As students head back to class, Episode 8 of the EWN Podcast focuses on foundation of EWN—the disciplines of Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics (STEAM/STEM). In several episodes of the podcast, we’ve touched on the importance of encouraging students—the next generation of scientists, engineers, and EWN practitioners. Here we feature some additional discussion from guests from two episodes this season talking about STEAM/STEM and their advice to students.
In Episode 1, host Sarah Thorne and Jeff King, Deputy Lead of the Engineering With Nature® Program at the US Army Corps of Engineers, spoke with Amanda Tritinger, Assistant Program Manager for the EWN Program and a Research Hydraulics Engineer at the Coastal and Hydraulics Laboratory in Vicksburg, Mississippi, and Matt Bilskie, Assistant Professor at the University of Georgia. Matt is the Lead of the Coastal Ocean Analysis and Simulation Team (COAST), a research team that develops computational hydrodynamic models to simulate astronomic tides, wind waves, storm surge, and rainfall runoff in coastal and oceanic environments.
Matt focuses on two important points. First, that one doesn’t have to be “good at math” to pursue a STEM-related career. Admitting that he was not particularly good in math, Matt noted that “math is just a tool. There are many tools that you can have in your tool belt and still follow your passion in a STEM-related field.” He also stressed the importance of listening and learning from others who have had experience in the areas and issues that you’re working on, adding “one day you will be that person providing expertise, and other people will listen to you.”
Amanda builds on Matt’s advice, noting that if someone is struggling to understand a topic, “don’t get frustrated when you don’t get a topic right away”—there are numerous resources available to help, from books, to YouTube, to podcasts. She also underscores the value of the “A” in STEAM, encouraging students to keep up with the Arts: “There can be so much innovation brought to the science if you’re investing in the ‘art’ part of your brain.”
Jeff agrees: “It takes many different backgrounds and skill sets to solve very complex problems like the ones the EWN Program is working on. Matt and Amanda are two excellent computer modelers; but we also need biologists, ecologists, landscape architects, social scientists, and economists, all working collaboratively, to be able to deliver very meaningful solutions. So, there’s going to be a home for every student today in one of these disciplines. And you’ll have the opportunity to work with many other talented people to solve the different challenges that we’re facing.”
The conversation wraps up with encouragement to students to be curious, keep an open mind, and be holistic in their approach to challenges. Always look for opportunities to make a difference.
Listen to the podcast here.