STEM – Majors for Everyone

By: Kirsi (STEM student majoring in Computer Science & Electrical Engineering)

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Photo source: Unsplash | Johan Mouchet

Do you….
a) enjoy teleworking in your pajamas?
b) like to work after hours, letting a project eat your life?
c) strive for a work-life balance lifestyle?
d) just want a vanilla 40-hour work week?

If you answered any yes to any of the above, the world of Science Technology Engineering and Math (STEM) careers are for you! STEM is uniquely comprised of careers for every person with every desired lifestyle. If you are still pondering degree options or have been destined to go STEM since your toddler days of LEGO construction I will expand on the often overlooked advantages of getting a STEM major. Working environments, networking communities and possible projects of STEM majors will be explored.

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Google Garage workspace, picture by Business Insider

Working Environments
Stereotypes of interns coding in bean bag chair, taking breaks in sleep pods and grabbing a complementary snack at a company cafe are real incentives that industry offers STEM interns and professionals. Mainstreamed by “The Internship” movie, Google has a famously appealing workplace. One of the Google locations has a “Google Garage” where all the equipment is on wheels making collaboration, hacking, and brainstorming easier.  “I’ve always described Google as a kind of mix between kindergarten and a classy law firm,” describes Alex Cuthbert of Google while reflecting on workspace design. Another company with a surprisingly innovate workspace is Capital OneIntern alum from Indian Institute of Technology Kanpur shared, “The work culture in Bangalore office is very open. People decide their own work hours in accordance with their teams. There is also the option of working ­from­ home.” If an open floor plan hinders productivity and frightens your inner introvert, traditional cubical workspaces do exist and often exist as alternatives in the Googles of the world. NASA has adopted start up like collaboration spaces with walls of whiteboards, media stations to share presentations and various comfy chairs. When you choose a career in STEM there are working environments for those who like to work in a team, solo, in a start-up studio setting or telework in a hermit’s shed in the forest. You can discover your ideal work environment by taking our career assessments.

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IEEE students from Penn State teach students about robotic function,
picture by Penn State University

STEM Communities
The hashtags are everywhere: #CSforAll, #WomenIn(insert STEM discipline here), #(insert ethnicity/ identity here)InSTEM, #ProfessionalEngineers, #IEEE, and #ILookLikeAnEngineer. The growing diversity in STEM has created support groups for everyone to network. Often these communities are online groups or host weekly/ monthly in-person meetings featuring presentations from group members about their work in STEM, talks from tenured professionals in industry, tours of various parts of the workplace or other STEM companies. A Professional Engineers group at NASA Johnson hosted a suite of presentations by employees about their favorite project. A fellow NASA Co-Op talked about her work with Curiosity Rover’s martian surface sampling drill arm. Having a community, a network or mentor can assist in navigating the workplace, be a source of new ideas and connect with those necessary to complete multidisciplinary projects. There are a number of STEM communities at UMD too such as; Association for Computing Machinery (ACM), Biology Club, Institute for Electric and Electrical Engineers (IEEE), Tau Beta Pi (an engineering honor society), Society of Women Engineers (SWE), and dozens more found on UMD’s Bulldog Link. Some of these communities continue past college as company, city, state-wide and national chapters!

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Interns build Mars terrain navigating robots, picture by NASA Ames

Meaningful Projects
What you work on in STEM has impact on society and often humanity’s advancement, leaving a sense of fulfillment every day after work. In private industry, you compete against other companies to create what society wants or needs most efficiently. Similarly, in government and non-profit sectors, you do you best to research and innovate for all mankind with the future of humanity in mind. Even as an early career STEM professional, including intern or Co-Op, you will likely be contributing to meaningful work. Microsoft Intern Arush Shankar described his contribution, “Work quickly became challenging yet rewarding. I was making a lot of design decisions on my own as my team began to trust me with more work… I was treated more as just another full-time employee on the team. Squashing bugs, checking in new code, and iterating.” Maria Carrasquilla, NASA Johnson Space Center Intern and engineering undergraduate was tasked with modeling effects of Micrometeoroids on space habitats and crafts. Her mentor, Dr. Eric Christiansen, expanded on the importance of the task, “We really appreciate how Maria quickly learned to run hydro-code simulations and provide meaningful results on the effects of non-spherical hyper-velocity impacts on spacecraft shields.” Dr. Eric Christiansen is the NASA lead of the Hyper-velocity Impact Technology group. The higher demand for STEM professionals, the higher the likelihood an early career professional will be trusted with game-changing tasks.

