What’s the best way to encourage bright young students to pursue careers in science and engineering? Simple: Give them an insider’s view of the exciting opportunities available in these fast-growing fields. That’s the reasoning behind a new youth outreach initiative by the French Atomic and Alternative Energy Commission (CEA) and the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility (ESRF). On Jan. 24, 2013, the two research agencies will open their doors to Grenoble-area high-school students so they can learn more about what it’s like to perform cutting-edge research or spearhead innovation at technology companies. The goal is to build awareness of and renew students’ interest in fields struggling to attract fresh talent.
On Jan. 24, 2013, the CEA’s ten centers across France and the ESRF will open their doors to around a hundred high-school students as part of a day-long event called “You Too Can be a Scientist.” This youth outreach initiative aims to stem the tide of students eschewing careers in science and engineering and to introduce them to the wide range of career opportunities available right in their very own region. CEA researchers will dispel the myth of the “mad scientist” concocting strange potions in his laboratory; they will explain what they do, the added value of their research, and their career goals—and answer students’ questions like: What prompted them to become scientists or engineers? Why did they choose their particular field? Did they fall into it or was it a true vocation? How did they get to where they are today? Does their day-to-day job match what they imagined it would be as a student?
The students participating in the program are juniors and seniors specializing in science at three nearby high schools (Marie Curie High School in Grenoble, Porte de l’Oisans High School in Vizille, and La Matheysine High School in La Mure). The morning program will include a tour of the CEA’s facilities, a presentation of its main research activities, a quiz on “science and society,” and an “elevator pitch” session where 15 CEA scientists, engineers, and technicians will each give a three-minute speech on what they do and why they chose their profession. After lunch, the students will visit individual labs and research facilities—including the ESRF, which will give the students a first-hand look at one of its 40 beamlines. However, this won’t be a first for the ESRF, since it already gives guided tours to a few hundred high-school students every year.