Seeding the ground for STEM students

Meeting this challenge calls for city’s sustained commitment

In their June 4 op-ed “Facing the STEM challenge in education,” Mayor Martin Walsh and Dr. Jeffrey Leiden highlight the contributions of Vertex and the city’s 5th Quarter of Learning initiative to science, technology, engineering, and math education in the Boston Public Schools. As a graduate of Brighton High, I point out that numerous philanthropic organizations, granting agencies, corporate entities, and private citizens have been supporting STEM in the schools. The school system does not consistently practice the sustained commitment that donors have the right to expect.

For example, external funding and support for the AP physics, engineering and robotics STEM pathway at Brighton High made it possible for me and many of my fellow students to escape from poverty and hardship and obtain college scholarships and earn or advance toward STEM degrees. Despite a clear record of propelling the most vulnerable students to STEM success at the college level, Boston Public Schools eliminated the program.

I support the mayor’s call for support from the private sector for STEM education, and I hope our wonderful community continues to respond with the type of generosity that has made such a difference in my life and the lives of other Brighton High graduates. I also urge all donors to work with the mayor to establish reasonable standards of accountability and assurances of sustained commitment.

Ruth McLeod


The writer is a member of the class of 2019 at Bryn Mawr College, where she is a STEM Posse full scholarship recipient.

STEM fields are vital, but they can’t flower without nurturing right brain


Of course I agree with Mayor Walsh and Dr. Jeffrey Leiden (“Facing the STEM challenge in education”) that efforts should be made to enhance the education of Boston students in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. Who would disagree?

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But while we are doing that, let’s not turn our young people into mere instruments, tools, or cogs in a machine, even one so valuable as biopharmaceutical research into deadly diseases. Let’s not allow the children to forget who they are, by reminding them where they came from (history class). And they should be able to express their STEM thoughts in coherent language (English). While we push the left-brain STEM courses, let’s not forget to expose the pupils to the right brain, and art and music.

Even the capitalization of the word “STEM” exalts those departments to an unjust domination.

Joseph M. Hennessey


Right kind of graduate study can give current biotech staff boost we seek

Mayor Walsh and Dr. Jeffrey Leiden, chairman, president, and chief executive of Vertex Pharmaceuticals, make a compelling case for strengthening the biotech workforce pipeline in Massachusetts. Establishing strong public-private partnerships with the Boston Public Schools is a necessary strategy for developing and retaining young talent for the state’s growing biopharmaceutical sector. It is equally important, however, that we not overlook alternative pipelines for workforce development. Professional master’s degrees can help research assistants, engineers, lab technicians, and other qualified biotech professionals transition into the more advanced bioinformatics positions that Massachusetts relies on to remain competitive.

As we continue prioritizing investments in economic growth and innovation, we must remember that there is more than one educational pathway toward closing the biopharma skills gap. The right type of graduate education can equip professionals who already have a foothold in the industry with the technology and expertise to advance their careers, producing a new wave of talented employees who can take on this complex and incredibly important work.

Karen Muncaster

Vice president

Rabb School of Continuing Studies

Brandeis University