Maybe you are filled with doubt which is keeping you from pursuing a STEM career; “I’m not a math person,” “I don’t want to burn out” and “Those guys aren’t going to hire me.” Again, STEM is uniquely comprised of careers for every person with every desired lifestyle. There are flexible working environments, caring STEM communities and a future of meaningful projects that will propel you through the challenges. Give STEM a chance, regret often comes from a chance you didn’t take.

Of Possible Interest: 

Read Kirsi’s other posts

What Can I Do With My Minor?

By: Logan

Being a psychology major and sociology minor I hear the same question quite often. What are you going to do with that degree? This question always makes me think and I don’t always have a specific answer to give people. I know psychology has many applicable uses within business and recruiting, but where does sociology come in? I believe sociology gives me a better idea of how societies operate and function and I find this very interesting and helpful.

So how can knowledge of sociology help a person in the working world? I think the experience I have gained can be applicable in many areas. Many sociology courses have a focus on how certain groups are disadvantaged or stratified and this is a very important issue in our day and age. I have used this knowledge to help me in certain activities and organizations I am involved in. Here at UMD, I am a student representative for the Student Life Change Team. SLCT focuses on creating an inviting and comfortable environment for students of all demographics and backgrounds. I am on a committee within SLCT which focuses on recruiting efforts and discrimination. Specifically, we look at how different departments within Student Life recruit student employees, create a comfortable and inviting environment, and how applications or interview questions could be discriminatory. My background in sociology helps me better understand how certain groups are disadvantaged in the job application process and we aim to make this process and environment comfortable and inviting to everyone.

This is one way sociology can help me in the future but there are definitely many other options. There are dozens of websites that give examples of careers for people who have a background in sociology. These websites can give you an idea of what types of jobs they are going into, the experience level needed, and more. One resource I find very helpful is What Can I do with This Major? A very direct title and it has a lot of great information for almost every major someone could have. This website lets you choose from a large list of majors, and from here you are given a detailed list of different careers people have gone into using this major. It also gives information on how much education or experience is needed for different positions. One thing to keep in mind is that even though this resource highlights “majors,” the information applies to minors as well.

Another great resource Career and Internship Services offers is the annual Graduate Follow-up Report. This is a perfect resource for anyone curious about what people have done with the different majors, after UMD. The report includes information such as percentages on how many graduates in each major are employed or continuing education, if they think their jobs are relevant to their majors, and average annual salaries. This resource is great because rather than just listing off a bunch of potential careers, you can actually see exactly where graduates from UMD are working and what they are doing. The report even has a list of the names of the companies the graduates are working for and position titles. This resource is helpful for all students who are curious about what people from UMD have done with certain majors. Again, even though this information is about different “majors,” it applies to minors too.

Overall, in a field such as sociology, there are a lot of options. I have provided a few resources in this post to help you get a good idea of what can do with a major or minor.

Of Possible Interest: 

Read Logan’s other posts

Navigating Human Resources: Part 1

By: Tori

I came to college undecided. Not just on what I wanted to study, but on if this was the best school for me. Don’t get me wrong, I loved Duluth. It was by far my favorite school, but I felt so much pressure to get everything right the first time; to meet all of my expectations. Soon I learned that when it comes to expectations, they sometimes are set too high. And when something doesn’t go how you expected it to, you get thrown for a loop.

