Faculty Name

Jodi Goldberg

Document Type






Course Subject


Course Number


Course Section


Course Title

FSEM: Rock, Paper, Spock

Academic Term and Year

Fall 2016



Area of Study


Course Description

What makes a person a scientist? When do we begin to look at ourselves as scientists? In the Big Bang Theory (the source of the enhanced game of chance referenced in title of this course), many stereotypes about scientists are played out. In the original cast, there was one woman and four men. The female character, Penny, was a waitress and actor, while all the male characters were physicists or engineers. The show reproduced certain stereotypes about scientists, perhaps affirming assumptions about who does (and is capable of) science: men, not women, certain racial and ethnic identities; certain kinds of people. While the show has added some female scientists to its original cast, these women also fit in more stereotypical roles (i.e. studying biology but not physics). Unfortunately, these stereotypes are grounded in the reality of who obtains science degrees. Data from the National Science Foundation (https://www.nsf.gov/nsb/sei/edTool/index.html) indicates that of those students who received a four-year college bachelor’s degrees in STEM fields in 2012, women are slightly overrepresented in comparison to the number of college-aged women in the United States, while Hispanic and Black students were underrepresented (e.g. Hispanics represent 20.5 % of the college-aged population, but only 10.3% of STEM bachelor’s degree recipients). When looking at STEM degree recipients at levels beyond a four-year college degree, the proportion of women and underrepresented minorities receiving those advanced degrees falls to levels far below those groups proportional representation among college-aged students in the U.S. population. This FYSEM will explore the obstacles that can be encountered when one chooses a career in science. We will consider how the challenges inherent in science careers can be exaggerated for those students who are currently underrepresented in the sciences and for those students that are among the first in their families to attend a four-year college (e.g. first generation college students). We will examine the careers of some well-respected scientists from across scientific disciplines who come from underrepresented groups as they relate to science and learn about the many hurdles these scientists faced as they developed their scientific identity. Students in the course will also begin forming their own scientific identity through the processes of planning and performing scientific experiments, analyzing data, and presenting results. Finally students will have the opportunity over the course of the semester to reflect upon what they learn and discover and define (or redefine) the state of their own scientific identity.