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Math and Science-Based Graduates Hope to Be "Recession-Proof"

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IOWA CITY, Iowa - It's a good week to be James Howe.

On Friday, Howe and his teammates at Iowa City Regina High School will play for yet another Class 1A state football title.

Yet it was last Saturday, when Howe won a regional tournament in the Siemens Competition in Math, Science and Techonology at the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Ind.

"My project was to figure out how genetic mutations cause cancer," said Howe, 17, who will now advance as one of six finalists in the national competition in Washington D.C. at the end of this month. "I've been interested in science my whole life and always asking questions at a young age."

Howe's drive for science excellence could land him a $100,000 scholarship prize if he earns top honors.

Most math and science specialists may never get to pursue fabulous cash and prizes for their work but they could pursue in-demand careers upon college graduation.

With so much attention focused on college graduates and underemployment during the recent presidential campaign, a Forbes article from November 10 highlights some majors that are lucrative for recent graduates:

- Economics: $56,100 (for the starting salary in the 75th percentile of earnings).

- Physics: $59,800

- Applied Math: $64,700

On a Thursday night, Jeanne Giles oversees a packed facility at the Mathnasium that she runs at the corner of Boyson and C Avenue NE in Cedar Rapids. Most of the students in her math tutoring business are still a few years away from college yet she sees the pendulum swinging to favor these disciplines.

"The world is becoming a much smaller world and we're competing for jobs with people all over the world," said Giles. "It's not just being better in math than the person sitting next to you in school but it's being better in math to get that job with people from other countries."

Giles said tutoring in 2012 is no longer focused on students that may be trying to reach grade level.

"I had a student in here who scored a 30 on his ACT and the math score was his lowest score," said Giles. "He wanted to get his math score to where his science was."

Howe probably won't have much trouble in his future endeavors as he is looking at multiple Ivy League schools along with other top universities. He cited his curiosity as well as his intelligence in landing him on the brink of what could be a major windfall later this month.

"It's amazing. It's just an honor to be there no matter where I place."

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