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
- Why would creating one’s own job description lead to greater job satisfaction?
- Is “job crafting” an accurate phrase for this process?
- How do you think this could impact the hiring process for employers?
- Was the number of employees studied sufficient for Kim and Beehr to reach their conclusions?
- How did they measure job satisfaction?
- What would you change to extend this research?
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:
- Why would it be beneficial to have multiple medications available in a single dose?
- What is solubility and why is it so important in delivering medication?
- How does Organic Vapor Jet printing work?
- Why does a larger surface area help a material dissolve?
- What are some of the drawbacks or limitations of using Organic Vapor Jet printing for pharmaceuticals?
Many of us in Michigan are fans of a small, shy bird known as the Kirtland Warbler. This creature has a wonderful story of going from nearly extinct to growing to a respectable sized population largely through thoughtful attention and management by a host of government agencies, researchers, non-profits and enthusiasts. A wonderful, highly readable account of the bird is found in William Rapai’s The Kirtland Warbler-the story of a bird’s fight against extinction and the people who helped save it, published by the University of Michigan Press.
Part of the story is the slow, painstaking research that individuals have been undertaking to understand the bird and to help ensure it’s progress is not wiped away.
Northern Michigan University master’s student, Katie Bjornen is one such researcher.
Her research focuses on bird’s ability to use their olfactory sense to smell chemicals released by trees when the trees are being eaten by insects causing the birds to come to the trees and eat the insects. At least that is the theory currently being investigated.
Katie’s research focuses on the jack pine, a type of tree preferred by the Kirtland Warbler. Her promising research could help develop greater understanding of the exact processes used by birds and trees to help promote their mutual survival.
For more information about Katie’s research, please read NMU’s Katie Evans’ article here.
Teachers of biology and ecology may find this article of benefit for their classrooms.
Questions for Discussion
- How do birds choose which trees to eat insects from?
- What is Katie’s research hypothesis?
- How does Katie’s research extend what is already known about how bird’s choose the trees to forage from?
- What is the implication of Katie’s research for the Kirtland Warbler?
- What is a deciduous tree?
- How did Katie get her start in avian research?
- What is ornithology?
In an amazing research development, scientists at the Michigan State University, have created a transducer that is paper thin.
From the Michigan State University website posted by Andy Henlon, MSU associate professor Nelson Sepulveda states:
“This is the first transducer that is ultrathin, flexible, scalable and bidirectional, meaning it can convert mechanical energy to electrical energy and electrical energy to mechanical energy.”
This team created the FENG, the Ferroelectret Nanogenerator, and this research extends that development so that the energy conversion can be bi-directional, thus increasing its functionality.
In a really impressive video, they show how they converted a Michigan State University green and white Spartan flag into a speaker.
Fascinating work. A great way to show your students some cutting edge research that has huge societal implications.
Questions for Discussions
- What is FENG?
- Describe the difference between mechanical energy and electrical energy.
- What was the process by which they created the device?
- How are the ions added to each layer?
- What uses can your class brainstorm for this technology?
- Are there any negative implications they can imagine?
It is so exciting when researchers are able to take concepts and ideas from the classroom and apply them in a real world setting.
It is especially exciting when it means that this can make a difference in people’s lives.
That is exactly what a team of researchers from Michigan State University did when they travelled to Tanzania and Kenya to help improve agricultural practices.
MSU doctoral candidate in media and information studies, Tian Cai, and a research team, created a research project-creating low-budget videos of videos that communicated farmers perspectives for not using drought resistant maize.
Then, they showed a group of villagers the videos followed by a discussion. The control group did not receive the videos. An additional treatment group received the videos and a text message.
This group indicated they were most likely to use drought resistant maize, which would benefit their likelihood of success, and help the environment.
This is a great example of applied research and the significant impact that researchers can have in helping those that might not have access to the necessary information and support to make lasting changes. Teachers of media studies, environmental science will especially want to share this research with their students.
For a link to the MSU news article by Nicole O’Meara, please click here.
Questions for Discussion
- Who was involved in providing input at the initial one day workshop?
- What government agency provided funding?
- What is the local language of the region studied?
- Which condition had the most impact?
- What additional data would you want to review to determine the efficacy of this research?
- What changes might you make to this research to potentially improve its outcomes?
- Why did professor Steinfield say this research was aligned to the philosophy of the media and information department at Michigan State University?
Quantum computing is heralded as an important step in the development of the next generation of computing power. Using quantum mechanics, computers will have the potential to process information significantly faster than they currently process.
Like any innovative technology, the progress is mixed, with each step fraught with challenges that limit utility.
Currently, the laser that is used to activate the protons, cause additional noise which impedes the quantum effect.
Linran Fan, a Yale student has developed a potential solution to this problem. In an elegant solution he changed the medium in which the light wave travelled to aluminum nitride and this has had a significant impact by eliminating the “noise.”
Helping your students understand quantum computing is not necessarily an easy task, but helping them develop a surface understanding of the concepts is possible.
Discussing the following questions from the Yale article can help introduce this important engineering/physics innovation to your students. I think it’s especially inspiring that Fan began his interest in this aspect of physics while in high school.
Questions for Discussion
- How was Linran Fan’s solution different than previous solutions?
- What are the limitations with using nonlinear optical effects?
- What is a propagating medium?
- What are common examples of propagating media?
- What is the piezoelectric effect?
- How long did the process of changing the proton’s frequency in the waveguide take?
- How long is a picosecond?
- How will this process impact quantum computing?
For an enthusiastic look at ancient Greece read the brief account of Michigan State University professors Jim Peck and Jon Frey’s work on archaeological sites in Greece.
This is an engaging, brief reflection by video and communications professor Jim Peck who worked with archaeologist Jon Frey to use drones and software imagining techniques to create 3-d images of ancient sites such as the Sanctuary of Poseidon at Isthmia.
Peck’s writing helps bring alive the sense of history at being at these ancient sites and illuminates how Jon Frey became interested in archaeology and Frey’s enthusiasm for digital archaeology.
This brief read with the questions below could be a great “quick-read” for any secondary English/History course.
Questions for Discussion
- Why was Ishtmia important to ancient Greek culture?
- Besides athletics, what other qualities did ancient Greeks value?
- Why did the ancient Greeks build a wall?
- What career was Frey considering before becoming an archaeologist? What changed his mind?
- What are the tools of digital archaeology?
- What is Frey’s attitude towards digital archaeology?
- What does Peck mean regarding Jon Frey’s attitude when he writes, “He says with that kind of openness, the potential for discovery is greater than ever.”