NanoExplorers to Probe Microscopic Mysteries
30 High School Students Spending Summer Chasing Big Ideas About a Tiny Topic
June 11, 2008
The UT Dallas Alan G. MacDiarmid NanoTech Institute was launched in September 2001 and in the years since then has inspired more than 80 young minds to spend their summers studying nanotechnology. This year alone there are 30 new class members, and more than twice that many applied.
A program growing in esteem and increasingly competitive to join, the NanoExplorers opportunity has helped boost students into undergraduate studies at UT Dallas as well as at such schools as Harvard, Stanford, MIT and Rice.
Students from high schools in Flower Mound, Coppell and Allen will join others from as far away as China in a research program founded by nanotech pioneer Dr. Ray Baughman.
“You are the sixth class, the largest class, and I feel so strongly about you NanoExplorers,” Baughman said. “It was on a rainy day in Pittsburgh that I walked the university campus in the rain. I was soaked to the bone, knocking on doors and looking for summer jobs. George A Jeffrey opened the door and let me work in his lab, and in that spirit I named this program after him.”
The George A. Jeffrey NanoExplorers program is directed by Dr. Steve Collins, who said the program’s popularity has exploded since inception in the summer of 2002.
“We started fairly small in 2002, with two or three students,” Collins said. “By 2006 we were up to 15 students and a formal application process. There were around 30 applications last year, with 26 NanoExplorers completing the program. This year we had over 60 applications, but only slots for 30 — so it’s getting competitive.”
Anish Jacob, a student at McKinney Boyd High School, was among the NanoExplorers who joined Baughman, Collins and UT Dallas President Daniel at the recent orientation and pizza lunch.
“Nanotechnology is a new field with a new way of learning,” Jacob said. “A regular summer would be ordinary, but this program is a new way to go for me.”
NanoExplorers volunteer in research labs and are encouraged to come up with their own research questions they’d like to study. No grades are offered and no paychecks are handed out, but students say the opportunity to study such technologies as carbon nanotubes and artificial muscles is a springboard they can use for scholarships and future scientific success.