Creating Research Links between Science at the Nanoscale and Science Education

By Nora H. Sabelli

SRI International

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This talk will address what is needed to reduce the gap between current science education and science education that incorporates the ideas in current nanoscience. The ability to manipulate matter at increasingly smaller scales of distance and time has blurred the boundaries between disciplines. As a consequence, it increases the science literacy requirements of both workforce and citizenry. This seminar will discuss what we need to do to tackle successfully the educational implications of technology-derived fundamental changes in science.

To prepare scientifically literate individuals, it is not sufficient to increase students' awareness of the impact of scale on the behavior of matter. Rather, we need to support students in developing integrated understandings of these concepts and how they lead to current ideas about complex phenomena. We also must show that learning takes place when we do so. For this to happen, we need to identify major concepts in nanoscience, turn these concepts into learning goals, develop credible measures of learning, link the learning goals to national standards, and point out where links do not exist to the standards.

Furthermore, this integration will be helped by nanoscience use of computational simulation and modeling, which can provide students with a "hands-on" ability to explore and visualize the nanoscale. Even more important, the interdisciplinarity inherent in the nanoscale supports a stronger focus on "science" as a unique endeavor with a shared view of the interplay among theory, models, and observations. Both these characteristics of the nanoscale—use of computational modeling and interdisciplinarity, have obvious advantages for student retention of learned concepts across STEM areas of study.


image Nora H. Sabelli has a Ph.D. in Chemistry (Theoretical Organic) from the University of Buenos Aires, Argentina for research performed at the University of Chicago. Prior to joining SRI International 1n 2001, Dr. Sabelli was Senior Program Director for the National Science Foundation's (NSF) Directorate for Education and Human Resources, and worked on many NSF-wide and cross-agency initiatives related to education, technology and science, such as Learning and Intelligent Systems and Interagency Education Research Initiatives.

At the NSF, she focused on the support of research on the use of current scientific advances and technological opportunities to help provide quality science and mathematics education for all students. While at the NSF, Dr. Sabelli worked on education issues at the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), which serves as a source of scientific and technological analysis and judgment for the President with respect to major policies, plans, and programs of the Federal Government.

In addition to her directorship at the NSF, Dr. Sabelli's former positions include senior research scientist and assistant director for education at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and associate professor of chemistry at the University of Illinois at Chicago. She has authored many research publications in her field and has co-directed research theses.

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Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  • Nora H. Sabelli (2006), "Creating Research Links between Science at the Nanoscale and Science Education,"

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