Science & Technology Program Fuels Innovation Economy

Andrea Villanueva STEM Student
Andrea Villanueva is one of the many San Diego students who have benefited from The San Diego Foundation Science & Technology Program.

What do you want to do when you graduate? This is a common question students field day-to-day. However, an even better question may be: what are the job opportunities available for you when you graduate?

According to estimates from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, STEM — science, technology, engineering and math — professions will expand 1.7 times faster than non-STEM occupations between 2010 and 2020.

With the demand for STEM professionals on the rise, the need for STEM graduates to fill these positions also increases.

With more than 3,000 local companies, the technology cluster in San Diego makes up more than 45 percent of innovation economy employees.

The San Diego Foundation Science & Technology Program supports efforts to expand the pipeline of students, particularly from underserved communities, pursuing degrees and careers in STEM-related fields. In March, The San Diego Foundation announced $390,880 in grants to five programs fueling the growth of the industry.

Opening Career Pathways

Among the five grantees was San Diego Workforce Partnership Life Sciences Summer Institute, Receiving its second year of grant support from The Foundation, the program prepares the next generation of San Diego scientists by connecting students and teachers with leading San Diego life sciences companies through internships, hands-on laboratory training, mentorship, work-readiness skills preparation and college credit.

First-generation high school graduate Andrea Villanueva was one of the hundreds who participated in the Life Sciences Summer Institute program. In addition to developing vital STEM skills through the “bootcamp” classes, Andrea received an internship at University of California San Diego working with Reika Castillon, Ph.D. on capturing cellular structures.

“During her internship, she very quickly grasped the concept of cryo-EM, which requires a substantial understanding of physic and mathematics,” shares Dr. Castillon. As a result of her dedication and success in the lab, Andrea’s work has been published on the UC San Diego and Massachusetts General Hospital websites.

And what’s more, Andrea is not alone.

Thanks to the Science & Technology Program, there is a long list of students and scientists who have benefitted from the vision of philanthropists in San Diego.

Gloria Diaz, former California State University San Marcos student, attended the 2016 STEM Summer Scholars program, another program supported by the Science & Technology Program. Before she starts her PhD program, she took some time to share her experience with NBC San Diego.

The Science & Technology Program is placing more careers within reach for a greater number of individuals, and ensuring San Diego’s local innovation economy remains strong for decades to come.

Thanks to philanthropy, hundreds of San Diego students in STEM fields can now confidently answer the time age-old question “what do you want to do when you graduate?”

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