Passion for science, love of students make Brosing a top teacherJenni Luckett | Editor
She realizes, in retrospect, that her inspiring, female high school physics teacher was an extreme rarity. Brosing herself says she frequently has encountered discrimination in her early days as a research, though, she says, “I ignored it.”
“I wasn’t working for women in science, I was just doing it,” she says.
Today, her advocacy is more intentional.
In the 1990s, she and others at Pacific University started a summer camp for middle school girls to get them—or keep them—into science.
“When girls came to camp, they’d say, ‘I didn’t know there were other girls like me,’” Brosing says. “It’s disturbing to me that 20 years later we’re still hearing that.”
She says the lack of interest isn’t inhernet. In other countries, the rate of women in the sciences is much higher. More recently in the United States, more than half of medical school students are women.
“You can change it,” she says.
She believes that much of the problem is the fault of the science community—a group so focused on fact that they sometimes overlook perception.
“There’s a stereotype of scientists in a white lab coat, glasses, and they don’t see anyone. That’s not how science is done, but young girls see it and decide they don’t want that isolating life,” she said. “It’s a stereotype. That’s one of the ways we, as scientists, have failed.”
She’s focused now on helping defeat the stereotype by reaching young girls before they abandon the pathway to math and science, and junior high is one major jumping off point.
“Someone who is good at science and math might be good at a lot of things. They have a lot of options open to them,” she said.
If girls get more praise for their skills in the arts than in science—or worse, if they get negative feedback for their interest in math and science—they’re likely to change course.
Study of the original science camp in the 1990s found that a larger than average percentage of participants went on to careers in science and math, and many attributed that choice to the camp experience.
That’s why Brosing and Associate Professor Shereen Khoja now conduct a similar camp, funded by the National Science Foundation, for seventh- and eighth-grade girls interested in computer science.
“We want to give them ammunition before they get into high school,” Brosing said. “In kindergarten, there’s equal interest [in science, among boys and girls]. By high school, it really narrows down.”
Finding their way
Joel Hoyt ’93 didn’t come to Pacific University with a particular interest in physics.