Friday, Feb. 17, 2023
Dedicated students, distinguished colleagues and dear friends,
This past weekend was special! No, I am not talking about the Super Bowl, although the match added to the excitement. To begin with, Saturday was the International Day of Women and Girls in Science, jointly celebrated with National Inventors’ Day. Parenthetically, it feels odd to say this but let’s hope for the day that the mentioning of “Women and Girls in Science” will become as unremarkable as saying “Men and Boys in Science”!
Nonetheless, to me, the two events presented an opportunity not only to look forward to the endless potential of women in STEM, but also to reflect on the ingenuity and inventions of the past and the role of women in creating the new. Antibiotics, electricity, stained glass, medicinal glass, telephones, radio, camera, computers – these are just a few of the life-changing inventions that we take for granted every day. In fact, checking out the webpages of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, now 232 years old, is a pastime of mine where I search and find creative inventions.
There are indeed many cool and crazy inventions culminating in a remarkable 11 million patents. What was the first-ever registered patent and which president signed the patent? Who are the top five patent holders of all time? I have had the honor of working with No. 4 on the list for years at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.
Our own Miners of Invention magazine, published in 2015, included alumni who have invented everything from fuel injectors and traction control systems to cybersecurity systems to high-speed coaters and laminators for the floral industry! In fact, invention and innovation has been a part of our heritage since our founding and our faculty have been prolific inventors all along. Since the university began keeping records in 1971, S&T has submitted nearly 1,300 invention disclosures and has been granted 377 patents worldwide. This legacy began with Professor Elmo Golightly Harris, an early director of the Missouri School of Mines and Metallurgy, who in 1895 published his theory of the air-lift pump, which led to a patent soon thereafter.
The theme for this year’s International Day of Women and Girls in Science, Innovate. Demonstrate. Elevate. Advance. Sustain. (I.D.E.A.S.), is particularly fitting for S&T where, as part of our growing portfolio of summer camps for girls and boys alike, this summer we are offering Girls Go Green and Outdoor Girls Camp for girls entering grades 6 through 12.
In another effort, our Kummer Center for STEM Education also hosts campus visits, field trips and other STEM-focused activities for K-12 students, including STEM Day and the popular annual Expanding Your Horizons event for middle school girls.
Interestingly, the day was also the birthday of the prolific American inventor Thomas Edison, who was born on February 11, 1847. His inventiveness had a broad impact on fields ranging from electrical power generation and sound recording to motion pictures and mass communication.
It is fitting that we celebrate the consummate inventor Thomas Edison, as well as inventors across our nation and especially women and girls in science. Here at S&T, we strive to provide opportunities for our young women and men to become possibility thinkers, discoverers, creators and inventors. They, in turn, will help others on the journey to discovery and to revealing the hidden story.
As I learn about every new cohort and class of our remarkable students, I become more inspired by their sheer desire to learn, their ingenuity to create and their intelligence to provide critical contributions to critical challenges of our world.
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