Gift brings Eureka! moments to a new generation of scientists
September 27, 2018
On a bright summer day, young scientists are busily dissecting flowers and bees in Lynn Adler’s lab at UMass, listening as instructor Luis Aguirre discusses the diseases that can affect pollinators, and peppering lab assistants with questions. But the scene isn’t a first-year biology seminar; it’s a summer workshop for rising eighth-grade girls, incoming scholars in the innovative Eureka! program.
A partnership between UMass Amherst and Girls Inc. of Holyoke,Eureka!is a five-year program that addresses the gender gap in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), motivating girls to pursue post-secondary education and careers in STEM fields.
The first two years of the program take place on campus throughout the month of July, where STEM experts (professors and graduate students) act as program facilitators.Eureka! activities continue throughout the school year, reinforcing the skills and knowledge gained during the summer. Years three through five provide the Eureka! scholars with individual externships, community building activities, college visits and support throughout their college application process. This year, the very first cohort of girls will graduate from high school after five full years of participating in the program. Currently, 132 Eureka! scholars are engaged at various stages.
This long-term, sustained involvement supports girls in pursuing post-secondary education and careers that will enable them to be independent and successful throughout their lives. That’s what caught the eye of Dr. Greg Maravelas ‘62, an active alumnus who advocates for social justice and access to quality education.Maravelassees how the program dovetails with his values, and he believes investing in these Eureka! scholars is imperative for developing the next generation of leaders in science.
His recently announcedgift to the Eureka! program will support many of the nuts and bolts of the program, purchasing goggles, lab coats, and chemicals; renting vans for eye-opening off-campus field trips; and providing supplies for training and orienting instructors. The contribution also supports an annual “Thank You” event enabling Eureka! scholars to network with UMass instructors and further relationships with potential mentors.
Maravelas was inspired to give to Eureka! because it is “giving opportunity to girls in new ways. It is my hope that this program allows these girls to see the potential within themselves, have the tools to act on that potential, and ultimately brings them a sense of fulfillment.” He notes, “Lifting up and educating girls, especially in the STEM fields, is a benefit to the girls themselves, the country and our society.”
In another corner of campus, Eureka! instructor Hannah Logan introduces a group of young women to the many herbs growing in UMass’s Permaculture Garden, exploring the world of herbal medicine and the chemical reactions at play in herbal skin care. Making lip balms and sugar scrubs becomes a gateway to chemistry, medicine, and other disciplines. Thanks to Maravelas’s gift, these scholars will be able to continue to follow where the science leads them, encouraged and challenged from one Eureka! moment to the next.