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Stories about...I-MRSEC

I-STEM articles about I-MRSEC, organized in descending order chronologically.

I-MRSEC’s Music Video for EOH ’21 Plugs Graphene, 2D Materials

April 7, 2021

Although 2021’s Engineering Open House (EOH) was not the traditional live, on-campus event but virtual due to COVID-19, I-MRSEC researchers who are passionate about STEM outreach didn’t let that stop them. Unable to engage in person with the public, specifically the numerous children who usually attend, they figured out how to meet with them face to face anyway—via a music video. Their goals? To communicate about 2D materials research, to show the public how tax dollars are being spent, and to share benefits to be gained from scientific research. They also hoped youngsters watching might be intrigued, and eventually pursue careers in research. Along with inspiring the public, they hoped to rekindle their own excitement by reminding themselves why they’d chosen science careers

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Andrea Perry shows Franklin students how to take apart the magnetic drawing board they received in their kitMusical Magnetism: Encouraging Franklin Middle Schoolers to Express Science Via the Arts

March 24, 2021

What does art have to do with science? And vice versa? Some might opine, “Absolutely nothing!” However, those who orchestrated and taught I-MRSEC’s spring 2021 Musical Magnetism curriculum to Franklin STEAM Academy’s seventh and eighth graders would beg to differ. They suggest that art—including music videos, haiku, glass sculptures—even tap dance—can be used to communicate about science. Thus, as part of the program, several Materials Science experts shared about their favorite science topics, with some addressing how specific arts might be used to express them. By the program’s end, students had not only learned about science—they’d even tried their hand at describing the science they’d experienced via various art forms.

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Carmen PaquettePaquette Conveys Her Love of Science, Dance to Franklin STEAM Students Via Musical Magnetism

"As a kid, I found science fascinating; it felt like a good mystery book, and the more I learned, the more I understood about the world, as well as myself.” – Carmen Paquette

“I have always loved to dance. My parents constantly had music playing in the house growing up, and they often tell me that I came into the world dancing.” – Carmen Paquette

March 9, 2021

Carmen Paquette loves science. (Her dad, a material scientist, used to quiz her on the names and atomic numbers of the elements.) Carmen Paquette also loves tap dancing. (Her parents claim she came into the world dancing.) And she’s particularly passionate about expressing science via the arts—specifically, tap dance. So, when I-MRSEC planners decided that their spring 2021 edition of the Musical Magnetism curriculum at Franklin STEAM Academy would emphasize using the arts to convey science ideas, it makes sense that they would invite the summer 2019 I-MRSEC REU participant back to be involved. So, on February 18th, the materials scientist/professional tap dancer shared how she combines her two passions—science and dance—using dance to illustrate scientific concepts.

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Kathy WalshOn Her First Foray into STEAM, Kathy Walsh Acquaints Franklin Students with Microscopy, Haiku

On this microscope
The lens moves up step by step,
Saves what's in focus.

February 17, 2021

The above haiku by Kathy Walsh describes one of the toys the MRL scientist gets to play with day in, day out—a 3D Optical Profiler. Specializing in nano/microscale surface topography, she uses the instrument to help researchers in their materials analysis by taking very accurate 3D measurements of the roughness or height of a material’s or specific object’s surface. So, when presented with the opportunity to participate in I-MRSEC’s Musical Magnetism curriculum and share her love of microscopy with Franklin STEAM Academy seventh and eighth graders, she jumped at the chance. Also thrilled that the program’s STEAM emphasis meant adding the Arts to STEM (Science Technology, Engineering and Mathematics), she further embraced the opportunity to expose the young people to another passion of hers—writing haiku about science.

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I-MRSEC 2020 Magazine A Compendium of I-STEM Web Articles Featuring Educational Outreach Activities of the Illinois Materials Research Science and Engineering Center, 2020

February 5, 2021

This magazine features 10 articles published on I-STEM (the Illinois Science, Teachnology, Engineering and Mathematics Initiative) website (www.istem.illinois.edu/index.html) during 2020, highlighting I-MRSEC's Materials Science education and outreach efforts to underserved K–12 students, research opportunities provided to undergraduates through NSF's REU (Research Experiences for Undergraduates) program, and training opportunities.

