Academy Careers in Science program honored with Presidential Award

California Academy of Sciences’ Careers in Science Intern Program Honored with Presidential Award.


SAN FRANCISCO, CA (February 10, 2022) — On February 8, 2022, President Joe Biden honored the California Academy of Sciences’ Careers in Science Intern Program with the Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics and Engineering Mentoring (PAESMEM). This award honors the dedication and hard work of teachers and mentors, and the important role they play in supporting learners who will be future STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) professionals, including climate scientists, mathematicians, innovators, space explorers, and engineers.

“I am deeply appreciative of the inspiration that America’s teachers and mentors provide every day to support the next generation of STEM professionals,” President Biden said. “The dedication these individuals and organizations have demonstrated to prepare students for careers in STEM fields, during what has been a difficult time for teachers, students, and families, plays a huge role in American innovation and competitiveness. The work that teachers and mentors do ensures that our Nation’s children are able to unlock — for themselves and all of us – a world of possibilities.”

“The Academy’s Careers in Science program was launched not just to educate and inspire the next generation of scientific thinkers and environmental stewards, but to open doors specifically for San Francisco youth who come from communities historically excluded from STEM fields,” says Laura Herszenhorn, Director of Expanded Learning and Youth Engagement at the Academy. “This award represents our nation’s commitment to recognizing and addressing systemic injustice. It honors our efforts to reduce barriers, expand opportunities, and promote diversity to achieve a stronger and more successful society.”

“Science is stronger when more diverse perspectives are represented,” says Dr. Scott Sampson, the Academy’s Executive Director. “Diversity, equity, inclusion, and access are imperative if we hope to protect and regenerate our planet. The Careers in Science program is a powerful pathway for welcoming young people to the sciences, encouraging them to see STEM as a potential career path regardless of their race, ethnicity, gender identity, or disability status, and helping them believe that they can be part of the solution to some of the most pressing issues of our time. By engaging future generations in STEM, we are nurturing fresh perspectives that will help us fight climate change, slow biodiversity loss, and inspire current and future scientists, activists, and educators.”

Created in 1996, Careers in Science (CiS) is a multi-year, year-round paid science internship and youth-development program for San Francisco public high school students from communities underrepresented in the sciences, and provides them with transformative and meaningful STEM-based learning and workforce development experiences. Over two to three years, interns gain a robust set of skills through specialized training in science research and science communication, mentorship with Academy scientists, and project groups focused on helping the interns tackle complex scientific ideas, develop leadership skills, and succeed in higher education in STEM.

“There is no more important work than educating and shaping the minds of our community’s youth. Careers in Science provides a platform for young people from diverse backgrounds to share their vision for the future of their communities and our planet, and supports them on their journeys to becoming powerful and effective advocates for the importance of science in solving humanity’s problems,” says Dr. Elizabeth Babcock, Chief Public Engagement Officer and Roberts-Wilson Dean of Education. “We are incredibly grateful to the National Science Foundation and President Biden for recognizing the impact of our Careers in Science program. We look forward to continuing this program’s visionary mentorship, equipping students with the practical skills that will help them organize and take action in their home communities to effect change, and building their confidence to act as effective advocates for making the change in the world they believe is right.”

Over the program’s 25-year history, CiS has made a significant, measurable impact on participants’ futures in higher education and STEM. 95% of CiS alumni have earned a college degree; of those, 70% earn a degree in STEM, making them four times more likely than the national average to earn a STEM degree. 71% of CiS alumni have gone on to work in STEM.

“CiS has without a doubt changed my life,” says Dominic MacCormack, class of 2002. “Before joining, I was a timid, quiet teenager who had so many questions about myself and the world around me. CiS helped me find my inner voice, develop expertise and confidence, gain an essential understanding of different communities and cultures, and explore some of the coolest natural science research happening on our doorstep. I grew into a more mature, patient, confident, and inquisitive version of myself that I am deeply proud of.”

Careers in Science was an escape from all the problems I was dealing with in school. At the time, it was one of the only places in my life where I felt confident in myself and knew that other people there believed in and were rooting for me,” says Virgyl Basas, class of 2020. “I really felt like myself whenever I came to work, and my time in the Careers in Science program definitely shaped me into the person I am now.”

The Careers in Science program and 14 other PAESMEM recipients honored this year will be celebrated at a free, live streamed virtual announcement on Friday, February 11 at 11am PST/2pm ET. This event is open to the public and can be viewed live via YouTube. Each recipient will receive a citation signed by President Biden and a $10,000 award from the National Science Foundation (NSF). Awardees will also travel to Washington, D.C., for an awards ceremony at a future date.

About Careers in Science

Created in 1996, the Careers in Science (CiS) Intern Program provides San Francisco youth from communities historically underrepresented in STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) fields with opportunities to immerse themselves in the sciences. Interns develop life and job skills, receive college and career mentorship, and learn science and sustainability concepts in an authentic, paid work environment. CiS provides hands-on science and youth development experiences at the Academy and outdoors while also exposing interns to professional role models and mentors who are leaders in their disciplines.

CiS strives to increase the diversity of the scientific community and change stereotypes surrounding science. As such, the program’s primary target is youth who have an interest and spark in science, who are motivated and able to fulfill the expected time commitment, and for whom the program would provide the guidance and support that would make a critical difference in pursuing a higher education degree and career in a STEM field. Program alumni have earned degrees in numerous STEM fields, including: biology, environmental science, engineering, geology, and public health.

About the California Academy of Sciences

The California Academy of Sciences is a renowned scientific and educational institution with a mission to regenerate the natural world through science, learning, and collaboration. Based in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park, it is home to a world-class aquarium, planetarium, and natural history museum, as well as innovative programs in scientific research and environmental education—all under one living roof. Museum hours are 9:30 am – 5:00 pm Monday – Saturday, and 11:00 am – 5:00 pm on Sunday. Admission includes all exhibits, programs, and shows. For daily ticket prices, please visit or call (415) 379-8000 for more information.

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