Written by the mom of a 12-year old girl, who is also a homemaker and the Chief Financial Officer of the Investment Banking division of a bank in New York City, who also enjoys STEM.

STEM is Here

I rarely think of “STEM” as a curriculum or framework of education. Rather, it is an application or way of life – elements of which, I practice every day. I am first and foremost a mother of a 12 year-old girl who juggles academic, extracurricular and social life. I am a homemaker, and finally, I am the chief financial officer of the investment banking division of a bank. So I have a few things I need to juggle from the time I open my eyes to the time I lay down at night. That simple act of “juggling” requires so many aspects of STEM. But then, every aspect of my life is a practice of STEM in some way.
As a mom, keeping up with 6th grade homework is a continual refresher in the basics of STEM but I find myself often stretching to discover new areas that I haven’t yet explored. That’s an obvious use of STEM but still worth noting. My daughter and I studied the life cycle of a water droplet; the project involved creating a storyboard, which naturally added an artistic twist to an otherwise mundane research project.
It was the perfect combination of the arts and sciences and the use of the left and right sides of the brain. Without delving into the details of the project itself, the takeaway from this exercise was simply that combining a science project with something artistic enhanced the communication of the scientific concepts. The first point is that the study of STEM does not stand on its own. STEM wonderfully integrates with everyday life and other aspects of the educational curriculum, such as the arts.

STEM is in Pizza

In addition to the obvious use of STEM in doing homework, my family and I often cook together. Cooking really is a very scientific practice. Measurements, heat, conduction and convection are just a few of the STEM concepts that are commonplace in the kitchen. Recently, we decided to grill some pizzas on an outdoor grill. There was so much STEM at work in making a simple pizza. While we used ready-made dough, we found that using cold dough was not a good idea. Rolling it became a difficult task and the texture turned harder and difficult to manipulate. Leaving it out for a little while, as it came up to room temperature, made it much easier to handle. Next, as we rolled it out, we watched it contract. The elastic gluten threads kept shrinking it back after each roll – another lesson in science.
Finally, after spreading some sauce on the dough, the choice of toppings was important.  Choosing vegetables with high water content such as onions, peppers and mushrooms could render a potentially soggy pizza. However, using relatively “dryer” toppings such as olives, pepperoni and fresh herbs could keep the pizza crispier – the way our family liked it. Additionally, greasing the pizza pan so the dough wouldn’t stick to it was a very important final step.
When my daughter asked why the dough sticks, the final lesson learned was that the dough has water in it and the water and flour when mixed together essentially forms a very glue-like substance which causes the dough to stick. Oil releases the stickiness and allows the crust to slide off easily. As evident, a simple lunch provided a wonderfully engaging afternoon of science learning and  we ended with a delicious pizza! The discussions during our pizza making session provided a science lesson without really considering it a “lesson”.

STEM Pizza

STEM in Everyday Life

Keeping a household running and organized is also a continual practice in STEM. Managing the household budget, fixing things around the house and ensuring the bills are paid involve some form of science, math and engineering. My work life is also a daily practice in STEM. I am deeply rooted in numbers as I manage the finances of a large organization. I also manage a large team and need to be in front of people frequently. In other words, I can’t just sit at my desk and analyze numbers all day. My work combines the usage of numbers, translating them into a story, then using the story to negotiate and communicate.
For example, if a company is looking at purchasing another company, the first step involves looking at the financial information. Then, analyzing the financial health of the target company. We look to see if the company is in good health – much like one would look to see if a house one were purchasing is in good condition. Then, we determine a “fair value” for that company by doing a lot of different types of analysis. This includes looking at similar companies or doing detailed financial models, which help determine such information. Finally, once armed with all of this information, the buyers and sellers sit across from one another and negotiate a fair price. So negotiation skills are very important in my job as well – not just knowing the numbers.
Communication skills and people skills are also critical. Numbers can be tricky business and if they are not communicated in an articulate way, they can be grossly misunderstood and I would miss the mark of my presentations completely. As is evident, STEM comes into play in so many ways but is always used in conjunction  with other disciplines to be most effective.

STEM in Everywhere

In conclusion, while I need to ensure that the numbers are correct, those numbers are used to make some very important decisions about the future. The types of decisions made based on the numbers include everything from whether we want to make certain investments, to what people get paid, to whether we want to buy or sell companies. Other peoples’ livelihoods depend on it, so we take it very seriously. I cannot imagine a day in my work life without using the basic tenets of STEM.
My education focused on Finance and Accounting, which STEM occurs. However, I also studied a foreign language and enjoyed my liberal arts classes immensely. I think the marriage of STEM studies with the arts makes for a wonderfully fulfilling curriculum. Also, they provides exponential learning as the STEM applications multiply. As is evident from the examples above, my life is a practice in STEM. My family and I would be at a total loss without it.

About the Writer

This piece was written by the mom of a 12-year old girl, homemaker and the Chief Financial Officer of the Investment Banking division of a bank in New York City.  She earned her Bachelors of Science in Economics from Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania and her Masters of Business Administration from University of Chicago.  She hopes her daughter will draw on her education and life experiences to accomplish her goals of giving back and helping others.
Photo Credits:
A woman kneading pizza dough – www.thriftyfun.com

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About the Founder & CEO

Dr. Koshi Dhingra has dedicated her career to STEM education and is passionate about having every child live up to their potential. Seeing a lack of girls and other underrepresented youth in STEM programs, she founded talkSTEM in 2015 to address the imbalance. She has a doctorate in science education from Teachers College, Columbia University, has years of experience teaching in graduate and undergraduate programs, and has held leadership roles in universities. She advises and collaborates with a broad range of educational institutions globally. Dr. Dhingra began her career teaching science in middle and high school in New York. She lives in Dallas, Texas with her husband, three children, and two dogs.


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