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School Closures and STEM Disparities

Schools in the US largely have shuttered for the academic year to help stop the spread of COVID-19, but a trio of medical and PhD students write at Scientific American that keeping schools closed could exacerbate racial and economic disparities in science and related fields unless certain steps are taken.

Lala Tanmoy Das and Briana Christophers, both from the Weill Cornell/Rockefeller/Sloan Kettering Tri-Institutional MD-PhD program, along with Robert Romanzi from Rutgers New Jersey Medical School note that racial and economic disparities already exist in STEM fields, but that the turn to online learning as school buildings closed has added to that as students of color or from low-income families might not have internet access or the devices needed for online learning. Additionally, some students may not have the same support networks as others or even lack a quiet spot in which to work, they say.

"Therefore, it is imperative for government, policy, and community leaders to invest in creative, sustainable, and collaborative solutions," the trio writes. "Community organizations, libraries, and faith-based organizations can provide quiet, safe learning spaces with internet access for students in accordance with the CDC phased guidelines."

Das, Christophers, and Romanzi add they've developed programs to help address the scientific knowledge gap, including the Virtual Tutoring Team, which offers free lessons and tutoring from scientists, medical students, and teachers.