This blog is a collaborative effort between the Foundation for Student Science and Technology (formerly the Canadian Young Scientist Journal) and Science.gc.ca. Our aim is to offer an interactive platform where Canadian students can talk about their passions, challenges and ideas on how to further pursue scientific interests and education. We welcome new contributors -- if you are interested please contact us at information@science.gc.ca.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Diversification in STEM

Originally Published: July 23, 2014
By: Munaza Saleem

Within the Canadian education system, students as young as the age of fifteen are enquired as to what career path they may take and even their future field of specialization. Our education begins to take us on a series of concentrated interests throughout high school and eventually university, where we begin to focus on an even more miniscule field of research. Perhaps this research involves obtaining knowledge from related subjects, but this study whether it be STEM related or not is albeit directed towards a highly centred discipline. The question arises as to whether we as a society are losing sight of our need of diversification in order to advance our development in science, technology, engineering, and math.

A similar issue that surfaces is whether students should enter micro specializations at earlier ages to see if they become more experienced in their field of choice. Ultimately, a more focussed research from an individual in STEM related subjects at these early ages can lead to more experience in the field as they began at a younger age, and arguably supply a greater contribution in the area of interest. However, scientists and engineers alike may agree that having a background in other subjects can also be an active factor in advancing your own methods and techniques within your line of work.

Various backgrounds of knowledge may contribute to a certain focus on research or discovery. This is exemplified among many notable polymaths such as the philosopher Avicenna, who was titled the Father of Modern Medicine but was also a poet, astronomer, mathematician, and geologist. Similarly, Isaac Newton was not only a physicist but a mathematician, astronomer, chemist, and theologist. These polymaths used their knowledge in multiple fields of study to eventually achieve their most remarkable contributions in society.

In due course, not only does a wider background in various subjects increase your knowledge, but educational institutions and employers are seeking students and employees that have skills and attributes that go beyond the breadth of the classroom, lab, or research facility. The competitive advantage that adds to your ability to be informed of information within other fields exemplifies your personal diversification of interests.

As a student who has obtained experience in fields ranging from science to visual arts to business, my experience in each of these fields commonly intertwine as a daily occurrence. Each supplies to the knowledge of the other and the breadth of information and amount of people in backgrounds that you meet would not have occurred had I not found an interest in a wide range of subjects. While micro specializing in a certain field may have allowed me to focus on one particular subject, the amount of background understanding would not have been possible without being involved with various other pursuits.