STEM with a Story
Cal-ADAR is a program designed to give underrepresented students a chance to experience research as undergraduates while studying demography of aging, which is officially a STEM subject. The program offers participants financial support for up to 3 semesters, a paid summer internship, and a mentored research experience. Trainees also attend a seminar on professionalization skills, and at least one national conference. They have access to a GSI who provides research support during the semester. Ultimately the goal is to encourage trainees to attend graduate school in a related topic of research and perhaps even become professors themselves.
Unlike many social science programs, Cal-ADAR gives trainees marketable skills that are immediately useful upon graduation, such as data analysis, statistical software, presentation experience, and more. Unlike many other STEM fields, Cal-ADAR offers a set of immediately relevant social problems and issues to study, so students find it personally satisfying. We call it "STEM with a story.“
Cal-ADAR is funded by the National Institutes of Aging (R25AG047848) and therefore students focus on aging research. Topics for research are varied, and include questions such as: Will Mexican immigrants return to Mexico to retire? How will immigration policy affect intergenerational relationships? Should immigration be accelerated to keep the population young? What are the long-term effects of mass incarceration on families in later life? What is the effect of living with grandparents or other kin on adult outcomes? To what extent is lower accumulation of retirement assets through savings and intergenerational transfers among all the underrepresented groups a function of education and labor force participation, culture or family structure? What is the relationship between longer life expectancy for disabled persons and active life or dependent life expectancies?
Few people think they want to be a demographer when they "grow up" but perhaps they should. People have heard of 'demographics': Demography is both fundamental and applied. Demographic - or population research - is intellectually satisfying, helps solve social problems, has a number of different career tracks, and can be deeply meaningful. It does involve statistics, true, but the statistics are tools for exploration, akin to a detective needing a magnifying glass in order to see the details. Most people really like using statistics in demography, even if they couldn't quite see the point in their statistics courses.