Wednesday, July 25, 2012

The week of July 16, several fifth and sixth grade girls attended the University of Iowa’s PharmCamp, a program jointly sponsored by the colleges of pharmacy, engineering, and medicine. During this week-long day camp, the girls performed lab experiments, studied how medications are made and work, and learned about career opportunities in pharmacy, medicine, and engineering.

During the week, the girls were engaged in a variety of hands-on activities including making products such as lip balms and hand lotions. Students were introduced to an array of concepts in pharmacy, engineering, and medicine; including drug metabolism, polymers, and pharmaceutical chemistry. They spent the week researching, preparing, and presenting posters on various concepts that were introduced.

PharmCamp began in 2009 as a way to introduce middle school students to pharmaceutical, engineering and science careers.

“The age at which students determine their interest in science is in the adolescent years. Therefore, students who lack early exposure to positive science experiences may be at risk of developing a negative interest toward learning science. This is particularly critical for girls in technology-driven fields, who tend to express more negative views of physical sciences than boys and therefore have a lower likelihood of choosing careers in STEM fields,” explains Jennifer Fiegel, assistant professor at the College of Pharmacy, and developer of PharmCamp.

Studies show that early and continued exposure to fields of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) lead to increased perceived competence in these fields. The White House Council on Women and Girls found that women who work in STEM fields earn about one-third more than women in non-STEM jobs, however women hold only about 25 percent of all STEM positions nationwide.

The PharmCamp initiative is just one of the ways that the University of Iowa encourages young children to take an early and active approach to education, fostering a lifelong love of learning.