STEM center director recognized

Christos Zahopoulos, who leads Northeastern’s effort to boost math- and science-based education in the public schools, has been elected a 2011 Fellow of the Massachusetts Academy of the Sciences.

Fellows of the academy — a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting public understanding and appreciation of the sciences — are elected annually through a highly selective peer-reviewed process, based on professional achievement in scientific research or education.

As part of his fellowship, Zahopoulos may serve as a pro-bono consultant on matters of science to the governor, and to local, state and federal agencies.

“It’s an honor for me and for Northeastern to be part of an academy whose members contribute so much to science and science-based education,” said Zahopoulos, an associate professor in the College of Engineering and Department of Education, and the executive director of Northeastern’s Center for STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) Education.

The center serves as a connecting link between the University’s science, engineering and math programs and the education program, and seeks to play a key role in improving STEM education in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and beyond.

The number of Massachusetts college students studying science and math has been on a steady decline since 1993. Elevating those figures, said Zahopoulos, could boost the economy.

“I don’t think that anyone can argue that one of the most important ways to get out of the economic crisis would be through innovations in science, technology, engineering and math,” said Zahopoulos. “In order to compete in a global economy, it is absolutely necessary that our students are prepared to become the future innovators in these fields.”

Last year, Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick appointed Zahopoulos to the Governor’s STEM Advisory Council. In this role, Zahopoulos works with members of Massachusetts’ seven regional STEM Networks to make recommendations to the governor, cabinet members and legislators on how best to tailor curriculum standards to better serve students.

He favors more specific grade-by-grade state curriculum standards. “The fact is that the curriculum lacks coherence on a state and national level,” he said. “We need to make sure that students who move from school to school aren’t learning the same concepts over and over.”