College Grant Aims To Help Women Enter STEM Fields

BY TRISHA SAKHUJA
Staff Writer

A $30,000 grant was awarded to a professor at LaGuardia Community College to develop a program that will motivate women to enter fields like science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

Dr. Preethi Radhakrishnan, an assistant professor of biology at the college, was awarded the grant by the Elsevier Foundation to develop the City University of New York’s first-of-its-kind program.

Dr. Preethi Radhakrishnan

Dr. Preethi Radhakrishnan

According to a 2012 report from the United States President’s Council, Dr. Radhakrishnan said there is a deficit of more than one million workers to meet the United States workforce and demand in science.

“We have a lot of students who enroll into STEM majors, but very few of them persist and graduate,” she said. “The question lies, ‘what is happening in the interim and why are they dropping out?’”

While 58 percent of LaGuardia’s student population is female, in 2012, less than five percent graduated with a STEM degree, Dr. Radhakrishnan said.

Dr. Radhakrishnan, who holds a bachelor’s degree in Zoology and a master’s in Biotechnology from the University of Madras in India, said in general, the STEM field is really important because it will provide a large amount of the jobs during the next couple of years.

“The project aims to provide those women who have passion and drive to succeed in science with the toolkit necessary for making informed career choices,” said the professor, who has been teaching at the College for two years now.

This month, the two-year program launched its four-pronged initiative that will target women who show great potential in having successful careers within the STEM majors at LaGuardia. The program offers research internships, scholarships and childcare assistance.

Dr. Radhakrishnan said the grant will help eliminate many of the stereotypes women face when they enter STEM fields.

“There are a lot of gender stereotypes that come with the territory,” she said.

She said she hopes the project will address a glaring gap between men and women entering STEM fields.

Recruitment for the program starts in March. There is no minority requirement to apply, but qualifying women must show financial need and a good GPA, Dr. Radhakrishnan said.

Reach Trisha Sakhuja at (718) 357-7400, Ext. 128, tsakhuja@queenstribune.com, or @Tsakhuja13.