2020 I-MRSEC Magazine


Virtual Cena y Ciencias Provides Hispanic Role Models, Encourages Hands-on “Kitchen Science”—All Done in Spanish

November 12, 2020

Why does holding your nose when taking medicine make it not taste as bad? What is surface tension on liquids? What do scientists do in labs? What are crystals and how do they form?

Noted above are just some of the questions I-MRSEC’s Virtual Cena y Ciencias (CyC) hopes to answer during its Spanish-language, science outreach events for local Hispanic and dual-language-program school children. But, to adhere to COVID-19 social distancing mandates, CyC, scheduled for the first Monday of the month throughout the fall 2020 and spring 2021 semesters, is being held online until further notice. Despite the change of venue, the COVID-19-friendly events, like their no-social-distancing-required predecessors, feature lectures and/or demonstrations followed by hands-on science—with a caveat. The "kitchen science" activities feature science that can be done with materials available in most homes. Plus, in addition to the exposure to science, the youngsters will experience it in Spanish, offered by Hispanic scientists who serve as role models.

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Jemima PhilippeI-MRSEC Workshop Seeks to Help Researchers Improve Their Public Engagement

October 22, 2020

The program addresses the needs of scientists who are motivated to engage but lack the resources to develop their skills and create plans for action.” – Gemima Philippe

Intent on improving their scientific communication, particularly public engagement, 22 folks, mostly researchers from I-MRSEC (the Illinois Materials Research Science and Engineering Center) participated in the Center's Science Communication and Public Engagement Fundamentals workshop on October 16, 2020. Presented by Gemima Philippe, a Public Engagement Communication Associate from the Center for Public Engagement with Science and Technology at the AAAS (American Association for the Advancement of Science), the online workshop addressed the importance of Science Communication, then tackled key areas participants should focus on in order to improve their own.  

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Onur Tosun shows off his winning entry: I-MRSEC’s Virtual Coffee & Cookies Hour Encourages Collegial Communication Among Researchers; Bake-Your-Research Contest Fosters Fun!

October 6, 2020

A sign of the times? To encourage collegial collaboration and facilitate socialization among researchers, yet abide by COVID-19 social distancing mandates, on Friday, October 2, from 4:30–5:30, I-MRSEC (Illinois Materials Research Science and Engineering Center) held its first-ever virtual MRSEC Coffee and Cookies Hour. For the 16 or so participants hunkered down behind their computers at home (or their office) to video chat with colleagues, ostensibly, it was BYO coffee and cookies (C&C).

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Angela Pak I-MRSEC’s Virtual REU Undergrads Gain Knowledge, Skills, and Insights into Their Future Careers

August 7, 2020

Although the COVID-19 pandemic precluded I-MRSEC (the Illinois Materials Research Science and Engineering Center) from hosting the residential REU (Research Experience for Undergraduates) intended for summer 2020–—undergraduate students physically conducting research in Illinois labs—the eleven undergrads from all across the U.S. who participated appeared to have benefitted immensely. What kind of impact did participating in the I-MRSEC REU’s virtual counterpart have on the undergrads? In addition to conducting cutting-edge research in one of Illinois’ labs—virtually—mentored by an I-MRSEC faculty member and/or a Ph.D or post-doc researcher, they presented their results at I-MRSEC's Undergraduate Symposium. Plus, students also gained other benefits from the REU: some became adept at using new software; others gained confidence; still others gained a clearer understanding of the direction they plan to go careerwise—including materials science research—all thanks to I-MRSEC’s Virtual REU.

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Jean-luc Doumont Principiae’s Jean-luc Doumont Teaches I-MRSEC Researchers How to Deliver Remote Presentations…Remotely

July 13, 2020

“Do what you can with what you have where you are.” “You must focus their attention where you want it to be.” “Everything you need—nothing you don’t.” “Invest time in your setup, not money in accessories.” These were some of the pithy pieces of advice shared by Principiae’s Jean-luc Doumont in a June 30th workshop sponsored by the Illinois Materials Research Science and Engineering Center (I-MRSEC). In keeping with I-MRSEC’s commitment to improve scientific communication, the topic of their latest workshop was quite timely and extremely apropos: “Delivering Your Presentation Remotely.”.

