So you want to be a STEM major. But I suppose you’re wondering – will a Christian liberal arts education at Wheaton best prepare me, a STEM major, to contribute to the larger scientific community? I found myself asking the same question: do I want to be a STEM Major at a Christian College?
As a math and physics double major preparing to enter the world of data analytics, I can answer wholeheartedly YES! based on my experiences at Wheaton. A liberal arts education at Wheaton College provides the most beneficial training a STEM major could ask for.
Here are a few reasons why. If you’re ever on campus, come and find me, and I’ll give you dozens more.
1. A Liberal Arts Education Builds Communication Skills for STEM Students.
Have you ever met a scientist so brilliant that they struggle to articulate what they do to a “normal” person? Think about this: what if Einstein’s theories never reached the masses? What if Newton’s laws never were disseminated? What if no one had taken the time to translate the work of Madame Curie into understandable form? Without excellent communication, the work of scientists is lost. If no one understands what you are doing, no one cares. And if you are doing important things, a lack of outside enthusiasm is a problem.
I think that a liberal arts education combats the pervasive problem of the speechless scientist. A liberal arts education literally forces you to learn to communicate.
In my English writing class—and numerous other humanities classes—the math formulae and cut-and-dry problem sets I felt so comfortable with were stripped away. I was asked to write essays, to encounter opposing viewpoints, and to engage in discussions. Discovering and defending truth no longer meant solving an equation. It required argument, thought, and careful articulation. In this class, I learned to speak, not just to talk, and through this to express even abstract scientific concepts those I encountered.
When we send forth scientists equipped to articulate the realities and opportunities regarding scientific work, we set the stage for innovation and collaboration at a whole new level.
2. A Liberal Arts Education Encourages STEM Students To Think Collaboratively.
The broad spectrum of classes encountered throughout a liberal arts education encourages STEM majors to understand what other disciplines bring to the table and how STEM can contribute to and learn from those fields of study.
Such was my experience. I have always loved data visualization and the opportunity to take numbers and make them meaningful to people. However, I had no idea how the statistical and data analysis skills I was learning could be applied outside mathematical research. My blissful bubble of statistical isolation was popped—in a good way – in my Introduction to Sociology class. The professor in this class lectured about social network, chaos theory, and how associated math techniques are lending sociologists great insight into how the media are changing our society.
Realizing the applicability of math beyond the math classroom has spurred my investigation into and appreciation of other disciplines. Now I have a better understanding of how the mathematics I love has broad-reaching applications. A liberal arts education can spur similar creative collaboration among other STEM and non-STEM disciplines.
While the first two reasons articulate why I think a liberal arts education provides the best possible preparation for STEM majors in general, below are two reasons why I think that aspiring Christian scientists ought to start their academic and professional journey at Wheaton College in particular.
1. Wheaton’s Academic Rigor Effectively Prepares Students for STEM Careers.
As a physics and math double major, my classes are hard. Finals for my Modern Algebra class took up to 12 hours. Countless days have been spent in the physics department, working on homework sets and projects. Weekends have been whiled away in the computer science lab, building adventure games and simulations for classes.
My experiences of academic rigor at Wheaton are not unique. My roommates, friends, and peers are pursuing majors in other STEM fields and similarly find their classes both invigorating and deeply challenging.
Wheaton’s challenges pay off. Personally, in my internships and research, I have found that my technical knowledge and ability to tackle difficult problems meets or exceeds that of my peers from other high-caliber institutions. Wheaton’s science curriculum has prepared me well to contribute to the scientific community outside this campus.
2. Wheaton Provides Valuable Undergraduate Research Opportunities.
I would be remiss not to mention the research opportunities that Wheaton provides—a crucial component of a STEM undergraduate experience. The Meyer Science Center is not only architecturally beautiful but also opportunity-oriented. Its spaces enable professors to take on students as research assistants.
Personally, I have had the privilege of researching with Dr. Heather Whitney of the physics department over the last two years. Currently, I am working on completing my senior honors thesis on the subject of magnetization transfer in NMR (Nuclear Magnetic Resonance) and had the opportunity to present my work at an international medical physics conference in Toronto last June. Research teaches skills and knowledge that cannot be gained in the classroom and provides an excellent foundation for students hoping to attend graduate school. The robust research culture at Wheaton is an incredible asset to STEM majors here.
In addition to all these opportunities, a STEM undergraduate experience at Wheaton provides one more incredible benefit: a Christian context. God created this world for His glory and our good, and by studying it we STEM majors have the incredible opportunity to learn more about our Creator. When STEM disciplines are placed in the proper context of worship, studying them becomes more meaningful, more invigorating, and deeply spiritual.
So my encouragement to you budding scientists? Go forth. Seek knowledge. Look for a college that will teach you not just what you should know, but how you ought to communicate it and why you ought to know it. A Christian liberal arts education at Wheaton College will teach you the what, the how and the why. It will also train you to articulate the what, how and why clearly to others.
You want to be a STEM major? Do it. I highly encourage you to pursue a STEM Major at a Wheaton College.
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