Inspiration and Empowerment and the Importance of STEM

This post is brought to you by QLC participant and presenter, Rohan Sinha.  Qatar-based teacher, Anthony Orme, weighs in on the importance/impact of Rohan’s unique presentation.

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Two words largely defined my QLC experience: inspiration and empowerment. Though it will be hard to define the mix of emotions and ideas that are ingrained in my mind, I will attempt to do them justice in word.

Inspiration.

Peter Dalglish, UN humanitarian coordinator in Afghanistan, stepped into a UN office one day, and without any background in social work, asked to help – with something, anything. The next day, he was whisked away to Kabul, where he still lives.

Professor Mohammed Dajani took his Palestinian students to Aushwitz to teach them about what the Jewish people suffered during World War Two. When he returned to Palestine, he was forced to quit his job, but as he rightly says, he cracked a wall that others must now break down.

The truth is, I already knew that I could step into an office, simply ask to help, and then see life change. I could break taboos, and watch the effects ripple. But what stories like Mr. Dalglish’s and Professor Dajani’s gave me, was more courage to do them. They felt the very real pressures that I too feel, of living in a place where my parents know I am safe, of pursuing a conventional career, of acting the way those around me are. But they defied such pressures, and became doers. And now I must be one too.

Empowerment.

The QLC gave me an opportunity to talk about an idea that had been bothering me for a long time. In school, my worlds in the research lab and the MUN debate room were entirely unrelated. Likewise, my future paths seemed to diverge between the sciences and political sciences, both of which I love. But I couldn’t believe that I was left with “this or that” choices, not at this early a stage in life, and thus researched how necessary biotechnology was to the progress of the UN Millennium Development Goals.

Now, however, I understand that science and the political sciences need to hold hands for development. To eradicate radical poverty and hunger, research labs have transferred a gene that codes for a natural insecticide into soybeans, and over fifteen million farmers in twenty-nine countries now use such biotech crops. Furthermore, ninety percent of the farmers work in less economically developed countries, demonstrating the necessity of sciences to the development of growing communities.

Similarly, to combat infectious diseases, pharmaceutical companies have created cheap “dipstick” assays that are cheap and can be used to detect salmonella in foods; to filter polluted rivers, scientists are using fungi that digest natural pollutants like cellulose; to clean up radioactive waste sites, scientists are using extremophile bacteria that digest radioactive mercury and toluene. Science is integral to any social development, and this fact needs to be further reflected in the solutions we create in MUN.

Anthony’s Assessment?

I attended QLC 2014 on the second day. I was most impressed with a seminar on how STEM can be used with MUN. The speaker, Rohan Sinha, engaged the audience and got an interesting debate going regarding STEM’s inclusion when students are producing are producing resolutions and how it can provide long-term, credible solutions to issues that are happening. This might include the creation of a robot to help clear landmines, the production of a vaccine to help cure an illness or the use of Genetically Modified crops to help eliminate hunger in the world.