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Do you have what it takes to be a STEM student?

6 min read

Oct 19, 2021

It’s a common misconception that STEM students are all analytical and quantitative when it comes to problem-solving. Or that they think in more rigid, practical ways when the chips are down. But, in reality, people in STEM (that is science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) are more than that. Sure, it’s a lot of skillful knowledge, but aren’t all strands that way? 

In life, there’s always more than meets the eye. And, for those interested in getting into STEM, you’re going to have to realize that while being a star student is great, a true student of the STEM field is well-rounded in many other aspects. So, here’s a starter pack of qualities you’ll need to make it out there! And plot twist: It’s not in 1 and 0s. 

A buttload of creativity

Look, there’s a reason they always group arts and sciences for school departments! I mean, look at Leonardo da Vinci, an artist in his own right as a painter. But on the flipside, he was deeeep into other fields like engineering and science. 

And, you know what this tells us? Creativity isn’t tied to one field. And it isn’t always defined by artistic pursuits either. Rather, creativity is the ability to present new ideas beyond your imagination and to transform them into reality. In STEM, you constantly think of out-of-the-box and innovative ways to address complex issues. Behind the hard data, there’s so much analyzing, theorizing, and conceptualizing to figure out how to alleviate and solve different problems in society. Instead of utilizing that creativity in poetry, fine arts, or performance, it’s channeled differently to formulas, experiments, inventions, and so on. 

In fact, the best of the best minds are the most creative people out there! Remember Isaac Newton when his “aha!” moment for gravity came from a falling apple boinking his head? Who thinks of that! I would’ve said, “Oh cool, free apple!” Remember Pythagoras and whatever the hell he was doing with that right-angled triangle? That formula haunts me to this day! REMEMBER THE OSCAR-NOMINATED HIDDEN FIGURES?!?!

To be honest, there’s even so much critical thinking involved in the STEM world! In truth, the whole arts and sciences even blur together when you put philosophy into the mix. These are people taking initiatives to shape our future and change the world, after all! We may find the data a little dull or the papers draining, but if you think about it? All the testing and experimenting can be such an exciting process into finding an answer. And even after all the answers, it’s never finite at all! There are no limits to what you can take on and the different perspectives you can look at when you’re deep into STEM.

A dash of perspective

If you’re thinking of changing the world through STEM, you’re going to have to shift gears constantly because this field requires more adaptability than people may think! With the creativity you hold, it requires an open mind to put it into practice. As you play an active role in assessing problems, you’ll need to dive deep into how to do it and what else you can do to solve them. It’s a lot of looking at things from a different lens to find the solution you’re looking for.

As you form your own ideas, you also learn and work with other people. And it all becomes a collaborative project. And boy, it’s an understatement to say that there’s a lot of studying involved. Part of that studying is the research and RRLs (or review of related literature). The research requires help from your peers, and RRLs require help from those before you. STEM is all about stepping into the unknown with the knowledge of what is known. So, you have to strike a balance between old ideas, new ideas, and other people’s ideas. 

And in the end, you might even be wrong. But that’s part of the process! While there are loads of resources, experiments can still go wrong, wires can go haywire, and numbers can be miscalculated. But that’s okay! Because everything is trial-and-error. Even the greatest minds have been wrong before, and the world once thought the Earth was flat.

After all, aren’t all hypotheses known as an educated guess? That means no idea is ever thrown away. 

An endless curiosity 

Every idea starts with curiosity. Before the out-of-the-box thinking and trial-and-error experimentations, it starts with simple questions like “How does it work?” or “Why does that happen?” A bit on the existential crisis on this one, but it’s true! You start by questioning the world around you and gather information in the process. And from there, the questions become more intuitive. Passions build, and curiosity becomes ever-expanding as you realize the world is a unique place we’ve only ever known a small portion of. Our appetite for learning something new will never really be satisfied. And in that same manner, people that work in a STEM career are lifelong curious learners in a relentless pursuit of answers.

Don’t buy into the stereotypes that only “smart” people can get into the STEM track. Nevermind those myths that it’s all memorization and equations. Getting into STEM isn’t a matter of who knows more, it’s who wants to know more. And with the right guidance, or even between yourself, anyone can thrive with the right amount of motivation and drive to move forward (*cough cough*  Remember “keep moving forward” from Meet the Robinsons?) 

So, for those who love to explore, tinker, and are unafraid to fail… For those that look at the universe with sparkly, doe eyes… For those asking all the questions and waiting to see the answers… What takes true precedence over every other quality in STEM is natural curiosity and wonder. 

Art by Shai Libunao

 

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