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Angela Pak I-MRSEC’s Virtual REU to Expose Undergrads to Research, Provide Training in Needed Skills

May 29, 2020

Eleven undergraduate students are participating in the I-MRSEC (Illinois Materials Research Science and Engineering Center) virtual REU this summer from May 27th through July 31st, 2020. However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the REU isn't business as usual (in-person interactions with researchers while conducting research in one of Illinois’ state-of-the-art labs). However, the students will still gain valuable experiences. They'lll still have face-to-face interactions with researchers (via Zoom?) while conducting research; they'll still be collecting and analyzing their data and presenting their results. And just like last year’s program, they will still do networking, plus gain other useful information and skills related to research and preparing for a career in STEM…all done virtually!

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Felipe Menanteau teaches the youngsters at Cena y Ciencias about heat and temperature. Cena y Ciencias—Science Demonstrated in Spanish by Hispanic Role Models

March 11, 2020

“We use language as a powerful tool to connect with the communities and provide an example for the children.” – Felipe Menanteau

Felipe Menanteau teaches the youngsters at Cena y Ciencias about heat and temperature. Felipe Menanteau teaches the youngsters at Cena y Ciencias about heat and temperature. Pizza. Exciting demos (including one featuring a blowtorch!). Hands-on activities related to temperature. These are some of the fun things a group of Kindergarten through 5th graders from two Urbana elementary schools, Dr. Preston Williams and Leal, experienced at Cena y Ciencias (Supper and Science) on March 2nd. The evening at Williams was comprised of supper (pizza) followed by, of course, science related to the night’s theme: “Put to the Test of Fire: Materials That Protect Us.” However—probably most important of all—the night’s activities were all conducted in Spanish by scientists of Hispanic heritage.

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Franklin Steam Academy Students Experience Cutting-Edge Science at MRL

February 27, 2020

Explore a different reality via VR. Cover up from head to toe in a strange suit, safety glasses, and gloves and experience a cleanroom. See firsthand what equipment like a 3D Optical Profilometer and a Contact Angle Goniometer do. These are just some of the cool things Franklin STEAM Academy students got to experience during their field trip to the Materials Research Lab (MRL) on February 20th (the 7th graders) and 21st (the 8th graders). During their brief hiatus from the classroom, the students not only got to see, but get their hands on, some real-world, high-tech stuff MRL scientists use every day in their research.

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Musical Magnetism’s Destroy-A-Toy Activity: Messy, But Definitely Curiosity-Driven and Educational!

February 13, 2020

The challenge for the Franklin STEAM Academy seventh and eighth graders participating in the Musical Magnetism’s Destroy-A-Toy, hands-on activity was to discover what makes toys like a Magnadoodle or an Etch-a-Sketch work. After all was said and done, they learned that it was magnetism. (After all, in a program called Musical Magnetism, it’s apparent that either one or the other must be involved.)

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Virginia Lorenz & Franklin student Physics' Lorenz Shines a Light on Invisible Light as Part of I-MRSEC’s Musical Magnetism Program at Franklin

January 21, 2020

What better way to get Franklin STEAM Academy seventh and eighth grade students interested in science than by couching it in fun, hands-on activities and demonstrations and encouraging them to express what they’ve learned in some mediums they love—music, hip hop/rap, and videos. This was the goal of the Musical Magnetism program sponsored by I-MRSEC (the Illinois Materials Research Science and Engineering Center), Illinois’ NSF-funded center which focuses on some of the properties of materials, such as magnetism. The main project of the Jan 13–March 6, 2020 program is this: students are to select a specific topic related to magnetism, research it, then create a music video to be previewed at a video release party on the final day of the program.

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I-MRSEC’s Principiae Workshop Targets Improving Researchers’ Presentation Skills

October 29, 2019

Why attend a workshop about giving oral presentations? One participant who’d performed numerous calculations for his research, hoped to figure out which to include in his presentations. Another hoped to take her presentations to the next level—go from just good to great. A third participant admitted that while she loved giving presentations, her body didn’t; she would shake, sweat, and have trouble breathing. These were some of the reasons the 25 or so participants gave for attending the “Making the Most of Your Presentation” workshop hosted by the Illinois Materials Research Science and Engineering Center (I-MRSEC) on October 10. Presented by Jean-luc Doumont from Principiae, the workshop focused on this goal: to train researchers to better communicate their science.

