Exploring Interdisciplinary Careers: High School Students Engage with Law and STEM at Northwestern Pritzker Law


By Kelly Zimmerman

Student Experience Events MSL Technology

A cohort of 125 high school students from six STEM-focused Chicago Public Schools recently participated in a unique educational opportunity with the Master of Science in Law (MSL) Program at Northwestern Pritzker School of Law.

The event, planned in tandem with International Women’s Day and organized by MSL students, aimed to broaden high school students’ perspectives surrounding their career choices by exploring the intersection of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) with law and business.

2024 marked the third year of the MSL’s partnership with CPS. The partnership, which originally launched as a digital series in 2022, was the brainchild of MSL students and has continued to evolve and flourish each year. This year’s program was attended by the largest group of high school participants yet.

MSL student volunteers played a pivotal role in working with CPS and Law School staff to shape the day’s program. 

According to Anjali Patel, MSL ‘24, a big part of the planning was coming up with an interactive way for students to experience law school while still being shown a vast array of intersectional career possibilities.

“We wanted students to participate in activities related to specific law and STEM topics, and also to actually hear from people who work in STEM,” she said.

 The end result for CPS students: A day of discussion, career exploration, panels, and workshopping with MSL students, alumni, and staff – in other words, a completely immersive educational experience into the law school environment.

The day kicked off with a keynote address from Leslie Oster, Director of the MSL Program, during which she emphasized the significance of understanding how various disciplines interact and can influence and affect one another.

“If there’s a discovery made in a lab,” she said, “how can we be sure that the discovery is safe and legal? This is where law and regulation interact with scientific research.” Oster underscored the importance of embracing interdisciplinary perspectives, encouraging students to cultivate a holistic approach to problem-solving.

“There’s an important school of thought that says you’re going to be better at something if you know about the other things that surround it,” she said. “You will be more creative. You will bring more perspective to the process of solving problems.”

After Oster’s speech, visiting students broke into workshop groups led by MSL students to explore how their STEM backgrounds could be used in professions and industries beyond the confines of a laboratory or classroom. Each group focused on the legal considerations in bringing certain technologies, business ventures, or scientific discoveries to market, and also explored different elements of the law, such as intellectual property, regulation, or risk.

Some of the specific topics that were explored included:

  • Cybersecurity’s role in wearable technology,
  • The regulatory landscape of medical devices and healthcare data,
  • Patent issues pertaining to mobile devices,
  • And ethical and security concerns surrounding AI and robotics.

In honor of International Women’s Day, the last part of the day featured a panel of MSL alumna who currently work in interdisciplinary environments. During the panel, these women shared their insights on how their legal backgrounds have supported their professional growth across a variety of STEM-based industries – including healthcare, technology, and clinical research. The panel allowed the high schoolers to learn about a variety of careers and see how women with MSL degrees and STEM training are making huge strides in their careers.

The CPS event provided young students with a glimpse into the multifaceted nature of today’s global marketplace, and hopefully, served as a catalyst for them to remain open-minded and resilient in navigating their professional journeys.