The past summer saw about 40 high school teachers from all parts of Arizona come to various science laboratories across campus to participate in the ASU MSTF (Math and Science Teaching Fellows) program.
The eight-week course is funded by NSF, SFAZ (Science Foundation Arizona) as well as ASU. The program includes a five-week intensive summer course and three weeks of school-year follow-on activities (see also http://cresmet.asu.edu/MSTF/index.shtml). Teachers spend the morning in a research lab, and the afternoon in an intensive course held by CRESMET (Center for Research on Education in Science, Mathematics, Engineering and Technology). The program provides assistance in designing modules integrating lesson plans and innovative instructional approaches. In addition to stipend, the teachers receive a laptop and some funds for lab supplies.
Faculty participating from our department include Giovanna Ghirlanda, Petra Fromme, Michael Thorpe, Austen Angell, Jeff Jarger, Arjan van der Vaart and Dmitry Matyushov. Giovanna Ghirlanda hosted two tenth-grade Biology teachers from Casa Grande, Ms. Trudi Wimberley and Ms. Anna Hicks. The Casa Grande High School enrolls a predominantly Hispanic and African American population, with a significant number of students commuting from the Native Indian Reservation; more than 50 percent of the students receive free lunch. Teaching conditions are aggravated by chronic overcrowding (classes of 30-38 students), poor performance, and limited parental involvement. While extremely motivated, Ms. Wimberley and Ms. Hicks (seen in adjacent photo) had not had any previous biochemistry lab experience. Nevertheless, during their internship they successfully learned to purify and characterize CV-N mutants, and to perform advanced experiments such as ELISA assays. During the school year, Ghirlanda will assist the teachers in adapting some protocols for classroom use, and provide training in the use of visualization software (Pymol). Ghirlanda and her graduate students will visit the classrooms periodically to help out and to build a continuing rapport with students.
The Angell/Yarger lab has a number of projects that are of interest to teachers: the fabrication of fuel cells and design of new types of fuel cells; understanding the structure of spider silk and other polymers; and the use of ionic liquids as biopreservation media. The following popular youtube video of a car powered by an alkaline fuel cell, made for a few dollars in the lab, was posted by one of the very enthusiastic teachers involved last summer.
Our Student Affiliates of the American Chemical Society (SAACS) were back at Changing Hands bookstore last month wowing elementary students and parents alike at “Oh Yuck!” day.
The students introduced the kids to the science of slime by bringing in various kinds of goo: the cornstarch and water ooblech, polyvinylalcohol (PVA) slime found in toystores, and methylcellulose slime used on many movie sets. Everyone got to play with the slime, learn how it was made and what makes it slimy, and then make their own slime to take home. To further follow the theme of “oh yuck!” they also set off elephant toothpaste: iodide catalyzed degradation of hydrogen peroxide. The entire demo was as much fun for the demonstrators and parents as it was for the children, "All I can say is that making a mess with various forms of slime is wonderfully entertaining," commented ASU student Josh Vermaas. Over three liters of slime was made either by children or by the demonstrators over the course of the science day, as approximately 40 kids learned about the crosslinking of polymers and the fascinatingly disgusting materials they can form.
They will also be in attendance at homecoming on November 15 in a couple of weeks, dehydrating gummy bears, freezing bubbles with dry ice, making bouncy balls with a polymerization reaction and having some fun with liquid nitrogen.
A campus wide orientation for new undergraduate students was held on August 22. We currently have over a thousand chemistry/biochemistry undergraduate majors enrolled in the department. This number has grown by a remarkable 20 - 25 percent for each of the last seven years. Incoming students and their parents attended a talk given by Professor William Petuskey, Chair of the department. Entitled The creativity of chemistry, this talk highlighted the exciting research that is currently in progress at ASU. Tours of the ground floor of the department included visits to the freshman labs, a series of chemical demonstrations by Jenny Green and some spectacular glassblowing by Christine Roeger and Janice Kyle.
In the department we are uniquely fortunate to have two wonderfully adept female glassblowers. They are Christine Roeger (scientific glassware designer and supervisor of the glassblowing facility) and Janice Kyle (scientific glassware designer). In fact this field is one of the last bastions of male dominance as there are only about six women working as scientific glassblowers in a university setting in the whole country.
Christine is a third generation glassblower. Her father Mike Wheeler worked in the department for 30 years sharing his artistry, knowledge, commitment and generosity with the ASU community. Mike’s father Joe was a glassblower in University laboratories for nearly sixty years. Christine and Janice learned scientific glassblowing from Mike. What a great tradition they are a part of at ASU. Christine sums it up best, “Glassblowing has always been a significant part of my life, it is a very rewarding, fun career and I cannot imagine my life without it.”
Janice and Christine not only expertly make sophisticated glassware for faculty and students all over campus but they also teach a class mainly for chemistry and engineering graduate students to help them with their research. Christine and Janice participate in several well-received outreach activities during the school year. Janice adds, “Another highlight of my profession here are the outreach programs in which Christi and I actively participate. Allowing the public to visualize and further comprehend the vital role that glass plays in everyday research throughout the university and throughout the world is very personally satisfying.” On occasion, high school students come to our campus facility to watch glassblowing demonstrations and learn how to make -yes --artistic scientific equipment. One example of their work is a barometer in the shape of a swan.
A great opportunity to see chemistry’s glassblowers in action will also be at homecoming, on November 15 th.