More minority students need to be lured into the sciences. One program has been a resounding success.
At most universities, freshman chemistry, a class I’ve taught for nearly 40 years, is the first course students take on the road to a career in the health professions or the biological or physical sciences. It’s a tough course, and for many students it’s the obstacle that keeps them from majoring in science. This is particularly true for minority students.
In 2005, more than two-thirds of the American scientific workforce was composed of white males. But by 2050, white males will make up less than one-fourth of the population. If the pipeline fails to produce qualified nonwhite scientists, we will, in effect, be competing against the rest of the world with one hand tied behind our backs.
We’ve been able to survive for the last several decades in large measure because of the “brain drain” — the fact that the most able students from other countries, particularly China and India, have come here to study science at our best universities and, in many cases, have stayed to become key players in our scientific endeavors.