STEM – Majors for Everyone

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


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.


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.


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!


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 humankind 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

Updated: July 2020

What Can You do with an Electrical Engineering Major?

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


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 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 UMD alum are doing with their EE degrees, what EE majors across the US are doing with their degrees, and future applications of electrical engineering.


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 2017-2018 EE report on the employment and continuing education of EE alumni, six months to one year after graduation. 97% of EE graduates from 2014-15 are employed (this is with a 90% response rate for our survey). Of those employed, 100% have indicated they are in a position related or somewhat related to their major. Some occupations held by these graduates include Project Engineer, Automation Engineer, Power Systems Engineer, Control Engineer, and Electrical 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 UMD, Open Systems International, Honeywell, Medtronic, and Minnesota Power. These professionals perform engineering, operations, information technology, sales, and education related work.


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 14,000 electrical engineering positions posted on LinkedIn open in the US. 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.


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. The 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!

Of Possible Interest:
Career Planning in Science
Electrical Engineering at UMD
What UMD grads in Electrical Engineering are doing
Choosing a Major – all our blog posts on the topic
Turn Your Major Into a Career – our Pinterest board filled with articles & resources

Read Kirsi’s other posts

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

Updated: July 2020

What Can You do with a Computer Science Major?

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


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 you can do with a CS major?” Some responses include programming for deep space exploration technologies; wearable tech; engineering a 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. 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.

CS Major

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. 89% of CS graduates from 2017-18 are employed while 9% are pursuing post secondary degrees (this is with a 92% response rate for our Graduate Follow-up survey). Of the 89% employed, 92% have indicated they are in a position related to their major. Occupations held by these graduates include Front End Developer, Game Developer, Software Engineer, Cloud Solution Engineer, and Web Developer. Check out our Computer Science page for the most up to date data.

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, Target, UnitedHealth Group, Microsoft, and the University of Minnesota. These professionals perform engineering, information technology, operations, and research related work.


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.


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“.


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!

Of Possible Interest:
• Computer Science at UMD – BS, BA
What UMD Computer Science grads are doing
Choosing a Major – all our blog posts on the topic
Turn Your Major Into a Career – our Pinterest board filled with articles & resources

Read Kirsi’s other posts

Updated: June 2020

Educational Computing & Technology Certificate at UMD

By: Whitney

There are many certificates that someone can get that will help him or her to get a leg up in the teaching field. One of the certificates that is offered at UMD is the Educational Computing & Technology Certificate. This certificate is composed of four, four-credit classes that teach you how to use technology in the classroom and for administrative tasks.

Technology is becoming more and more important to school districts hiring new teachers. They need teachers who can keep up with the students who they are teaching. By getting this certificate, you will have a great certificate to add to your resume, and you also have a great amount of knowledge that can help you to be more efficient in the classroom.

Since the courses are only offered certain times of the year, I have found it very helpful you don’t have to take the courses in any particular order. The only exception to this is the first course in the series, as it is a prerequisite for the other courses. While it is nice you can take the courses in any order, you can plan your schedule to take the classes in order by course number. This could be very beneficial since many of the professors assume you have taken the previous classes. Since the courses are only offered during certain semesters, you really have to pay attention to when the courses are offered so you have time to fit everything into your schedule.

The first course in the certificate is EDUC 2000: Technology for Teaching and Learning or EDUC 5412: The Computer in Education. Either of these classes can count for completing the certificate even though they each have a slightly different focus. The Technology for Teaching and Learning course has a focus for working with elementary age students. This course teaches you to use tablets, SMART Boards, and other tools such as Excel and Prezi to enhance lessons in the elementary classroom. This course is offered in the spring and fall every year. The Computer in Education course has a focus on various operating platforms and teaches students how to use basic software used by teachers in the field. This course also teaches various tools to be used to enhance lessons. This course is offered in the fall, spring, and summer every year.

The next course is EDUC 5413: Teaching with Technology. This course is offered in the fall, spring, and summer every year. This course looks at more tools for teaching and assessing the effectiveness of using technology for various lessons and looking for the most appropriate tools to use with lessons. You will also learn about topics such as universal design for learning, teaching digital citizenship, SAMR Model, and ISTE-T standards.

The third class of the certificate (if you are taking them in order) is EDUC 5414: Using Technology for the Administrative Task of Teaching. This course is offered only in the fall of each school year. This course focuses on the background knowledge needed for various tasks of teaching with technology. The course discusses various technology conferences, assistive technology, and what it takes to be on a technology committee, and what tasks are involved with being the technology director at a school. This course also looks at how to write grants asking for technology and designing a 21st century classroom.

The final course is EDUC 5415: Teaching Online and Hybrid Courses. This courses covers topics such as copyright, free use, instructional design, and creating learning activities in regards to teaching classes that are either completely online or are partially online and partially face-to-face (hybrid courses). You also have the opportunity to design your own online course using the university online system. This course is offered only periodically in the spring.

I have found that the courses in this series have been very useful in my teaching experiences while I am in the field. This semester I have the opportunity to integrate a lot of what I have learned into my classroom because there is so much technology available to the students. The classroom has a SMART Board and the students each have their own iPad. In a world where technology is on the rise, education administrators are looking to hire teachers who know about technology and who want to incorporate it into their classrooms. This certificate is an excellent add-on to any teaching degree to give you more knowledge about the technology used in classrooms and how to effectively incorporate technology into the classroom.

Read Whitney’s other posts

How To Unplug

By: Megan

As we’re getting into the swing of the semester, I think we all start to feel a bit of a strain. Our classes are starting to test us, projects get underway, and our student organizations start throwing all these events. Where do you get enough time to do everything? Short answer: I have no idea. Long answer: figure out what’s important, and let yourself take time off. Here are some ideas on how to step back that apply now, and will apply even more as we move on from college and head into the workforce.

How to unplug

Actually unplug

How long have you been away from the internet in the last 24 hours? I’m guessing not long. Being constantly connected is a thing in today’s world, but that can get draining, especially when it means we’re not spending our time actually focusing on one thing. So take some time and go offline. Don’t sit in front of your computer all day. Let your group members know not to expect you to respond at certain times, and don’t check your email or texts. Start setting some boundaries in your work and play life.

Plan your time, and stick to it

If we’re not in front of our computers all day, how in the world are we supposed to get everything done? It’s simple: actually do what you mean to do when you get in front of one. It’s hard, but it can be done. Imagine your boss or instructor is looking over your shoulder and actually focus on your work. Get what you need to done, and then you can play. Of course, I don’t mean to continually work until you finish, even if it takes all night. Take breaks, but don’t let those breaks turn into an hour of web-surfing.


Sometimes there’s no chance of things slowing down. You get projects that stack up on each other, the busy season at work, or 4 tests in one day. That’s life. But you still need time to take care of you. Even if you think you have no time, you need it. Take a space and make it a stress free zone. Leave your stress outside, and focus on you. Whatever it is that calms you down, take some time and do it. You’ll thank yourself later.

College isn’t so different from a “real-world” job. It has its ups and downs, and sometimes we let it take over. In order to be our best however, we need to spend some time making sure that we stay healthy. So take these tips, and try applying them one at a time. Change happens slowly, but if you keep applying yourself to it, hopefully you’ll be able to evaluate what you need and make sure you get it.

Read Megan’s other posts