STEM Education for an Innovative Workforce

Congressional Briefing brought to you by
ACS Science & the Congress Project
Honorary Co-Host: Senate Science & Technology Caucus
Senator Mark Udall (D-CO)
Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN)

Recipients of undergraduate degrees in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) find a labor market with more availabilities and higher potential earnings. However, Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD) numbers indicate that the U.S. ranks near the bottom of 29 developed countries producing STEM graduates: a flat 15-17% of all bachelor’s degrees despite rising enrollment. Indeed, surveys in 2005 indicate at least 50% of students who started in biological, physical, or mathematics leave these fields before completing their senior year studies. With innovation ever key to global competitiveness, the U.S. must bolster its workforce with STEM graduates to fully fuel its economic engines. In recent months, American Universities and the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) have recommended new methods to improve undergraduate STEM education to produce a more ready workforce. This panel will discuss policies needed to ensure translation of these strategic recommendations into economic success stories instead of shelved ideas.

Video Presentations from March 14, 2012
(including Senator Udall)

Speaker Bios & Presentations

James Gentile, Ph.D. is President of Research Corporation for Science Advancement. He has a Ph.D. genetic toxicology and was formerly a Professor and Dean at Hope College (MI). Dr. Gentile was President of two separate scientific societies and past Editor-in-Chief for international journal Mutation Research. A former member of the Michigan Hazardous Waste Site Review Board and the EPA Science Advisory Board, Dr. Gentile has also been on advisory boards for NIOSH, NSF and NIH. His National Academies efforts include: NRC Committee on Undergraduate Science Education; the NAS Science Education and Life Science Boards; Education Mentor; a leadership role in Biology 2010: Transforming Undergraduate Education for Future Research Biologists; and Co-Chairperson Summer Institutes for Education in Biology. Dr. Gentile also served on the National Science Board Commission on science education. He was a Governor for the National Conferences on Undergraduate Research, a Council member for the Council on Undergraduate Research, and on the Executive Committee for Project Kaleidoscope. Dr. Gentile has received the Alexander Hollaender Research Excellence Award, the Cancer Medallion of the Japanese National Cancer Institute, and the Science Medal of Distinction of Pisa, Italy. An AAAS Fellow, Dr. Gentile’s research concerns metabolism and connections between inflammation and cancer.

Bassam Shakhashiri, Ph.D. is the 2012 President of the American Chemical Society. He is the first holder of the William T. Evjue Distinguished Chair for the Wisconsin Idea at UW-Madison and former assistant director of the National Science Foundation for Science and Engineering Education. Internationally noted for leadership in promoting excellence in science education, Encyclopedia Britannica cites him as the “dean of lecture demonstrators in America.” Dr. Shakhashiri‘s scholarly publications, including the multi-volume series, Chemical Demonstrations: A Handbook for Teachers of Chemistry, are models of learning and instruction that have been translated into several languages. He advocates policies to advance knowledge and to use science and technology to serve society while also promoting the exploration and establishment of links between science, the arts and the humanities, and the elevation of discourse on issues related to science, religion, politics, the economy, and ethics. Dr. Shakhashiri has an A. B. degree in chemistry from Boston University. Following a year as a teaching fellow at Bowdoin College before his graduate studies, and after a year of post-doctoral research and two years as a junior member of the chemistry faculty at the University of Illinois-Urbana, Professor Shakhashiri joined the faculty of the UW-Madison in 1970.

Hunter Rawlings III, Ph.D. became president of the Association of American Universities on June 1, 2011. Prior, Dr. Rawlings served as president of Cornell University 1995- 2003, and as interim president 2005-2006. At the conclusion of his presidency in 2003, Dr. Rawlings was elected president emeritus and became a full-time professor in Cornell's Departments of Classics and History. Previously, he served as president of the University of Iowa 1988-1995. Prior to 1988, Dr. Rawlings spent 18 years at the University of Colorado at Boulder, on faculty and as chairman of the Classics Department, associate vice chancellor for instruction, and then vice president for academic affairs for the University of Colorado system. A national spokesperson for higher education, Dr. Rawlings has served as chair of both the Association of American Universities and the Ivy Council of Presidents. He is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and he serves on the boards of the American School of Classical Studies in Athens, Haverford College, and the National Academy Foundation. Dr. Rawlings graduated from Haverford College, with honors in classics, and received his Ph.D. in classics from Princeton University. His scholarly publications include a book, The Structure of Thucydides' History (Princeton University Press, 1981).

Shirley Ann Jackson, Ph.D. is President of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (Troy, NY and Hartford, CT). Dr. Jackson has held senior leadership positions in government, industry, research, and academe. A theoretical physicist, she was chairman of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (1995-1999). She serves on the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology, and the International Security Advisory Board to the U.S. Department of State. Dr. Jackson’s research and policy focus includes energy security and the national capacity for innovation, including addressing the “Quiet Crisis” of looming gaps in the science, technology, and engineering workforce and reduced support for basic research. Arriving at RPI 1999, she has led a strategic effort known as The Rensselaer Plan. Dr. Jackson is a member of the National Academy of Engineering, the American Philosophical Society, and a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the American Physical Society, and the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). Dr. Jackson is a Regent of the Smithsonian Institution, a member of several prestigious policy organizations, and a member of the Board of global companies including IBM and FedEx. She holds a S.B. in physics and a Ph.D. in theoretical elementary particle physics, both from M.I.T.

Related Information

Research Corporation for Science Advancement (RCSA)

  • Research Corporation for Science Advancement, founded in 1912, is the oldest foundation in the U.S. dedicated solely to science. The Foundation supports innovative science and science education at America's colleges and universities.  Even more importantly, the focus is on innovative early-career scientists and their students. Alumni Grant recipients include over 40 Nobel laureates and notables such as Goddard (rockets), Lawrence (cyclotron), and Reber (radio telescopes).  For more, visit

Association of American Universities (AAU)

President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST)

National Science Board (NSB - part of the National Science Foundation [NSF])