Hi Dr. O’Reilly! Can you tell us a little about what you’re working on at AZ STEM NETWORK and Science Foundation Arizona?
As I recently took over this role I have spent the last month getting to know the organization and partner groups. The AZ STEM NETWORK is a collaboration between business, educators, government and philanthropy in Arizona with a shared common agenda – to develop a strong STEM literate population and increase the number of high tech career opportunities in the state. My goal is to continue this effort and grow our industry/business partnerships and alliances with a focus on;
- Integrating STEM into schools and districts and strengthening teacher effectiveness in STEM through access to proven resources and strategies
- Scaling of successful STEM education programs to achieve greater impact
- Creating meaningful education & business collaborative opportunities in education to improve student preparedness for joining the 21st century workforce
- Providing expert assistance through access to best-in-class tools, program certification and validated metrics to measure progress
- Engaging the community more effectively to increase their participation in all aspects of STEM learning
You’ll be leading collaborations with STEMx in Arizona, what’s at the top of your list to work on with the network?
Working with STEMx allows us to collaborate with partners both within Arizona and states across the nation on multiple aspects of STEM education. AZ STEM NETWORK is a strong proponent of the collective impact model and we feel that these collaborations increase our ability and drive for achieving the goals of improved student achievement and a strong STEM literate community.
What’s your background?
I have spent the majority of my career prior to joining Science Foundation Arizona (SFAz) three years ago working in industry on new product development and product commercialization with particular emphasis on renewable energy, electronics and materials. I started in Ireland and was fortunate to get an opportunity to transfer to work in the States, first to Chicago and now Phoenix, and to conduct business in Europe, US and Asia. From an education perspective, when I left high school like many young people I did not know quite what to do so I attended my local technical college (similar to Community College in US) and received a Diploma in Polymer Science. This enabled me to get a job as a laboratory technician and after a few years I went back to University, studied for a degree in Chemistry and then a PhD, materials science and a masters in Technology Management.
It is this experience I would like to bring to the Network and use it to build stronger industry/business alliances with the education community. I strongly believe that the transition from school to work should be seamless and young people should be well versed in their options and pathways from an early stage. This is only possible if the education, business and industrial communities are connected and working in tandem.
You really lived in some interesting places. What’s one interesting place or experience you’ve had abroad?
When I got the opportunity to go back to University to study for my degree I was able to do this in England and studied at the University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology (UMIST) and later for my PhD, the Netherland. Both are very multicultural and were great first experiences in broadening my worldview.
What do you find engaging about STEM?
STEM helps explain critical aspects of the world around us and tremendous technology advancement and this is tremendously interesting and important. It has also helped refine my appreciation of other subjects such as economics, art etc. Having taken a STEM based career pathway presented me with exciting work opportunities from helping set up manufacturing facilities in the Philippines to being part of a team designing and building a 1.5MW solar facility here in Arizona. And now working with the Arizona STEM Network I have the opportunity to assist in opening up these options to more people.