Middle school students explore possible science careers at annual UCI conference

About 400 IUSD middle schoolers recently got a chance to test-drive potential careers in physics, robotics, aerospace, health and other specialized fields during a long-running science conference at UCI.

microscopePresentation titles for the 21st annual Middle School Science Career Options Conference, held Dec. 18 at the university’s Social Science Complex, included “Electrical Engineering: The World of GPS Navigation,” “Career Opportunities in Veterinary Medicine,” “Forensic Science: The ‘Real’ CSI” and “Wanted! Scientist to Help Save A Planet.”

Based on their interests, students were able to select from a menu of more than 20 speakers and subjects during four breakout sessions, which were led by real scientists from UCI, the Orange County Crime Lab, the Irvine Ranch Water District, Boeing Co. and other reputable companies, as well as some of our local doctors, including optometrist Dr. Art Corish and dermatologist Dr. Patrick Lee.

Brendan O’Donnell of ChargePoint brought one of Fisker Automotive’s electric vehicles to show students and talked about designing and charging electric cars. Meanwhile, Dr. Susan Van Vorhis Key, also known as “The Bug Lady,” showed off an assortment of tarantulas, scorpions and cockroaches as she encouraged students to pursue their passions when picking career paths.

The Middle School Science Career Options Conference was established years ago to boost student interest in science-related careers – and to encourage middle schoolers to enroll in science courses when they reach high school. Originally funded by a now-expired grant from the National Science Foundation, the program has endured thanks to the support of the Irvine Public Schools Foundation.