Young girls experience careers in the sciences

MARQUETTE – More than 140 fifth- and sixth-grade girls took part in a daylong conference at Northern Michigan University Friday that focused on careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

The Young Women in STEM conference featured 13 different careers: architect, biomechanical engineer, chemist, clinical lab scientist, environmental scientist, mathematician, mechanical engineer, meteorologist, mining engineer, plant biologist, prosthetist, pulp and paper engineer and FBI agent.

Each presenter was a woman working in one of those 13 fields.

The day began with a keynote address from Gwinn MIddle School science teacher Kristy Gollakner, who spoke about a recent trip she took to Africa.

“I think that was incredibly inspirational to the girls, I know it was inspirational to me,” said Susan Nazarko, coordinator of student programs and conferences for Northern Michigan University’s Seaborg Center.

Each student participated in three separate sessions during the day in which one of the career’s was highlighted.

Mixed into the presentations were information about the job, what it took to be qualified for the position as well as each presenter’s own story on how she ended up in her career.

“Part of what they also do, in addition to the hands-on activities, is kind of throw in their journey to how they became what they are and to consider science, technology, engineering and mathematics as potential career choices, do exploring while you’re in middle school and high school and in college,” Nazarko said.

The event was hosted by NMU’s Seaborg Center, with funding provided by the American Association of University Women.

Members of the association also volunteered their time during the conference, shepherding students to and from sessions and serving the day’s lunch.

The program was offered free of charge to the schools and students who participated.

Jackie Stark can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 242. Her email address is