Middle- and High-School Students Explore Nanoscience at BU

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Students get hands on experience with nanoscience at the recent “Explorations in Nanoscale Science and Engineering” day
Students get hands on experience with nanoscience at the recent “Explorations in Nanoscale Science and Engineering” day

Science and engineering professors joined Boston-area leaders in nanotechnology to explore nanoscale science and technology with nearly 500 7th through 10th graders and their parents in a day-long symposium earlier this month.

The “Explorations in Nanoscale Science and Engineering” program was organized by the Center for Nanoscience and Nanobiotechnology (CNN) and the Learning Resource Network (LERNet). The day offered hands-on activities for students and forward-looking panel discussions on the societal impacts of nanotechnology and career planning for their parents.
 
“The program gave everyone information about the field, the research going on, the future of it and where that is leading us,” said Cynthia Brossman, director of LERNet.

The day opened with a keynote address from Bennett Goldberg, chair of the Physics Department and director of the CNN. He discussed some of the most innovative ideas coming out of nanoscience fields, from carbon nanotube radios to nano-filters for water purification. Parents and students then parted to attend separate workshops throughout the day.

“We wanted to show the excitement of the basic science to the kids and give the parents a sense of the career options in this field, as well as the policy-making decisions that this technology necessitates,” said Mario Cabodi, CNN deputy director.

The student workshops included sessions simulating an atomic force microscope with Assistant Professor Tyrone Porter (AME) and a nanofluidics workshop with Assistant Professors Kamil Ekinci (AME) and Bjoern Reinhard (CAS) that taught the students how to guide the flow of water across glass in specific patterns by creating hydrophilic pathways.

Parents discussed ethics issues in nanotechnology, such as security and privacy, attended a session on nanomanufacturing and a panel discussion of the broad spectrum of career opportunities in nanoscience.

“We wanted to give the parents examples of career histories, of how people got to be nanoscientists. There are so many avenues. It’s the direction a lot of science and engineering is moving,” said Cabodi.

The panel included ENG alumna Lisa Goel (BME ’01) of Nanobiosym, Inc.; Assistant Professor of Chemistry Linda Doerrer; Jeff Lockwood, the executive director of communications at Novartis Institutes for Biomedical Research; and Matthew Crowley of Sand 9, a nanotechnology startup company based in the Photonics Center Business Incubator.

Final presentations by Associate Professors Amit Meller (BME) and Joyce Wong (BME) highlighted some of the latest research in nanobiotechnology and its future applications, including lab-on-a-chip systems, personalized genomic sequencing and therapies to combat arterial plaque formation.

Students and parents attended from New Hampshire, New York, New Jersey, Virginia and throughout Massachusetts. The event was part of the Johns Hopkins Center for Talented Youth Family Technology Series.