I didn’t expect to be a Human Resource Management major. Honestly, it was not appealing to me at all. I was drawn to business, interpersonal relationships, and helping others, but I couldn’t figure out where all of this fit together. And then BAM! one day someone (actually it was my Strong Interest Inventory assessment) said, “What about Human Resources?” and I said, “What about it?”. So I learned more.

Human Resources is the “umbrella” of all businesses. It is where the development and managing of an organization and its people happens. Some would say that without Human Resources there would be no business. There are 5 overarching sectors to this “umbrella” that stretch across all aspects of an organization.

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Recruiting and Staffing
People are a necessity to an organization’s success; without them, organizations wouldn’t exist. But how do you figure out who you want to work in your organization? This is where Recruiting and Staffing come into play. Recruiters look for and “recruit” qualified employees to work for their company and staffing makes sure we have employees whose skills match with open positions. Interviews, phone calls, brochures, questions, job descriptions, and first impressions all happen in this sector of HR.

Compensation and Benefits
No one works for free; aka there is no such thing as a free lunch. If we want people to perform services and do their job, we need to reward them. Compensation and Benefits is the sector of HR that motivates employees. Compensation looks at pay structures, which determine how much money you want to pay your employees for their employment and tasks accomplished. Benefits are the alternative, non-financial parts of a business offered to employees, this includes stock, insurance, paid vacation, etc.

Employee and Labor Relations
Recognizing state and federal laws and abiding by them is the purpose of Employee and Labor Relations. Understanding the government, how it works, and how to maintain positive relationships with your employees are all important tasks for this position. Remaining discreet and ethical is vital in this area of HR.

Safety and Health
Safety and Health HR employees strive to minimize any legal action that might be taken against the company by implementing safety procedures and health guidelines. Their main goals are to provide for physical and mental well-being and prevent work-related accidents.

Training and Development
Training and Development is the first step to helping employees feel at home. So much so, training and development is usually part of the on-boarding process. This includes making connections, navigating new positions, and learning the company culture. Diversity inclusion, performance management, and team building all happen in this sector of HR. Keeping employees up-to-date will allow them to continue to be an innovative part of the company.

If after reading this post you are interested in learning more, check out the Human Resource Major at UMD and talk to your advisor or the department head. Or come into our office and meet with a career counselor. They are more than happy to help you navigate Human Resources and all the nitty gritty details.

Of Possible Interest: 

Read Tori’s other posts

Photo Source: Unsplash|Jose Martin

What Can You do with an Electrical Engineering Major?

By: Kirsi (who double majors in Electrical Engineering & Computer Science)

ee_careers I regret waiting to take Introduction to Electrical Engineering (EE), a freshman seminar class, until my fourth year of college. After participation in a high school robotics team and EE related internships, I figured that I knew all the trajectories an EE major could take post college… WRONG. During this semester I have heard from local power systems engineers, microchip-memory gurus, and professors at our own University of Minnesota Duluth (UMD) conducting cutting edge research. This year US News and World Report listed Electrical Engineering as the 8th most needed degree in industry in their “Top College Majors for Finding Full-Time Work” article and 6th highest mid-career salaries in their “Top 10 College Majors That Earn the Highest Salaries.” Of course, success in an EE major requires more than the desire to get hired and paid well, it requires a passion for designing and problem-solving. I will share what University of Minnesota Duluth (UMD) alumni are doing with their EE degrees, what EE majors across the US are doing with their degrees and future applications of electrical engineering.

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Careers of UMD EE Alumni
Electrical & Computer Engineering was offered as a joint major at UMD until 2012 when the degree became solely Electrical Engineering. UMD’s Career and Internship Services conducts a comprehensive Graduate Follow-up Report collecting data on the career choices of UMD Alumni. Most recently they have published a 2014-2015 EE report on the employment and continuing education of EE alumni, six months to one year after graduation. 96% of EE graduates from 2014-15 are employed (this is with a 95% response rate for our graduate follow-up survey). Of the 96% employed, 95% have indicated they are in a position related or somewhat related to their major. Some occupations held by these graduates include Project Engineer, mobile Applications Developer, Firmware Engineer, Design Automation Engineer, and Electronic Design Engineer.

