A year ago, Miller-McCune contributor Beryl Lieff Benderly's cover story, "The Real Science Gap," examined the discouraging reality in America of young scientists and the lack of job opportunities that they currently face. She argued that the myth that young, talented scientists don't exist anymore in America and instead suggests that promising career opportunities are dwindling and forcing them to choose a different path.
Last week, the American Association of University Professors awarded Benderly its Iris Molotsky Award for Coverage in Higher Education prize. The award looks for excellence in investigative reporting that uncovers valuable information related to higher education issues.
The article generated a lively debate at Miller-McCune.com and in the letters to the editor column in the magazine, but Benderly went even further to demonstrate her point earlier this year in "Petroleum Engineering Shows U.S. Students' Hidden Prowess." It suggests that American students flocking to studies, and then jobs, in the lucrative petroleum engineering field indicates not only their aptitude for science but their ability to seize on important career opportunities. In short, it's not that the U.S. lacks intelligent young scientists, it's that it lack intelligent choices for them.
The problem addressed in both articles is simply explained in the closing lines of Benderly's winning piece: "There's no shortage of American talent. What's in critically short supply are the ideas and determination to use that talent wisely."
The AAUP judges praised Benderly's piece for drawing attention to an important yet overlooked issue.
"This is one of those stellar pieces of interpretive journalism that does it all: it garners an enormous number of facts; it takes those facts and gives them a new frame that upends some widely held beliefs," Cat Warren , editor of the AAUP magazine Academe, was quoted in a release. "And it does so in a manner that is so graceful that when you reach the end of the piece and realize that it has done the next-to-impossible-change your mind about something-you don't resent it in the least. You're grateful."
Benderly is the author of eight books and has been published in several other scientific journals and magazines.