A Problem with STEM [article]

Michael Marder
BACKGROUND Striking differences between physics and biology have important implications for interdisciplinary science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education. I am a physicist with interdisciplinary connections. The research group in which I work, the Center for Nonlinear Dynamics at the University of Texas at Austin, is converting into the physics department home for biological physics. Many of my collaborations have been with faculty in engineering. For the past 15 years, I
more » ... have been codirector of the program at the University of Texas at Austin that prepares secondary science and mathematics teachers (UTeach, 2012). The future teachers take a course on scientific research I developed and deliver together with colleagues from biology, astronomy, chemistry, and biochemistry (Marder, 2011) . This background naturally makes me an enthusiastic advocate of interdisciplinary education at the secondary and undergraduate levels. Yet at the same time, I am worried by some features of what may be coming. These worries have to do with what can happen as we are all lumped together under the heading of STEM. Undergraduate education in biology is confronted with the rapid development of the field and the urge to insert more and more recently discovered facts and ideas into introductory courses. Physics does not have this problem. Almost all physicists are happy to teach an introductory course whose structure has not changed much since 1960, and for which the content was developed before 1930. Indeed physics courses make only occasional excursions past material developed by 1960 up through the second year of graduate school. The reason is not just that physicists are resistant to change, but that the material we view as central simply has not changed for
doi:10.15781/t2f47gx1h fatcat:2shpojc5tzdgljjlfcocjrzlgm