75 Years of the Nuclear Age- University of Chicago

On December, 2 1942, in a lab at the University of Chicago, scientists created the first self-sustained controlled nuclear chain reaction.

Seventy five years later, the university is engaging in a thought-provoking reflection and examination of this event with events throughout the community and via excellent resources posted on their website.

One of the most compelling is the public art installation of Nuclear Thresholds which is integrated into Henry Moore’s Nuclear Energy.

The seventy five foot long black cords lay in a messy heap next to Moore’s well contained forms, leaving the viewer uneasy, unsure of what to make of the thin black materials.

For sure, this piece will generate conversation and hopefully a deeper reflection on the role this technological advancement has played in our society.

If you missed the actual anniversary last month, I believe a well thought out thematic unit can still explore the numerous questions evoked by this anniversary. A great video resource produced by UChicago Creative is a must see for all secondary educators interested in using this topic for critical reasoning and discussion-Nuclear Reactions-a Complex Legacy. 

How are you teaching about this significant historical event?

It seems like following the inspiration of University of Chicago and approaching it with a multidisciplinary perspective might be a wonderful way to engage your students and discuss a topic whose relevance is as timely as ever. The video concludes with a call for interdisciplinary collaboration to tackle the world’s biggest problems and asks, “What is your contribution going to be?”

A great question to reflect upon as we begin this new year.

Questions for Discussion following the video:

  1. What is your reaction to the quote by University of Chicago president, George Wells Beadle in 1967?
  2. What was the initial reaction to the development of the atomic bomb?
  3. How did the University of Chicago faculty respond to the development of the atomic bomb?
  4. How was nuclear technology used to benefit people?
  5. The video asks,” How do we get to a world without nuclear weapons?”

 

Rethinking Assessment from MIT

One of the greatest challenges educators face is how to accurately assess student learning.

So often, the assessment tools are divorced from both the curriculum and common sense,  leaving the educator struggling to chase not only a moving target, but a target that changes with shifting political winds.

This is true even in the emerging pedagogy of “maker spaces.” The maker movement which is growing in popularity in the U.S. currently has all the trappings of just another educational fad, despite its well-intentioned ideals.

In an effort to legitimize the movement, there is now an effort to create assessments that might help educators understand the student learning process. So, MIT in collaboration with Maker Ed    has developed a research project to study this-Beyond Rubrics.

The three main questions the Beyond Rubrics projects will attempt to answer, according to the website:

 

  • What might embedded assessment in maker activities look like?
  • How do teachers codesign embedded assessments for maker-centered learning, and practice the skills necessary for implementing them?
  • How does embedded assessment in making support the student learning experience?

 

In all honesty, I am not sure these research questions are necessarily unique to the “maker” movement. Eliminate the word “maker” from any of the above sentences and you have the essential questions that all educators grapple with daily as they wrestle with educating students for a world that does not yet exist, assessed on outcomes that can be analyzed using the most advanced statistical techniques, but tell us nothing.

Best of luck.

 

 

Parkinson’s Research at Michigan State University

What is the relationship between our sense of smell and Parkinson’s disease?

That is the question being investigated by Michigan State University researcher Honglei Chen.

Chen’s work was inspired by the established research suggesting that loss of sense of smell is an early marker for Parkinson’s disease. Apparently, over 90% of people with the disease have had issues with their sense of smell years before the onset of the disease.

Chen is trying to find out what exactly is the pathway by which our nerve cells stop working -is it inflammation caused possibly by air pollution?

Understanding this correlation is an important aspect of developing both treatment and prevention for this devastating neurological disorder.

For the full article in MSU Today by Sarina Gleason, please click here. 

Questions for Discussion

  1. What is Chen’s research hypothesis?
  2. What percentage of people with Parkinson’s have issues with their sense of smell?
  3. Does the article say that a poor sense of smell is ONLY related to Parkinson’s?
  4. What is Chen’s research population?
  5. What role is it believed pollution plays in inflammation?
  6. How could Chen’s research be used to both prevent and treat this disease?

Transparent Solar Cells- Innovation at Michigan State University

When you think of solar panels, do you think of the large dark panels sitting on rooftops or in fields?

