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Need for Math and Science Majors Is Out of This World

February 17, 2010
By Henry Kenyon

For my article in the February 2010 edition of SIGNAL Magazine, titled "Research in the Final Frontier," I interviewed members of the Defense Department's Human Spaceflight Payloads Office and Space Test Program about the experiments they help put into space. The projects impressed me, as did the sources' firm belief in the importance of what they do to help warfighters. At the end of our interview, I asked the gentlemen to indulge me on a personal question: "What would you recommend to a child like my son, who wants to grow up to become, as he calls it, 'a space scientist?'"

Craig Lamb, the deputy director of the Human Spaceflight Payloads Office, replied that the most important thing to do is to keep challenging oneself in education. This means pursuing subjects like science and mathematics-"not the easiest thing to do," he said. However, he added, to him it was the most rewarding thing to do.

His remark got me thinking. On the surface, it sounds simple enough-study math and science. But the sad fact is that not many U.S. students are choosing those paths. Representatives from various major contracting firms have lamented to me about the trouble they have finding qualified mathematicians and scientists capable of obtaining a U.S. security clearance. A year ago at an AFCEA SOLUTIONS event, Gordon England, the deputy secretary of defense, stated that the declining number of college-level science and engineering students poses one of the greatest long-term threats to our country's security.

Programs such as AFCEA's scholarships for students majoring in technical fields exist to encourage students to pursue these less-traveled paths of study. But I'd also like to know what our readers think and what they have experienced.

Do you agree with England's statement? If you work in government and industry, do you have trouble finding the right talent in the areas of math and science? If you're a student, why are you or are you not majoring in these areas? Do any of you run programs to encourage pursuing these fields of study? Let us know!

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