Looking closer into UMD Alumni statistics, LinkedIn offers of a view of where EE graduates work in industry since the beginning of the EE program (even when it was offered as a joint major). If you log into your LinkedIn account you can see the analysis for yourself. Top five employers for UMD EE Alumni in order include Minnesota Power, Open Systems International, Intel Corporation, LHB, and Seagate Technology. These professionals perform engineering, operations, information technology, sales, and education related work.

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On the shores of Lake Superior, UMD is involved in a number of cutting edge EE research opportunities and projects. Colonoscopies are becoming more effective thanks to the work of Professor Jing Bai and her nanotechnology development. Bai is working on the design and fabrication of a new type of tabular-shaped sensor array for contact pressure measurement for colonoscopies. This sensor looks like a nimble rubber snake intricately covered in pressure sensors. This technology has the potential to effectively detect ulcers and other abrasions in the colon a camera might miss. Rural America is harnessing nature to provide electric power in remote locations thanks to Professor Taek Kwon and Research Associate Ryan Weidemann. They have researched the use of hybrid solar and wind renewable power generators for rural Minnesota transportation applications. Results show that combining solar and wind resources are a reliable way provide power in a variety of weather and seasons.While driving down a country highway in Southern Minnesota you may find a dynamic traffic message board powered by a wind turbine cross solar panel power generator (see photo above). Professors who conduct this research hire UROP undergrad and graduate students to assist and if you are lucky they may teach one or two of your courses!

EE Careers of EE Majors Across the US
Looking back at LinkedIn’s search tools you can search for all positions open with the keyword “Electrical Engineer.” There are currently over 17,000 electrical engineering positions posted on LinkedIn open in the US. The highest number of positions open are at Amazon (410) and Northrop Grumman Corporation (385). The most popular locations for these positions include San Francisco Bay Area, Greater Detroit, Washington DC and New York. Top positions being offered include Software Systems Engineer, Embedded Systems Engineer, Hardware Engineer, and Quality Assurance Engineer. Innovations in electrical engineering that are making the most noise highlighted in MIT Technology Review include renewable energy, electric cars, virtual reality, and driver-less vehicles.

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Power distribution at NASA Glenn Research Center Internship

Future of EE Careers
When I think of electrical engineering I think of big power and little power. Electrical Engineers have the power (haha get it) to distribute 410,885,000 megawatt-hours to the US (based US Energy Information Administration) in a month or to design a nano-scale device that squeezes mere electrons through at a time. In both extremes of the electrical engineering spectrum, innovation is happening. Summer before my first year of college I had the awesome opportunity to work with NASA Glenn Research Center engineers on a power system for a deep space habitat. The electrical design ensured solar panels and batteries took turns providing power to the habitat depending on exposure to the sun. Swap-able modules distribute the power and provide an easy way for astronauts to monitor and, if needed, troubleshoot the system. It turns out this technology being developed at NASA has the potential for renewable energy and commercial applications. In electrical engineering, discoveries are often applied in surprising ways. Give electrical engineering a try, you may effect the future with what you design as an electrical engineer!

Read Kirsi’s other posts

Photo Sources
1: Anna Jimenez Calaf via Unsplash
2: Taek Kwon and Ryan Weidemann
3: Kirsi

Why Health Care Management was Right for Me

By: Cassie

I recently wrote a post explaining the careers that fall into health care management. There are so many different sectors and areas you can go into. I realized after I wrote the blog post that I didn’t explain why health care management was the right fit for me. Maybe it will inspire you to consider it as a path for yourself.

I originally was dead set on being a nursing major. I wanted to work in a clinical setting and I wanted to be able to help people. Then I took high school physics and realized if that was that hard, there was no way I was going to make it through the nursing classes. At this point I hadn’t picked a school and I was searching through programs when I found health care management. I did some research into what it was and decided, “well I can always change my mind!” Truthfully, I didn’t have any knowledge of what the major entailed until I got into my sophomore year and made an upperclassmen friend who was also a health care management major. She told me about all the classes and what they were learning and I thought hey maybe this really will work out! I am now a junior and I absolutely love all my health care management classes and I couldn’t see myself doing anything else. There are a large number of reasons this major is right for me.

