Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Give Teachers a Chance

Since moving to GiantU, I've been able to help out with the ASM Teacher Camp program. This year, due to scheduled server outages, I was able to help for a larger portion of the week. The program combines time in the classroom with time in the lab. One of the things I noticed this year was the emphasis on how to bring these new concepts to class for as little money as possible.

Many of these teachers, after replacing broken glassware, getting safety gear, and ordering basics, have roughly 1$ per student left to bring demos into class. The equipment budget of a single graduate student in my department pretty much dwarfs their annual budget for 100+ kids. These teachers are amazingly resourceful with what limited money they have. There are apparently hundreds of things you can do with a 3$ box of borax.

This program receives lots of donations from companies, and at the end of the week, the teachers get a goody bag with all sorts of supplies to do these demos, and lists of the cheapest places to find supplies. For some of them, this bag is what makes it possible to bring what they've learned at camp back to their classes at all. Even so, limited supplies mean students will only be able to watch, not do.

So if we really want to get more kids interested in the STEM fields, let's start with giving their teachers a fighting chance. Programs like Donors Choose are a way to reach out to specific classrooms. But if wonks in Washington are really serious about getting more young people interested in science, give their science teachers a fighting chance, and a budget to buy enough supplies for hands-on experiments, not just a few demonstrations.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Remembering Why I Do This

In spite of the flaws we've found, we've resubmitted the paper for another round of review. Once we hear back, it'll be time to discuss whether it's time for the Project That Won't Die to finally be laid to rest.

Helping distract me from worrying about this, teacher camp is back! So while I am in manuscript limbo, I'm volunteering to help teachers learn about materials science concepts, and helping demo labs. I forget how energizing teaching is for me when I don't do it for awhile. Teachers make great students, because they really listen. They ask lots of questions, both about the science and what it's like being a female engineer. It's a great chance to really share what I do love about what I do, and why I do it.

Today was metals, but over the week, we'll cover most of the basic materials classes (but not composites). I'm glad I have this week to follow up last week.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Radio Silence

Sorry about the quiet. It's hard to blog right now when I'm essentially mourning the loss of two years of data, because my co-author didn't do proper due-diligence, and I trusted what he gave me. Paper was submitted for review, and while most of the review was positive, and I think we'll be able to get the first paper out, a recommend reference has more or less invalidated everything we'd lined up for the next few manuscripts. The reference in question is experimental data that my co-author couldn't find, and points out some flaws in our potential that can't be ignored for the other manuscripts.

It doesn't help that I would have left my PI if I didn't think I had 3-4 papers worth of data when I considered leaving. So I'm also kicking myself about that.

I guess it's a good thing I'm working on 4 different projects at once. Still sucks.