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Via I-MRSEC’s Magnetic Fields Web Series, Young People Learn About Magnetism, Experience Diversity in Science

September 19, 2019

Armed with real theater popcorn and other goodies, the audience at the August 1st screening party settled back to enjoy Magnetic Fields, a four-part web series developed by I-MRSEC (the Illinois Materials Research Science and Engineering Center) as part of its mandate to communicate about Materials Science—in this case, about magnetism. Using a fun plot, plus actors the targeted audience of young people could identify with, the series sought to capture their interest, possibly directing them along the STEM pipeline into materials engineering. The cast of young actors seated in the front row, excited to see themselves on the “big screen,” reflected the diversity I-MRSEC hopes to foster in the field. Also in the audience, proudly viewing their creation, were the director, John Isberg as well as I-MRSEC’s PI, Nadya Mason, and Outreach Coordinator, Pamela Pena Martin.

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I-MRSEC REU Teaches Carmen Paquette a Lot About Magnetism, Research, and Herself

August 23, 2019

Carmen Paquette had a lot of takeaways from her experience in the I-MRSEC (Illinois Materials Research Science and Engineering Center) Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) this past summer. For one, the rising junior, a Material Science and Engineering major at the Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago, learned a lot about both magnetism and material science. She also discovered what engineering research is like—lots of iterations and lots of thinking outside the box. She also grew personally, learning not to procrastinate, but to “Just do it!” And while she didn’t necessarily figure out if grad school is in her future, she did decide to just follow her heart and go full STEAM ahead when it comes to the things she’s passionate about.

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I-MRSEC REU Exposes Undergrads to Materials Science, Research, and What Grad School Is Like

August 20, 2019

For ten weeks this past summer, eleven undergraduate students from all over the US showed up at Illinois to participate in I-MRSEC’s second Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) program. As part of the experience, they not only conducted a research project, but they completed a paper and gave a final presentation. Of the 11 students, five were from Illinois (mostly from the Chicago area); six were from out of state (Tennessee, Oregon, Texas, and California). And although none of them are currently Illinois students, after experiencing what cutting-edge research at Illinois is like, some will most likely be applying to grad school here.

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A young visitor exhibits the model she made of graphene for flexible electronics.Cena y Ciencias Exposes Hispanic Elementary School Students to Materials Science at MRL

April 29, 2019

As part of I-MRSEC’s Cena y Ciencias (Spanish for “Supper and Science”) outreach program, a group of mostly Hispanic K–5 students and their families followed a supper of free pizza at Urbana’s Dr. Preston Williams Elementary School with a visit to the Materials Research Lab (MRL) for the second and equally-as-fun part of the evening—some science. During the April 1st event, the visitors not only participated in a variety of materials-related, hands-on activities, but they also got to interact with Illinois students and staff. Also, since many of those presenting were Hispanic and were leading the activities in Spanish, the youngsters also got to see scientists who look like them and who speak their language.

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A Franklin student experiences virtual reality during the students' visit to MRL.Franklin Steam Academy Students Experience High-Tech Science at MRL

March 27, 2019

On February 25th, Franklin STEAM Academy eighth grade students took a break from their science textbook to experience some real-world, high-tech science first hand during a visit to MRL (the Materials Research Lab), home of I-MRSEC (the Illinois Materials Research Science and Engineering Center). The field trip was one of the highlights of I-MRSEC’s “Musical Magnetism,” a multi-disciplinary curriculum that used rap and music to expose students to materials science and magnetism. At MRL, the university folk pulled out all the stops, proudly introducing the youth to some of their million-dollar equipment and exposing them to some of the cool stuff they do—all while practicing another of I-MRSEC’s main emphases: scientific communication.

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An eighth grader experiences virtual reality during the students' visit to MRL.I-MRSEC’s Musical Magnetism Curriculum Uses Hip Hop to Teach Science

March 12, 2019

It’s not your mother’s science class…or music class, for that matter! The goal of I-MRSEC’s “Musical Magnetism” curriculum was to expose Franklin STEAM Academy eighth grade students to materials science and magnetism, but also to another of the center’s main emphases: scientific communication. What’s unique about the lesson plans is that they embraced a medium today’s kids can probably get into: hip hop or rap. So, after a number of Illinois researchers, students, and staff, who also served as role models, had exposed the students to multidisciplinary lessons in several related areas, the kids teamed up to create then present raps about specific areas of magnetism.

