Since her arrival at Palm Beach State College in 2009, Dr. Becky Mercer has been a staunch advocate of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math).
She not only enthusiastically encourages students to consider STEM careers, she develops STEM programs for children to inspire the next generation of innovators and creators.
For her work, Mercer will receive a STEM Innovation Award from the South Florida Science Center and Aquarium. The award will be presented during a ceremony from 6 to 9 p.m. Sept. 29 at the South Florida Science Center and Aquarium.
The awards recognize individuals, corporations, educators, scientists and nonprofit organizations who have been distinctive partners in advancing STEM education throughout the region.
Mercer, an associate dean of Academic Affairs at the Palm Beach Gardens campus, won the award in the Individual Leader category. Other categories are Corporate Innovator, Business Visionary, Educator/Collaborator, STEAM/Arts Partner and Lifetime Achievement.
She was chosen out of more than 150 nominations in the category by a selection committee comprised of South Florida Science Center staff and business partners.
“We were blown away by the amount of outreach Becky has done in the community,” said Kate Arrizza, CEO of the South Florida Science Center who was part of the committee. “She has taught thousands of kids, especially girls, about STEM throughout the region at camps, conferences and schools. This exposure really set her apart.”
Prior to becoming an associate dean this year, Mercer served as a professor and as director of PBSC’s Biotechnology programs and STEM Education.
A few of Mercer’s community outreach activities have included promoting STEM education at a Tech Trek summer camp for 60 of Florida’s rising eighth-grade girls at the Boca Raton campus and Florida Atlantic University and creating a STEM mother/daughter summer camp on the Palm Beach Gardens campus. Last year, she helped organize and present at the 5th annual Life Sciences South Florida STEM Undergraduate Research Symposium at the Palm Beach Gardens campus.
She is also the principal investigator for the National Science Foundation’s $868,000 InnovATE grant, aimed at increasing graduates in STEM disciplines, particularly underrepresented minorities and women, in response to demand for local, highly-skilled workforce needs in the manufacturing, aerospace, engineering and power industries.
Through the grant, she has helped bring symposiums, conferences, new courses and activities to the College to promote STEM education.
“Dr. Mercer is an excellent example of someone who has had a successful and fulfilling career in STEM,” said Scott Maclachlan, interim provost and dean of student services for the Palm Beach Gardens campus and one of several who nominated her for the award. “She’s a strong, intelligent leader who is passionate about teaching how STEM could be used to change lives, and we are grateful to have her on our team.”
In addition to her work in STEM, Mercer is an active member of several Palm Beach County economic and education committees, nonprofits and school advisory boards, and she has created teacher professional development workshops and high school internships.