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ODU's College of Sciences is hosting Norfolk high school students Saturday for Science Connection Day

By Harry Minium

In an effort to inspire the next generation of inventors and innovators to pursue careers in science, technology, mathematics and health fields, faculty in Old Dominion University's College of Sciences are hosting the first Science Connection Day on Saturday, October 19.

The event will bring more than 50 high-performing Norfolk public school students to ODU, where they will spend the day interacting with faculty, engaging in hands-on learning, hearing about cutting-edge research and discovery, touring labs and classrooms and interacting with college students.

The event begins at 8:30 a.m. at the Mills Godwin Life Sciences Building and will last about six hours.

Raul Briceño, assistant professor of Physics/joint research staff scientist at Jefferson Lab and one of the organizers of Science Connection Day, said the event is part of ODU's commitment to engage prospective students and ultimately broaden participation in STEM-H fields, especially from underserved and historically underrepresented communities, including women.

According to the Committee on STEM Education of the National Science & Technology Council, women and girls are still underrepresented in STEM fields. Less than 30% of women make up the STEM workforce and ODU faculty want to change these statistics. Briceño hopes the event will provide meaningful interactions for youth to explore scientific inquiry.

The Science Connection Day is a great opportunity to showcase the strength of ODU's academics, research and its award-winning faculty, said Terri Mathews, associate dean and director of the Math & Sciences Resource Center. At the event, prospective students will also learn about the summer undergraduate research experiences and internships at some of the nation's lead science and technology organizations, such as Jefferson Lab and NASA, ODU STEM-H students can pursue.

"Students are changing," she said. "When they come to these events, they want more than just to spend an hour getting an overview of what we do. They want to know more about the nitty-gritty of being a biology, chemistry or a physics major."

ODU is in the midst of expanding of its science facilities that will add to the cluster of eight science and engineering buildings located on the southwest side of campus.

The $75.6 million new Chemistry Building, which will offer more than 110,000 square feet of classrooms, labs, faculty offices, study areas and tutoring centers across four floors, will open in November next to ODU's science cluster.

ODU will also open the $62 million Hugo Owens House residence hall, which will contain 470 beds, this fall on 49th Street a short walk away from the Chemistry Building. Owens Hall is expected to largely house STEM-H students.

"All of this just goes to show the University is investing in supporting the next generation of scientists, and that our faculty really wants to inspire outstanding students," Mathews said.

The five faculty members who proposed and organized Science Connection Day—Nora Noffke, Deborah Waller, Alan Meca, Terri Grant, and Raul Briceño—said next year, the university hopes to expand Science Connection Day to students from other cities in Hampton Roads.

"By opening the doors to ODU and showing all the things students can do here, that information gets passed on and attracts other people. When they have a positive experience, they become our ambassadors," Briceño said.

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