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Friday, March 20, 2015

LETTER: New Jersey remains a STEM leader

This is an important designation because New Jersey is a STEM dynamo. Its reputation as the “medicine chest of the world” gives it an equal place among other states, like California with Silicon Valley and North Carolina and its Research Triangle. As the state’s oldest organization of its kind, the Council is uniquely positioned to promote New Jersey’s distinguished legacy both through our members and programming.

One initiative is showcasing the research of the Governor’s STEM Scholars, a unique public-private partnership among the Council, Governor’s Office and the state’s leading institutions that promotes the state’s STEM economy. In its inaugural year, this highly selective program took 50 of the state’s best and brightest high school and college students and gave them a comprehensive introduction to New Jersey’s STEM economy through a series of conferences, field trips, and internships.

The Council is also working with the Million Women Mentors initiative to mobilize our state’s government, corporations, and higher education sectors to mentor young women in STEM fields. Although young women have made a lot of progress over the past decade in filling STEM jobs, far too many of them do not have the support to pursue careers in a traditionally male-dominated industry. By working with Million Women Mentors, the Council is helping ensure that New Jersey does not miss out on all that these bright young women can achieve with a little encouragement.

Another way the Council is celebrating STEM in New Jersey is through the Edison Patent Awards, which just began its application process. Now in its fourth decade, these awards recognize both the year’s best inventors and the lifetime contributions of prominent New Jerseyans. Held annually at the Liberty Science Center, the awards are a unique way that New Jersey shows how much it values the professionals who do so much to make the state a STEM leader. At last year’s awards, we recognized 13 research organizations and celebrated over 50 inventors.

The Council knows that strong STEM states lead the world in developing life-saving medicine, protecting the environment, and driving the innovation that improve all of our lives. Unlike other states, New Jersey has the people, institutions, and infrastructure that drive research and development. What we don’t have is widespread public awareness of the fact that it was New Jerseyans who gave the world the light bulb, the three-way catalytic converter, and the lifesaving drugs Januvia and Gleevec. Our state is now doing more to shine the spotlight on the people and institutions that not only make New Jersey a STEM powerhouse, but a leader in making the world a better place.

Kathleen W. Scotto
Research and Development Council of New Jersey

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