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I-MRSEC, Champaign Educator Jamie Roundtree, Embrace Hip Hop/Rap to Reach Youth at Their Level

Feburary 14, 2019

“So if you can find value and show value for what students value, then they are going to find value in the things you are asking them to value.” – Jamie Roundtree

While some folks might insist that Hip Hop or rap doesn’t belong in the classroom, some of those involved with I-MRSEC’s Musical Magnetism curriculum, including Champaign Unit 4’s Director of Elementary Teaching and Learning, Jamie Roundtree, would disagree. They’re using the medium as a way to teach the students at Franklin STEAM Academy about, and get them engaged with, science—specifically magnetism. As part of the multidisciplinary curriculum, students are creating a rap song about one of a number of principles related to magnetism.

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Integrative Biology Instructor Joanne Manaster shares an anecdote about learning to use Twitter with the audience.How Tweet It Is! I-MRSEC Workshop Helps Scientists Incorporate Twitter into Their Scientific Communication Repertoire

November 20, 2018

Are you passionate about communicating science, but a bit behind on the latest technology, like Twitter? Do you have an inkling what Twitter is and does, and are interested in finding out about how Twitter might be helpful to you as a scientist? Do you have a Twitter account, but haven’t quite gotten the hang of how to use it? A number of university folk who fit in one or more of the above categories showed up at the Physics Interaction Room on November 14th for a workshop: “Social Media for Scientists: #Tweetyourscience.” As the title implies, workshop participants hoped to find out more about how they might use social media—especially Twitter—to communicate science. Sponsored by I-MRSEC (Illinois Materials Research Science and Engineering Consortium), Beckman Institute 21st Century Scientists, and Illinois’ Graduate College, the workshop featured a talk by the Grad College’s Mike Firmand, a panel of researchers from Illinois’ science community who have a good Twitter following, plus some small groups based on participants’ level of Twitter expertise.

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A Cena y Ciencias participant shows the balloon that he completely put a stick through.Polímeros! Cena y Ciencias Program Teaches About Materials Through a Supper & Science Night

November 14, 2018

A group of around 80+ mostly Hispanic K–5 students and their families showed up for the November 5th Cena y Ciencias (Spanish for “Supper and Science”) at Dr. Preston Williams Elementary School in Urbana. Supported through University partners that include the Illinois Materials Research Science and Engineering Center (I-MRSEC) and the Illinois chapter of the Society of the Advancement of Chicanos and Native American Scientists (SACNAS), as well as Urbana School District employees, and parents, the program is addressing materials such as polímeros (Spanish for polymers)—the star of the November outreach. And while the free pizza most likely provided some incentive for families to take part, based on the youngsters’ excitement, it was apparent that participating in different hands-on science activities led completely in Spanish was their main focus during the evening.

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I-MRSEC’s Alda Scientific Communication Workshop Trains Scientists to Relate to Their Audience

May 30, 2018

What might fun, team-building exercises have to do with communicating? In keeping with one of its chief goals—improving science communication—the Illinois Materials Research Science and Engineering Center (I-MRSEC)) held “Making the Choice to Connect,” an all-day workshop on Friday, May 18th. Presented by Lydia Franco-Hodges from the Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science at Stony Brook University, the workshop sought to improve participants’ communication skills by training them to practice relating to others.

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Physics Professor Nadya Mason, PI of the I-MRSEC grant.I-MRSEC: Creating a Multidsciplinary Materials Research Community

March 15, 2018

"The more that people understand the scientific basis of the world and of their lives and of what people are doing and researching and care about, the more we care about each other and the more we support each other." – Nadya Mason

Begun in September 2017, I-MRSEC (Illinois Materials Research Science and Engineering Center), a new NSF-funded center, seeks to create a community around multidisciplinary materials science research, recruiting and educating the next generation of researchers, including diverse students, and informing the general public through outreach. Funded through NSF’s Division of Materials, the Center will receive $16 million over the six years of the grant, with the possibility of being renewed.

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