There’s Variety
Depending on what job you get, you may not do the same thing every day which is a huge bonus for me. The fact that there are also so many different directions within health care management is a huge contributing factor for me. I’m someone who likes options and who doesn’t like doing the same thing all the time. Health care management is great for that type of work environment.

You’re Constantly with People
This is a very people oriented field. Not only will you have coworkers, but you also have to work across different departments, with other managers, patients, and more. I am someone who is extremely extraverted, so this part of the job is very appealing to me.

It is a Part of Health Care
These jobs are very essential to the health care field. You get to help patients without having to deal with the “blood and guts” aspect of health care. You are always working towards people’s lives better, even if it is behind the scenes.

These are just a few of the reasons I chose health care management. I hope if you have even let the thought of a career in health care management cross your mind you consider these reasons for pursuing the major and career path.

Of Possible Interest: 

Read Cassie’s other posts

So You’re Thinking About Health Care Management

By: Cassie (an actual Health Care Management major!)

There is a common misconception that working in a hospital means that you have to be a doctor or a nurse. Well, I am here to tell you that that is WRONG. There are so many more opportunities in the hospital setting than what you see on the surface.

Health Care Management is the section of the hospital that works behind the scenes. They are the people who run the ship, so to speak, and they make sure everything is running smoothly and swiftly. The jobs they do include things such as scheduling, clinic management, financing, data analysis, quality management, and so much more. If you don’t know what some of those jobs entail, don’t worry, I’ll give you some examples.

Clinic Managers
These are the people who organize specific clinics in the hospital. By this I mean the sections of the hospital like pediatrics or orthopedics. As a clinic manager you wear a lot of hats so to speak. You are there to keep everyone happy. You work with nurses, physicians, and patients to make sure schedules are working and to make sure that everyone is having the best possible experience. Clinic managers also have to attend meetings to make sure they are meeting hospital standards. A large chunk of this job involves rolling with the punches and being able to think on your feet and be flexible, so if you are looking for a job that isn’t the same every day this is something you should really look into.

Financing
Health care is expensive and insurance is very confusing and it can be very hard for patients to figure out what they need to pay and why. Working in this area of the hospital means that you help patients work through how they are going to pay their fees and you work through how insurance can benefit them. If you are interested in math or money this job would be good for you. In this role you get to work with people and you get to help them and if those are areas that interest you, this is something worth looking into.

EHR’s and Coding
EHR stands for Electronic Health Records which in short terms are the health records that are attached to each person’s health history. By working in EHR’s you are focused on things like technology advancement, data collection, and troubleshooting. You can also go into coding which is the computer language EHR’s are written in. This is less people focused and more focused on progressing health care management into the future.

Community Outreach
Being a health care management major means you can also go into areas of public health. This means you are focused on the overall wellness of communities and focus on getting healthy habits out into the community. This would be things like focusing on nutrition, physical activity, water quality, and laws & acts to enhance the influence of health care. This area of health care really focuses on working in a team to decide how to benefit the lives of the community that you serve.

I know I’ve thrown a lot of information at you, and I want to emphasize just a few of the jobs and job areas that a health care management major can offer. The nice thing about a health care management degree is that you have SO many options of things to do. I hope you really consider this major because it is a field that is always growing and a field that allows you to help people and help the health care field.

Of Possible Interest

Read Cassie’s other posts

What Can You do with a Computer Science Major?

