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Bridgewater State University Focuses on Preparing Students for In-Demand STEM Careers

Bridgewater State University Focuses on Preparing Students for In-Demand STEM Careers

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Bridgewater State University’s Bartlett College of Science and Mathematics, in collaboration with the colleges of Continuing Studies and Graduate Studies, is focused on giving students of all ages the skills they need for the jobs of today and tomorrow.

The colleges are developing programs in cybersecurity and optics and photonics engineering – two fields with a dearth of qualified workers. They expect the new offerings will continue a trend of rising interest in these and other STEM programs.

The Bartlett College awarded 220 undergraduate degrees in 2018, up from 190 five years earlier.

“This success is due to focused efforts to not only recruit students for STEM programs, but also innovative projects that ensure that students understand the value of their education and have the support and opportunities available to them to be retained in and excel in the sciences and mathematics,” said Dr. Kristen Porter-Utley, the college’s dean.

The National Science Foundation-funded SEISMIC program, for example, provides students with financial support, mentors and opportunities to enhance their academic experience.  And, the college has fostered closer collaborations with local K-12 schools and community colleges.

Physics is among the programs seeing increased student interest. There were 57 undergraduate physics majors in fall 2018, up from 43 two years before. And, that’s before a new program to train people to work in the growing optics and photonics industry comes online.

Photons are particles of light capable of replacing electrons. Using photons allows for higher-density chips in devices and improves the transmission of information, providing more bandwidth and less energy loss.

Engineers and optics and photonics scientists are in demand locally as companies pop up around Massachusetts looking to play a role in photonics-related developments.

“It’s exciting to be part of this revolution and exciting Massachusetts can be a leader in this industry,” said Dr. Ed Deveney, a physics professor. “We need a workforce and they will be this workforce.”

BSU is one of several institutions working with a $1.8 million grant MIT secured from the U.S. Office of Naval Research. The grant allows AIM Photonics Academy at MIT to develop a program to train technicians to work in advanced manufacturing. The initiative brings together industry, academia and government.

BSU will also offer a new optics and photonics engineering major and hopes to launch the new bachelor’s program in the fall of 2020.

Computer science is another area seeing growth. There were 24 graduate computer science majors in fall 2018, up from 12 in 2013.

That growth comes as BSU increases course offerings in the Department of Computer Sciences in the areas of cybersecurity, software design and artificial intelligence – all fields where the university seeks to prepare students to meet employers’ needs.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates the growth rate for information security analysts at 28 percent (“much faster than average”) between 2016 and 2026.

BSU’s graduate and continuing studies colleges continue to enhance their computer science offerings. The College of Graduate Studies, for example, secured a federal grant for a new fellowship program that provides graduate students up to $34,000 per year while they study computer science, particularly cybersecurity and artificial intelligence.

“We hope to be able to attract new students to the program with this financial support, and to contribute well-qualified graduates to our local, regional, and national workforce in an area of national need,” said Dr. Lisa Krissoff Boehm, dean of the College of Graduate Studies. (Story by Brian Benson, University News & Video)
 

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United States