The Big Bang Theory and more: “geek-chic” TV provides a boost to STEM subjects

The low uptake of STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) has been hot on the sectors’ agenda and a number of government and industry backed campaigns have been launched to help nurture the talent pipeline.

Now it seems that a valuable boost to these efforts has come from a more unlikely source – the world of TV sitcoms.

Popular TV shows such as the Gadget Show and The Big Bang theory have made the complexities of STEM subjects more digestible to a wider audience.

The findings from a survey conducted by Mondelez International, a leading multi-national firm, also revealed that more than a third (37%) of the 1,500 14-18 year olds questioned has also considered taking STEM subjects after watching shows fronted by physicist Brian Cox.

This idea is also supported by findings from Manchester University, who outlined that a rise in applications for physics could be linked to the fact that Prof Cox teaches Quantum Physics and Relativity to first year students.

Despite these positive figures, the Mondelez survey found that misconceptions about STEM are preventing some students from considering a career in the STEM sectors.

Revealing some of the reasons they avoid STEM subjects; more than half (53%) of young people surveyed argued that they felt STEM was “harder” than humanities, while more than two-thirds felt that only those with a high IQs could succeed in STEM careers.

Further figures showed that boys (64%) were more likely than girls (49%) to be deterred from choosing STEM subjects and STEM jobs.

The study comes as George Osborne, the Chancellor, and Elizabeth Truss, the Education Minister, reveal proposals for private businesses to partly fund teachers in state school.

Part of this plan includes sponsors such as Goldman Sachs, RBS, Barclays and BAE systems providing £75,000 over a three year period to graduates with PhDs in maths or physics. This will allow them to train and work in schools.

Commenting, Mrs Truss said:

"Too many teenagers think maths and physics are niche subjects; that couldn't be further from the truth.

"They open the door to careers in everything from business or journalism to technology or engineering.

"We want to inspire young people to study maths and physics and I can’t think of anyone better to do that than teachers.”

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