July 16, 2004  


Abraham Launches Science Education Program During SLAC Visit

By Shawne Neeper

The U.S. is a scientific superpower, but that glory and its economic advantages will languish if our kids don’t catch up to other industrialized nations’ children in math and science. So warned U.S. Secretary of Energy Spencer Abraham during his July 8 announcement of a new K-12 science education initiative. Abraham toured SLAC for a sampling of today’s industry-driving research, then moved to The Green to describe to a large audience a new effort to inspire tomorrow’s innovators.

During his visit to SLAC, U.S.
Secretary of Energy Spencer Abraham
launched the Scientists Teaching and
Reaching Students (STARS) program.
This exciting new program will involve
all national labs in the education of
students in science and math.
(Photo by Diana Rogers)

“It is our responsibility to not only develop the best science facilities,” Abraham said, “but also to foster the next generation of American scientists, mathematicians and engineers.”

SLAC leaders and local business visionaries treated Abraham to a tour of SLAC facilities that have connected basic research to applications in drug development, medical care and advanced computing. Scientists from Genentech and Exelixis explained how they use SSRL to speed development of new drugs. Representatives from medical accelerator companies, Varian and Siemens, joined SLAC accelerator scientists to illustrate the adaptation of linac technology to cancer treatment. At the computer center, SLAC research director Persis Drell and Objectivity Databases CEO Jay Jarrell discussed how the data requirements of high energy physicists have yielded developments from the Internet to the promise of movies on demand.               

To keep the advances coming, Abraham announced, DOE is launching the Science Education Initiative.

An overflow crowd of at least 600 members of the SLAC community, teachers and third through seventh graders listened as Abraham described a growing gap between successful U.S. innovation and failing education.

“Student achievement in science and math should be off the charts,” Abraham said. “But it isn’t.” Among developed nations, U.S. students shine during elementary school, but fall behind by high school graduation—finishing near the bottom in math and physics. The situation could cost the U.S. more than its leadership in science.

“Work will migrate to the nation with the most skilled workforce,” Abraham stressed. And our national safety depends on advanced technical skills. As the top U.S. funding organization for physical science research, DOE is well-positioned to bridge the gap between top-flight science and the classroom.

The DOE initiative, called Scientists Teaching and Reaching Students, or STARS, will bring elementary and middle-school students and teachers to the national labs for science education—to experience wonders like SPEAR3 and the linac first-hand. Lab employees will reach outward, too, teaching classes and hosting career days at local schools—especially at-risk middle schools—and answering science questions on the already-successful Ask a Scientist website (www.fnal.gov/pub/inquiring/virtual/index.html). It is also in the STARS to spotlight innovation at an annual science and technology exposition, and promote scientific superstars as role models for children.

“Improving the scientific literacy of our nation is a very important goal. We look forward to partnering with DOE and our sister laboratories in the STARS program.” Said Jonathan Dorfan.

“I believe it’s time we start putting our science leaders on the same footing as other celebrities,” Abraham said, not only because their achievements are important, but also “to encourage children to want to learn science and math, in addition to tennis and basketball.”


The Stanford Linear Accelerator Center is managed by Stanford University for the US Department of Energy

Last update Tuesday July 13, 2004 by Emily Ball