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Need More Students of Color in Science? Appeal to Social Justice.

It's hard to be one of only a few students of your race in a science field, but new research suggests the possibility of helping your own community can spur students to become trailblazers.

Researchers at California State University, Long Beach, and San Diego State University tracked 249 incoming freshmen science majors in California. They found that among first-generation college students, those who came in with a strong belief that science could be used to help their communities were more likely to see themselves as scientists over time. 

Educators and industry leaders alike have bemoaned the lack of black and Hispanic students in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics careers. The California study was part of a special issue on encouraging more diversity in STEM fields in the journal CBE-Life Sciences Education, published by the American Society for Cell Biology. 

Prior research has found black and Hispanic students can be discouraged from studying subjects like science by environments that seem to reinforce negative stereotypes. Holding a community-oriented goal may work to buffer that threat, the researchers said. 

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