Think again, thanks to Michigan State University researcher, Richard Lunt, who developed transparent solar cells. These cells, which are see-through and could be placed on existing windows could eventually ensure all of U.S. energy demands are met through solar power.

Although not as efficient as the traditional solar panel, the ubiquity of glass windows help make them transparent solar cell a compelling option.

For more information, please check out Andy Henion’s article in MSU today.

Questions for Discussion:

  1. According to the article where can transparent solar cells be added?
  2. What type of light does the transparent solar cell convert to energy? How is this accomplished?
  3. Currently, what percentage of energy demand globally is met by solar power?
  4. Why is professor Lunt optimistic about the transparent solar cells?

Anti-Icons: The Conflict Between Science and Religion

Each day seems to bring news stories where a religious group disavows science or a scientist attacks religion.

What is one to think? Which is right?

Of course, this is not a new phenomenon as revealed in Kendall College of Art and Design professor Jay Constantine work “Anti-Icons.”

These visually striking paintings are laden with symbolism and images of unorthodox and heretical thinkers of their historical era.

I would encourage you to check out these images if you are looking for a brief pause in your day to contemplate this perennial conflict and to simply appreciate the beauty of this work and to celebrate a great artist inviting us to look, to remember, and to imagine.

Educators could use these works in their art, world history or English classes, showing one of the works and asking students to reflect or write on them, or to use as a source for a class discussion.

To view Jay Constantine’s “Anti-Icons” please click on this link to the Kendall College of Art and Design website.

Job Crafting Improves Employee Satisfaction- Central Michigan University

How happy would you be if you got to write your own job description?

According to Central Michigan University graduate student Minseo Kim and her adviser Terry Beehr, you’d be pretty darn happy.

For so long, employees have simply been parts to plug into the organizational machine, but that is beginning to shift.  Now many employers are realizing that their employees are actually human individuals with the desire for purpose, meaning, and satisfaction in their work and personal lives.

Kim’s research realizes this shift and notes that not only does an employee who is able to help “job craft” their work roles become  happier, they actually become more productive, which benefits the company.

The research also notes that for this to work, there must be an organizational culture that promotes this, starting with management.

The research which studies over 300 employees over two months was published in the Journal of Leadership and Organizational Studies and was featured in Dan Digmann’s article in CMU News.

Questions for Discussion

  1. Why would creating one’s own job description lead to greater job satisfaction?
  2. Is “job crafting” an accurate phrase for this process?
  3. How do you think this could impact the hiring process for employers?
  4. Was the number of employees studied sufficient for Kim and Beehr to reach their conclusions?
  5. How did they measure job satisfaction?
  6. What would you change to extend this research?

Printed Medication: Organic Vapor Jet Printing at University of Michigan

Do you hate to swallow pills? If you can remember back to when you were a kid and you had to take pills rather than your liquid medicine, or if you are an individual who has to take multiple pills each day, you probably can appreciate how beneficial it would be to have your medication combined and delivered on a dissolvable strip or patch.

Thanks to an interdisciplinary team at the University of Michigan this technology is here.

A new study published in the journal Nature Communications authored by Max Shtein and Olga Shalev in the materials science and engineering department along with colleagues in the College of Pharmacy and Department of Physics, demonstrates how this can be done.

Apparently, one of the largest challenges in developing pharmaceuticals is solubility- how to get the medication to dissolve in a patient’s body.

The technology of Organic Vapor Jet printing which has its origin in electronics manufacturing allows a crystalline structure to be printed over a large surface area which allows the material to dissolve more easily.

Eventually, they hope this technology is available at retail pharmacies and hospitals, but for now it will likely be used in university and pharmaceutical labs where it could assist in the development of new medications.

Either way, a tremendous innovation.

For more information, please read Gabe Cherry’s article from Michigan News at the University of Michigan.

Questions for Discussion:

  1. Why would it be beneficial to have multiple medications available in a single dose?
  2. What is solubility and why is it so important in delivering medication?
  3. How does Organic Vapor Jet printing work?
  4. Why does a larger surface area help a material dissolve?
  5. What are some of the drawbacks or limitations of using Organic Vapor Jet printing for pharmaceuticals?