Wake Forest University Tackling Lack of Diversity in STEM
Manal Ahmidouch is a biophysics major at Wake Forest University (WFU). When she is not conducting drug discovery research to destroy cancer DNA, she is mentoring high school girls interested in STEM fields. The STEM industry has a notoriously low rate of women and minorities, despite universities’ efforts to promote STEM disciplines. The mentoring Ahmidouch provides presents an opportunity to break through the barriers that hold back women and minorities from succeeding in the STEM industry.
Ahmidouch’s message to the girls she mentors is simple: “The low percentage of women and minorities in STEM leaves out an important perspective in research and industry. Sciences would be improved by including more women and minorities. If you’re interested, go for it. Let’s change the world together.”
Ahmidouch leads by example. Last month, she spoke at the Biophysical Society’s 61st Annual Meeting in New Orleans. She was only one of 12 people worldwide to receive a prestigious travel scholarship from the society’s Committee for Inclusion and Diversity to attend the international meeting, where she will share her undergraduate research experience during a panel.
Wake Forest University is taking a number of steps that are working to increase diversity in STEM as part of its commitment to liberal arts education. Recently Wake Forest appointed Olga Pierrakos as founding chair to head its new Department of Engineering. Additionally, an innovative STEM Incubator class at WFU designed to attract women and under-represented minorities to STEM majors, has yielded 6 percent growth in the enrollment of women in computer science programs, to 32 percent in 2016 from 26 percent in 2013. The national average is about 18 percent, according to the National Science Foundation (NSF). Wake Forest is also part of an NSF-funded alliance, along with Vanderbilt University and Fisk University, which will help historically underrepresented minorities work toward STEM careers.
Did You Know?
The spending of WFU students creates a $41.9 million impact on the state economy. Additionally, out-of-region visitors to WFU generated $23.4 million in spending for the area.
Wake Forest University is located in Winston-Salem. The Wake Forest University Charlotte Center is in Uptown Charlotte.