Students discover STEM niches they are passionate in, consider pursuing as career

Daniel Tian, Student Section Reporter

With Nuclear Science Week being last week, a great opportunity to introduce people to STEM presented itself. STEM—an acronym for science, technology, engineering and mathematics—encompasses these four main subjects, which in turn cover hundreds of smaller, specific niches. For example, despite both being grouped into engineering, civil engineering and mechanical engineering are completely different; civil engineers supervise the construction of structures including bridges and tunnels, while on the other hand, mechanical engineers develop machinery and precise mechanical products.

Nuclear Science Week is a cause for celebration; during this week, educators, students and employers from all over the world gather to learn about nuclear science, a STEM niche that falls under physics and chemistry. 

Manav Musunuru,  junior and vice president of the STEM club, is interested in biology,specifically: oncology and epidemiology. Oncology is the study of cancer, while epidemiology studies the spread, control and distribution of diseases—a study awfully relevant to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Musunuru said, “I think my most likely [field to go into] would probably be oncology because it’s the [field] where I can see the most development being made in the future. [Oncology is] where I can learn most because there’s still unknowns about cancer, and we can still make better treatments. I think it would let me help people; it puts me in a position where I can help people directly.”

At STEM club, Musunuru helps students find STEM fields that they are interested in. One way to do this is to invite guest speakers,, to come in and spark the passion of club members. 

“In STEM club we basically want to help Carmel students know more about careers in the STEM fields and learn more about them through guest speakers or workshops or activities that we do. Most of the time we have guest speakers that will tell us about their job. For example, in the past we’ve had forensic entomologists, computer scientists, people who study cancer, all of those, and they will take us through what they do in their job and how they got there. We’ll learn about that and learn more about the field and see if it is something that interests us and see if it is something we will want to do in the future.”

Lucca Mo, sophomore and Science Bowl member , has a passion in earth science, astronomy and physics. He is interested in a niche that explores and connects all three subjects. 

Mo said, “For earth science, what introduced me to that [field] was Science Bowl, and what inspired me to go into these earth science competitions was a friend of mine who is now a Carmel High School alum. For astronomy, since I have a good earth science background, I realized I should probably learn some physics to do astronomy which is why I was introduced to physics. Over the summer I studied with people in Texas and New Jersey over physics. Through applying physics in earth science, I do astronomy, and that’s how I got into astronomy and physics through earth science.”

Originally, Mo did not study earth science. He finally found his place in STEM after bouncing around a couple subjects: namely, chemistry and mathematics. 

“In middle school, I was in a chemistry and math class, so I thought I wanted to do one of those. In either 8th or 9th grade, I was introduced to earth science. From there, I decided I only wanted to [study] earth science and whatever earth science led me to. Actually, at one point I was going to do biology, but turns out, it was a lot of work, so I just went back to earth science,” he said. 

Annie Kim,senior and an officer in Science Olympiad, was introduced to STEM by participating inScience Olympiad. While she is mainly interested in biology and engineering, Science Olympiad introduced her to specific subjects niches.

Kim says, “I basically only went to class until my sophomore year when a friend forced me to join Science Olympiad. When I did I got to learn a lot of stuff that you wouldn’t learn in school: stuff like birds and fossils, subjects that they don’t really spend a lot of time on in school, so I was able to find niches within that.”

Club sponsor and coach of Science Bowl as well as AP Chemistry teacher Virginia Kundrat found her place in chemistry from her father, who was an organic chemistry teacher. Kundrat believes that within chemistry, there are many very interesting topics.

Kundrat said via email, “A few topics I really enjoy [include] light, molecular geometry, stoichiometry.  Before teaching I worked as a chemist, so in that environment stoichiometry was used a lot.  Water is one of my favorite examples with molecular geometry.  The seemingly insignificant fact that water is a bent rather than linear molecule makes all the difference to life here on earth causing it to be liquid rather than gas, causing ice to form on top of ponds and lakes rather than freezing from the bottom up, allowing it to dissolve needed nutrients,… It’s all rather impressive.”

Apart from chemistry, Kundrat and her family are interested in other areas of STEM too.

She said, “Engineering is probably another STEM area that has always piqued my interest.  One of my daughters majored in architectural engineering, and even the titles of the classes she was taking seemed so interesting.  I also have a sister who is a professor in artificial intelligence, which is another fascinating area.”