Hampton University researchers and the Virginia Aquarium & Marine Science Center are working together to develop best practices to help non-scientists understand highly technical scientific techniques. The researches recently presented demonstrations to visitors at the Virginia Aquarium & Marine Science Center in Virginia Beach, VA.
The HU Partnership for Research and Education in Materials (PREM) and the Virginia Aquarium’s Communicating Ocean Science to Informal Audiences Program (COSIA) recently completed the first phase of this outreach program.
Scientists and HU PREM researchers Dr. Stefan Cooper and Dr. Marcos Guerrero-Munoz, devised a chemistry “Polymer Demonstration” infused with elements from ocean science. The demonstration involved creating “silly putty” from Elmer’s Glue and borax. The goal was to communicate scientific information about synthetic and natural polymers to visitors of the Virginia Aquarium. Cooper and Guerrero-Munoz connected their research, the aquarium and its relevance to the lives of their audience and reached over 1,600 students from more than 30 local elementary, middle and high schools.
“The ability for scientists to interact with and communicate effectively with individuals from diverse demographic backgrounds is an important skill to develop,” said PREM Director of Education and Outreach Dr. Deidre Gibson. “The opportunity to interact with aquarium guests allowed the PREM researchers to develop a skill set that scientists lack today. It is important in that it facilitates effective communication on how material science impacts our daily lives, and the daily operation at the Virginia Aquarium.”
This education and outreach effort is made possible by a grant from the National Science Foundation which awarded a Hampton University research team a renewable 5-year $3 million grant from the National Science Foundation Division of Materials Research's Partnership for Research in Education and Materials program. This funding expands an established collaboration between Hampton University-based materials science researchers and colleagues at the Brandeis University Materials Research Science and Engineering Center (MRSEC). The Hampton PREM award of $600,000 per year will support collaborative research, education, training and outreach activities of the Hampton University faculty, post-doctoral fellows, graduate students, undergraduate students and high school students from Governors' School for Science and Technology (GSST).
Awarded through a highly competitive process, the project is entitled "Hampton-Brandeis Partnership for Research and Education in Materials (PREM)" and is under the direction of Hampton University's Dr. Raymond Samuel and Dr. Deidre Gibson and Brandeis University's Dr. Seth Fraden. The Hampton PREM’s primary goals are to bolster HU faculty materials science research activities, and to catalyze the recruitment and retention of talented students under-represented in STEM pursuing research careers in materials science and engineering fields.