Issue: March 2008
In This Issue:
As March went out like a lamb, a news story traveled cyberspace that many simply overlooked. Science teachers from around the country, 78 of them to be exact, had received a total of $550,000 in grants from the Toyota TAPESTRY: Grants for Science Teachers program. Among those 78 winners—selected from 500 submitted proposals—were three K-12 teachers from New Jersey: Maureen B. Barrett from Harrington Middle School in Mt. Laurel who won a $10,000 grant; Nicole Cirqueira from Salem County Vocational Technical School in Woodstown who won a $10,000 grant; and Carol Loftus from Holland Township School in Milford who won a $2,500 grant. These innovative science teachers will begin to sink their winning grant dollars into their classrooms as soon as this June in an attempt to improve the quality of science education for their students.
These teachers, with their love of everything from microscopes to isotopes, represent your future and the skills you will need to prosper in whatever career you choose. Science and its partner math have taken center stage in education and the job market as the sustenance of a high-tech economy and the basis for strong critical-thinking skills, which every employer is looking for in his new hires. Want to be in demand in the job market? Then tackle your math and science classes in high school and take advantage of any special opportunities your school and community might offer. Bob Franks, the president of the Healthcare Institute of New Jersey, which supports the state’s pharmaceutical and medical technology firms, said recently, “Our challenge—as an industry and as a state—will be to pursue strategies that attract young people to the math and sciences.” Why? Because employers desperately need workers who have these valuable skills. So what are you waiting for?
Lucille Davy, Commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Education, was born in Elizabeth and ultimately graduated from Livingston High School and later Seton Hall University in South Orange, where she earned an undergraduate degree in mathematics and then went on to earn her law degree. Davy is neither a math teacher nor a lawyer these days, though she’s worked successfully in both those careers. Instead, she runs the state’s top education office, helping to set new education policies and promote educational excellence in the state. She is a great example of why you shouldn’t make choices that narrow your possibilities later in life. Her advice to today’s students:
It’s important for young people to work at their reading, writing, communication, and math skills, even if you perceive yourself to be more of a humanities or arts-oriented person. It’s important to develop math and science skills because the world requires application of those skills. Even if you consider yourself more of a math, techie person, the bottom line is that the world is so dependent on communication today that you really have to be able to communicate with people. Young people should make sure they don’t limit themselves in terms of their exposure to increasing their skills in different areas—particularly in communications, language arts, writing, math, science and technology. Even if a young person isn’t thinking about college right now, it’s very possible that they might need some kind of secondary education in the future just to maintain their job. By 2020, 80% of all jobs will require a college degree. You don’t want to find out 10 years from now that you have to go back and acquire all these skills that you could have acquired earlier, even in high school. Challenge yourself as a high school student. Don’t be afraid to take a course that you think might be a little harder for you because it’s not an area you’re particularly good at. It’s really important to expose yourself to many different curriculum areas so that you have options in the future. I was a math major and then I became a lawyer. Even in the job I have I use the skills I developed in law school all the time. Critical thinking and analysis and really good communication and writing skills come from my law degree. Those skills serve me well in this job.
New Jersey, already the center of the world’s pharmaceutical industry, is now also one of the world’s top five growth spots for biotechnology. This means that a large percentage of medical advances in the future will come from laboratories in this state. Of the hundreds of companies in the space, a few have risen to among the top biotech companies worldwide. What is it like to work in such a fast-growing industry? What does it take to break into the industry? Summit-based Celgene Corporation, one of the world’s largest biotech companies, answers these questions and more:
What can I do to prepare for a career in biotechnology research?
Like other scientific disciplines, a solid foundation in math and science lays the groundwork for moving toward a career in biotechnology research. To develop modern therapies, there are a wide range of focus areas that are involved including chemistry, molecular biology, computer science, microbiology, and even physics and engineering in the case of medical devices. Of course, one of the most important factors is to choose an area of study and an area of medicine that are most important and interesting to you.
Internships and fellowships will also be critical to a career in biotechnology. The opportunity to obtain direct work experience and begin a learning path within an organization while in school creates not only the marriage between academics and experience but affords students the opportunity to get acquainted with a company and begin to make an early contribution to medicine and science.
Another area of preparation is leadership. Science and medical breakthroughs have occurred by those that had courage, perseverance, tenacity and a mindset to relentlessly see the possibilities and look beyond for answers. These competencies are those of an entrepreneur and a leader. A career in biotechnology for the 21st century will require a mindset of a strong scientist but the heart of a strong entrepreneur and leader. Influence and strong interpersonal skills, the ability to work across an organization and as a team player on a project team are critical to breakthrough solutions and key facets as one plans their career—gain these competencies early and develop them well.
Heidi Klum, host of TV’s “Project Runway,” the hit reality show competition for fashion designers, a math whiz? Who knew? Well…Heidi may not be practicing her algorithms between struts down the runway, but you may be surprised to learn that math plays a starring role in many fashion careers—namely, that of a fashion buyer. Fashion buyers select and purchase apparel and accessories from designers, manufacturers or wholesalers for retail sale to their customers. Sure, you need a great fashion sense to spot the hot trends that consumers will want to buy. However, buyers must also be good at budgeting and planning their inventory. Truth is, it’s a highly analytical position.
“Fashion buying does involve a lot of numbers, but once you learn how to figure out a plan, it’s not reinventing the wheel,” explains Jenny Son, a cosmetics buyer for Macy’s East. Jenny, 29, is a 1996 graduate of Ramapo High School in Franklin Lakes and a 2000 graduate of The College of New Jersey in Ewing, where she majored in English. “Throughout the day, I check receipts from vendors because I can’t make the sales if I don’t have the goods coming into the stores. I need to know what’s on time and what’s late. I spend the majority of my time on the phone with vendors and if there’s product that’s working, trying to get more of it. It’s about driving business and driving sales at store levels. It’s fast-paced, and I love that nothing is ever the same.”