Professors, Students Teach at USA Science Festival
October 25, 2010 –Georgetown science professors and students explained research on soft matter and dolphin DNA extraction, among other topics, to visitors at the first USA Science and Engineering Festival Oct. 23-24.
Presenters at the National Mall event included former astronaut Sally Ride and “Bill Nye the Science Guy” with 1,300 interactive exhibitions on science and technology by professors, NASA, the Carnegie Institute for Science, the Department of Energy and other entities.
Assistant Professor of Physics Daniel Blair manned the exhibit “Squishy Science: The World of Soft Matter Physics.”
Soft matter comprises materials with intermediate physical states, including polymers, colloids, foams and gels found in many new products and technologies.
“I want visitors to take away the idea that the materials they interact with on a daily basis aren’t as simple as they might think,” Blair explained. “Understanding those materials helps you understand the world you’re interacting with.”
Armstrong Mbi (G’14), a doctoral student in Blair’s lab, also explained soft matter to both children and adults at the festival.
The research is expected to grow with the construction of Georgetown’s new science center, which will house the Institute for Soft Matter Synthesis and Metrology. The institute is supported by a grant from the National Institute of Science and Technology.
Associate Professor of Biology Heidi Elmendorf says the university got involved in the festival through its reputation for education outreach and partnership with the Carnegie Academy for Science Education.
“Georgetown has specific strengths in both environmental and health sciences,” Elmendorf explained. “The experiments are geared towards kids, but parents are ready to hear more. The message they’re taking away is about the work of real local scientists.”
The Achievement Rewards for College Scientists (ARCS) Foundation featured the work of Eric Patterson (G’12) and Maggie Stanton (G’11), who presented their research with biology professor Janet Mann on noninvasive dolphin DNA extraction.
Eric Mooring (C’13), one of the university’s first environmental biology majors, taught visitors about water filtration and the natural purification of salt-water marshes he researched with Gina Wimp, an assistant professor of biology.
“[Environmental studies] is a topic that resonates with people,” Mooring said. “They know it has an effect on their lives, but there’s also a lot of misinformation. People are really receptive to knowing more about how this works."