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UM group provides mentors, guides girls into the world of STEM

Nov 13, 2017

The Next Idea

FEMMES, Females Excelling More in Math, Engineering and Science, is a group of University of Michigan graduate students and faculty who are working to get girls in the 4th through 6th grades excited about science and to get them thinking about going into STEM fields. They do this through hands-on activities and presentations that show science in action.

We reported on FEMMES back in 2014 and decided to check back in three years later. Hillary Miller, a PhD candidate in cell and molecular biology at the University of Michigan and a part of FEMMES, joined The Next Idea to provide an update.

On how FEMMES has changed since 2014

The biggest change FEMMES has seen in the past three years is easily its size. “We have grown immensely,” said Miller. The staff of 29 workers now reaches “an even broader audience of underserved girls in southeastern Michigan.” The group has spread around the country as well. FEMMES was started at Duke University, and the group now has chapters at the University of Illinois and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, said Miller.

On the group’s necessity

“Studies have found that nine through eleven-year-olds are the age that girls begin to lose enthusiasm in science and start falling behind academically to their male counterparts,” said Miller. Whatever the cause, seeing female STEM workers can be inspiring for young girls. Miller, who had begun to study English until a family friend encouraged her to pursue science, understands the need for guidance. “Until you have that person you can emulate and think about being yourself, it doesn’t seem possible,” she said.

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