“Let’s Talk S’more About STEM”

Students gather around a fire to roast s'mores. One holds a laptop.
“Let’s Talk S’more About STEM” attendees enjoy s’mores around Keefe’s fire pit. Grace Nyanchoka ‘24 and Ali Khoddam ‘23 headed fire safety.

On Tuesday, April 18, from 7:00 to 9:00 pm on Keefe’s Outdoor Patio, the final installation in a series of five STEM-themed s’more nights this year was held by the Loeb Center in partnership with STEMSibs. “Let’s Talk S’more About STEM” attendees enjoyed refreshments, met other students in STEM disciplines, and exchanged academic and career advice. Seniors stopped by for a quick snack before pushing forward with their theses as April Break came to a close.

Dr. Carolyn Margolin, Program Director for Careers in Science and Technology at the College Career Center, explained how this popular event came about. “One of my goals in doing them is to bring people together,” she said. The original plan was to make it a STEM discussion group, but it morphed into more of a laidback opportunity for Amherst’s STEM students to branch out and meet new people (all majors are of course welcome, though). For each installment in the series, the Loeb Center invites a different STEM-themed group, such as the STEMSibs, or the Amherst STEM Network, to cohost.

Margolin reports seeing good representation from all class years at these events but declined to say for sure without the proper data collection, in true scientific spirit. She elaborates on the benefits of this dynamic: “Seniors can come by and talk about the experiences they’ve had on campus, especially when I have some first or second years around that might be looking.” She has witnessed many such successful interactions over s’mores at the fire pit, including course, professor, research, lab, and career recommendations. “I want this to be a very welcoming, inclusive, just kind place,” she continued. 

For example, a first year listened on as two older students talked about their experiences on the Career Treks offered by the Loeb Center. Neil Kapur ‘25, a computer science major who is also considering anthropology, got to go to San Francisco for a week, which exceeded his expectations. The trip was a chance to socially bond with classmates, learn about the tech world, and get exposure to different career paths. Overall, the trip instilled that “there’s not one linear path in a career.”

Sara Omer ‘23, a biochemistry & biophysics major, went on the Biotech Trek “to talk to more people and see what careers I could pursue later in life.” She particularly enjoyed learning about career flexibility and hearing stories about individuals who got a Ph.D. in one field, but then “did a 180” to pursue something else. She feels this will help her be less “stagnant” when pursuing her own Ph.D. and embrace that “anything could happen.”

Margolin’s own undergraduate memories influenced her planning of the event, which is in its second year. “I was a biology student once upon a time, and I definitely know how much it meant to me to be able to get out of the lab for a little while and meet other people,” she explained. Offering more casual, career-oriented events like this eliminates a hurdle that comes with the formality of career development in other settings. 

“If it’s their first time in college, or they’re just shy, it can be daunting to walk up into someone’s office…especially in College Hall…[Let’s Talk S’more About STEM] is a great, low-bar entry” into finding out about STEM-related happenings on campus and beyond.