Teachers and undergrads experience nanotechnology

7/28/2015 Laura Schmitt

This summer 11 undergraduate students and 12 middle school, high school and community college teachers learned first-hand how nanotechnology is helping researchers address some of society’s grand technological challenges. Funded by the National Science Foundation, the nano@illinois Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) and Research Experience for Teachers (RET) programs are managed by the Center for Nanoscale Technology in MNTL.

The REU program allowed a diverse group of undergraduates from the University of Illinois, Carnegie Mellon, Cornell, Florida State, Illinois Institute of Technology, MIT, Arkansas, California-Berkeley, and Dickinson College to conduct cutting-edge research in faculty labs over 10 weeks. According to Program Coordinator Carrie Kouadio, the REU program also solidifies student interest in graduate research and education; trains them in critical elements of leadership, ethics, teamwork, mentoring, and outreach; and improves their ability to communicate their research results to professional and lay audiences.

The following faculty served as mentors to the undergraduate students: Rohit Bhargava (Bioengineering), Princess Imoukhuede (Bioengineering), Paul Braun (Chemistry), Mary Kraft (Chemistry), Yi Lu (Chemistry), Catherine J. Murphy (Chemistry), Sungwoo Nam (Mechanical Science and Engineering), and Sameh Tawfick (Mechanical Science and Engineering). Murphy and ECE Professor Umberto Ravaioli were co-PIs for the grant.

The RET program provided a diverse group of STEM educators from across the nation with cutting-edge nanotechnology research opportunities. Many of the teachers came from high-need areas, including inner city, rural, low-income, and those with significant underrepresented minority students.

In addition to their research, the educators participated in professional development activities, including lab training, teacher-focused research seminars, library resources, ethics seminars, hands-on modules, STEM education issues, lab tours, career choices, nanotechnology outreach, and resources for implementing a nano lab and curriculum.

During the school year, the teachers will develop nanotechnology education modules based on their summer research; these modules will be disseminated widely so other teachers can introduce their students to nanotechnology basics.

RET faculty mentors included Princess Imoukhuede (Bioengineering), Paul Braun (Chemistry), Can Bayram (Electrical and Computer Engineering), Lynford Goddard (ECE), Songbin Gong (ECE), Xiuling Li (ECE), Umberto Ravaioli (ECE), Dan Wasserman (ECE), Steve Sligar (Molecular and Cellular Biology), Alekei Aksimentiev (Physics), and Nadya Mason (Physics). Li and Goddard served as co-PIs for the grant Both the RET and REU programs are managed by CNST Program Coordinator Carrie Kouadio and Executive Director Irfan Ahmad.