to be a greatly underrepresented group in Science Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM). PWD comprise 7% of the population between 16 and 21 (US Census) and 8.6% of the total school population participates in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Students with disabilities express interest in STEM at the same rate as students without disabilities. Approximately 20% of graduating high school seniors and ~20% of graduating college seniors wish to continue towards a higher degree in STEM. However, less than 2% of STEM doctoral degrees earned by US citizens or permanent residents are awarded to students who identify as having a disability! Remove soft sciences from the equation and the rate drops to 1%. Amazingly there has been no improvement in PWD doctoral students since the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) in 1991: there is no statistical increase in the percentage of earned STEM doctoral degrees by PWD among US citizens or permanent residents at US institutions (see this figure http://i.imgur.com/3LPJMjN.png). Factor in foreign national students to get the statistics on all STEM doctoral degrees awarded by US institutions and the trend becomes negative improvement. Across the same time frame, the percentage of STEM doctoral degrees earned by African American and Hispanic students each increased by 0.16 or 0.17 percentage points per year on average. Federal support and interest in the outcome may well be a factor. The 2010 Federal STEM Education Inventory Data Set on broadening participation (data.gov) shows $397.8M dedicated to ‘Institutional Capacity’ or ‘Postsecondary STEM’ with $378.3M earmarked for underrepresented minorities and only $19.6M dedicated to students with disabilities. This is a 19:1 ratio! I will be back at 1 pm ET, Ask me anything about getting more opportunities in STEM research and careers for people with disabilities! Hi All! I’m on live now. I’ll probably stay live a bit past 2:00 pm EST. I type slowly. /ksb I’ll drop back in later tonight after my kids go to bed to get to the rest of the great questions. /ksb There is a couple of questions that I haven’t gotten to. I’ll try to hit those tomorrow, but I have a proposal that I need to wrap up in the next 24 hours. /ksb