Want to Go to UMass? Get in the Lab

By Sarah Birnbaum   |   Wednesday, June 20, 2012
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June 20, 2012

test tubes

BOSTON — Massachusetts high school students will soon be required to take at least 3 years of lab-based science classes to get into the state's public universities. The Massachusetts Department of Higher Education announced the new entry requirements on June 19.
Currently, students looking to get into a four-year university in Massachusetts have to take 3 years of high school science but only 2 of them need to be lab-based. And those classes have to be in biology, physics or chemistry.
Starting in 2017, high school seniors will need to have 3 years of lab-based science courses instead of 2. And classes in computers, engineering and technology will count.
Massachusetts Education Secretary Paul Reville said the new entry requirements would better prepare Massachusetts college grads to compete in key industries.
“Engineering and technology should be a prominent part of our curriculum and part of our admissions requirements," he said. "Because that’s where the future is in terms of jobs that are coming to Massachusetts."
He added that the emphasis on experimentation and problem-solving would persuade more kids with scientific inclinations to stay in the sciences:
"We have what I call an 'inspiration gap' in Massachusetts. We do better than any other state on average in terms of student test scores in math and science. And yet when our students expressed what they’re interested in majoring in college, we are well below the national average in terms of interest expressed in STEM majors. Kids aren’t excited."
Reville said he worries traditional science education shuts out too many kids at a time when the state needs more scientists and lab technicians.

Sci-Fi Solutions for the T

By Phillip Martin   |   Tuesday, April 24, 2012
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April 24, 2012

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — While the T faces a budget deficit, a massive debt, political maneuvering and an aging system, some outside experts are working, largely unknown, on a new way of looking at mass transportation. They hope to increase ridership by creating new tools that rely on your smartphone and maybe even folding cars to get you to the nearest station. Also: Read about some of your innovative ideas for fixing the T.

MIT Aerospace Center Could Save Hanscom Jobs

By Sarah Birnbaum   |   Sunday, April 22, 2012
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April 22, 2012

BOSTON — Hanscom Air Force base is fighting for its survival. Deep budget cuts announced earlier this year could mean the loss of hundreds of jobs there. And now the Pentagon has announced plans to close some of its bases around the country — and Hanscom could be on the list.
But salvation could be coming from Cambridge. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology has announced plans to build a $450 million research laboratory at Hanscom. It would design small electronic parts for use in emerging aerospace, communication and missile technologies.
Marty Jones of the agency Mass Development is a part of a state task force that’s trying to position the Massachusetts bases in a positive light to prevent closures. She said that MIT's planned project will protect Hanscom from additional cuts.
"I think everyone understands technology is important today," she said. "And having a facility that is really cutting-edge and innovative should be something that's important when they're looking at which installations to close."
MIT already does a lot of business at Hanscom. According to the Boston Globe, about 3,200 MIT employees and 500 private contractors work at Hanscom — and the university is among the base’s biggest tenants. The research facility is expected to win approval in Washington.

Skylines Across the World

Monday, April 2, 2012
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April 2, 2012


Shanghai skyline (Photo by Antony Wood for the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat)

Centuries ago, cities were known by their church steeples and towers, but with innovations in architecture, especially in steel frame technology and elevators, city skylines have transformed.  Paul Goldberger, architecture critic for The New Yorker, shares a brief history.

For even more stories about tall buildings around the world, watch the NOVA special on Ground Zero, learn more from the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat or view the complete list of tall buildings at The Skyscraper Museum website.

James Cameron: Diving Deep, Dredging Up Titanic

By NPR Staff   |   Sunday, April 1, 2012
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Lessons from a Fatal Crash

Wednesday, March 28, 2012
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March 28, 2012


Air France Flight 447/Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Aviation safety expert John Cox helped investigate the fatal crash of Air France flight 447 in 2009. More than 200 people were lost in that crash, considered one of the worst accident in French aviation history.  Researchers now believe a stall was caused by iced-over instruments and two copilots with no training in manual aircraft handling at high altitude. They tipped the nose of the plane up, causing it to lose lift and speed as it climbed, instead of down, which would have increased the speed and prevented a stall.

NOVA Interactive: Learn more about the aeronautic principles of Lift and Drag

About the Authors
Sarah Birnbaum
Sarah Birnbaum is WGBH News' State House reporter. Send her a news tip.
Phillip Martin Phillip Martin
Phillip W. D. Martin is the senior investigative reporter for WGBH Radio News and executive producer for Lifted Veils Productions. In the past, he was a supervising senior editor for NPR, an NPR race relations correspondent and one of the senior producers responsible for creating The World radio program in 1995. He was a Nieman Fellow at Harvard in 1998. Learn more at


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