By: Kirsi (double major in Computer Science & Electrical Engineering)

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There is so much you can do with a Computer Science (CS) major that I did not know where to start! As a result I turned to a community of over 3,000 computing students on Facebook for their thoughts. I am a part of the NCWIT Aspirations In Computing Community comprising of women from across the US who study computing related to majors. I asked “what are unique things that you can do with a CS major?” Some responses include programming for deep space exploration technologies; wearable tech; engineering an bionic pancreas; and programming a robotic octopus arm to tighten jar lids, lift the jars into boxes and load pallets for Smuckers Company. The possibilities are endless with a CS major alone or even paired with another discipline. In 2012 Forbes listed Computer Science at number 3 college major in their “Top 15 Most Valuable College Majors” article, for “hirability” and salary. A CS major can also prepare you for medical, business, or graduate school. I will share what University of Minnesota Duluth (UMD) alumni are doing with their degree, what CS majors across the US are doing with their degree, and future applications of computer science.

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Photo source: Unsplash | Sai Kiran Anagani

Careers of UMD CS Alumni

UMD has been collecting statistics of alumni employment about the computer science major since 1981 (when CS became its own major after splitting from Math). The CS program has grown in the number of graduates and employed graduates. 93% of CS graduates from 2013-14 are employed while 7% are pursuing post secondary degrees (this is with a 94% response rate for our graduate follow-up survey). Of the 93% employed, 84% have indicated they are in a position related to their major. Occupations held by these graduates include Programmer, Analyst, Automation Engineer, Software Developer, and Web Designer. Data on our 2014-15 grads will be released in the next few months.

Diving further into UMD Alumni statistics, LinkedIn offers of a view of where CS graduates work in industry since the beginning of the CS program. If you log into your LinkedIn account you can see the analysis for yourself. Top five employers for UMD CS Alumni in order include UMD, United Health Group, Target, Thomson Reuters, and Medtronic. These professionals perform engineering, information technology, operations, and research related work.

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Testing Fishnetstockings interactive art instillation by UMD’s Joellyn Rock, Alison Aune, and Pete Willemsen

UMD is involved in a number of cutting edge CS research opportunities and projects. One group that stands out is SIVE Lab (Simulation and Interaction in Virtual Environments) lead by professor Pete Willemsen. SIVE Lab uses position tracking and virtual reality to illustrate data in a new way. Combining arts and computing SIVE Lab and UMD’s Art and Design department installed interactive artwork at Lydgalleriet art gallery in Bergan, Norway. This interactive installation is called Fishnetstockings and is composed of multimedia elements. A user can enter Fishnetstockings casting a shadow like a mermaid, make virtual waves, and display words from a Twitter stream. Other projects SIVE Lab works on include an iPad app that records/analyzes motion for bio-mechanics, energy/budget measurement station, and simulating urban environments to maximize sustainable structures.

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Capturing illustrations from Fishnetstockings interactive art instillation by UMD’s Joellyn Rock, Alison Aune, and Pete Willemsen

CS Careers of CS Majors Across the US

Looking back at LinkedIn’s search tools you can search for all positions open with the keyword “Computer Science”. There are currently over 100,000 positions posted on LinkedIn related to computer science. The highest number of positions open are at Technosoft (8,833) and Amazon (3,795). The most popular locations for these computer science positions include San Francisco Bay Area, Washington DC, New York City, and Boston. Top positions being offered include Information Technology, Computer Software, and Recruiting. Hot topics of computer science include artificial intelligence, bio-medical engineering, and robotics according to Forbes “13 of 2015’s Hottest Topics In Computer Science Research“.

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Working with LabVIEW sofware at NASA’s Johnson Space Center. [Photo source: Kirsi]

Future of CS Careers

A unique aspect about computer science is that you can have a CS career in any discipline or industry. New CS careers are being made daily, inspired by new applications of computing. Essentially, the CS major creates the future. While interning at NASA Johnson I learned how a deep space habitat’s life support systems communicate their statuses with an interface for astronauts, a critical application of CS. Code drives automation of the International Space Station’s life support system. Data analysis tools alert flight controllers of the Space Station’s well being. An autonomous program recently landed SpaceX’s reusable rocket on a barge out at sea! If you want to be at the forefront of the future in any industry, CS is the career for you.

Want to try out some programming? Try some of these projects which can be completed in less than an hour!

Read Kirsi’s other posts