Thursday, July 28, 2011

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Week 2 - The Project

On Tuesday, Ned and I met with Dr. Reinhard where we discussed our project. We started by asking him a few questions regarding his "teaching". His answers to the questions asked made me realize that he has the same challenges as a college professor that I have as a high school teacher and that Ned has in the middle school level.  Some of the challenges he has when teaching is knowing some students pass, even though they are not prepared. He compared his experience at Boston University to when his experience in Germany. He said, "because in Germany the university is free, students who do not know what is expected, do not move to the next level. But when students pay $60,000/year its hard to fail." In addition, another area of struggle, is that students do not have strong work habits which is challenging because it takes time to teach.

Prior to meeting with Dr. Reinhard, Ned and I had discussed several testable variables but do to the uncertainty of the science and the expected outcome we were not sure if they were feasible. As we discussed our project with Dr. Reinhard we gather data that allowed us to begin a design for our project. We were also able to discussed testable variables with greater detail, and develop a strong testing plan. In  addition to creating the testing plan, New also forwarded the information to the graduate students we have been working with Bo Yan and Yan Hong. After the feedback they provided us with, we still have a little more research to do, but feel confident that our testing plan is do able.

Ned and I have decided that we are going to test
1)  the exposure time of the explosive material vapor on the sensor chip.
2)  the concentration of the explosive material vapor that is exposed to the sensor chip.
3)  the location of the concentration so that the molecules are exposed to a more "typical" environment.
4)  the distance from the source of the explosive material to the sensor chip.

In oder to do this we need to
1) Hold the concentration of the explosive material constant at 15 ppb.
2) Continue to use the NaOH solution on the surface of the sensor chip.
3) Hold exposure time the same for all tests. 5 minutes.
4) Vary the distance, from 0 - 3 feet. and varying distances between.
5) determine the rate of evaporation of the solution.

In order to analyze the data we are going to learn how to use the microscope with Bo Yan.

Overall, this week was very productive. I have learned a great deal and we have made great progress with the our robot and the overall design of the project. 

Monday, July 18, 2011

Dr. Selim Unlu

I am know getting into the swing of things. I am beginning to feel comfortable with all my summer colleagues, and I feel my role for the summer is more clearly defined. On monday we attended a lunch seminar with Dr. Selim Unlu on what makes good research. Dr. Unlu commented that good research is original, has an impact in its field or society, leads to knew questions, and improves quality of life. In order to get this accomplished the researcher must be motivated or curios (which according to Dr. Unlu is hard to teach). The research must set goals, manage those goals by managing his/her lab properly, maintain good and accurate records, analyze the data fairly and consistently and then disseminate the information. I started thinking to myself, "these skills are applicable in any work environment. Do my students poses these skills? Do I or other teachers emphasize these characteristics in the classroom?".

As a teacher I feel that we often lower our standards to avoid confrontations with administrators, parents, other teachers, or students. What I mean by this is that sometimes we know we are being to "easy" in how we operate our class, and that we are passing students who are not prepared for the following grades. We fear administrators will judge us on how many students we pass, we do not want to hear parents complaining because it can be harmful to our reputations, other teachers may pass negative judgement, and students will "not like" the class or the teacher because it is to "hard". All these variable have a negative effect in education (at least I think so) because although students may be passing a class, they are not learning the necessary skills, work habits, or intrinsic perseverance that is necessary to succeed.

From Dr. Unlu's presentation, I now feel that my experience and observations are more certain than before. Although Dr. Unlu only discussed how to create and conduct strong research, he mentioned a few items that I feel are imperative in a complete education that we fail to take advantage of. Dr. Unlu mentioned that good research is original, and that originality comes from having curiosity, being imaginative (open minded), being able to manage and having an ability to communicate (positively and negatively) with peers. I feel that these characteristics are not fully developed with students (I only have experience in urban districts, and do not know if these characteristics are developed in other educational settings). So how can I change this? How can I be the unafraid teacher? Willing to challenge students character and to develop strong habits of perseverance. Unfortunately, I do not know the answer. But I am certain through perseverance the answer will come.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Week 1 Experience

Wow! Coming to work at BU this summer is exciting. I feel important, like my work is valuable. The funny part is that I have not done anything. I guess I feel this way because the environment is so professional and welcoming. Maybe it's just psychological and because I am working at a university with really expensive equipment and very intelligent faculty members, that I feel the way that I do. I was very nervous the first 4 days, mainly because I did not understand what any of the scientist were doing. I just kind of smile and nodded and ask questions I knew the answers to so that the scientist don't think I am dumb. I felt like a freshman in high school or college, I was intimidated by the intelectual ability of the people who will become my teachers.

On day three (tuesday july 5) I was given four 10 page articles to read. I was sadden by this, because know I had to go home and do homework, but because I wanted to feel confident about the work and be able to maintain a strong conversation with my summer colegues I read. That night I spent three hours reading a research article that was assigned to me by Prof. Reinhard. After reading it for three hours I still had no idea what I read. I highlighted, marked, circled, and made notes. But it still seemed like a foreign language. I gave up and did not read the following articles. Instead I went to bed (a little frustrated because I still had no idea what it was that we were doing). The next day, I questioned my partner on the readings, he had read all articles but was still uncertain about his reading, we both laugh at the foreign text we had read, because we were expected to report to our professor and his students by the end of the week. That night I, again, read the same article, but was only able to understand a little. Once again I skipped the other articles. The next day, I was able to observe a graduate student use an evaporating machine, my mentor Yan was able to answer all 309 questions that I had. He provided me with details on the machines he was operating. More importantly he was able to provide me with details on the project he was working on. After this two hour adventure where Yan was able to evaporate gold, silver and Crome into 1" square chips, the article finally made sense. Upon leaving the lab I immediately hit the articles I had yet to read and was able to comprehend their content. Although not an expert, I felt much more confident in being able to maintain an intelligent conversation regarding the work my professor and his students were doing.

The moral, never give up.