Online Asynchronous Learning provides courseware online through our virtual campus.
What Is Online Asynchronous Learning
Let me preface this by saying that most of the time I was pretty successful in school but there was one time when I was particularly good at science—electrochemistry. That made me super popular—at least among my peers—and I was the nerd favorite. So I knew a little something about learning. I basically knew how to talk and teach myself everything there was to know about science.
I got into high school, entered the high school chemistry club (where most of the focus was on making people come to weird parties to fight a lot of abstract ideas in the chemistry lab), and it felt like a brilliant master plan. At about 11th grade, I became interested in molecular biology. We had a massive biology club in my class and there was some serious stargazing going on. The night the shuttle exploded, I had a hugely important conversation with David Wolfe. We discussed hydrogen and space on what was supposed to be a safe night out. When we returned the next day, he and I were the only two people left in class—so I quickly started showing his term papers. I saw it in his eyes that he was excited about the topics, and that’s what clicked.
I loved doing science, and I loved doing it together. There were two things that are important in science—we need to learn from each other, and we need to learn to communicate. What I learned in school I brought into the lab. To this day, when I talk to my students, I talk about the connections I saw between the questions they have and the fact that they want to know more. I think that’s particularly valuable in science.
Nanotechnology, as you know, is a field of science that explores the construction of materials with dimensions that they don’t normally exist, and the interaction between these materials in various environments. We came to see nanotechnology as the largest opportunity to make a difference in society.
We were at a very interesting point in the development of nanotechnology. A significant portion of the tools needed to explore this new field were made available in 2008. Although the overall scope of the discipline is very large, there are a handful of very specific areas that are very interesting: the materials scientists are looking at how things are constructed, the interactions with the environment and the production of and degradation of the elements. That is where nanotechnology is at its core.
How we can communicate this to the audience that we are going to contact is the biggest challenge for any field of science.
The practical application of this is that we are able to redesign electronics—in medicine, in industrial technology, at military applications, and in technology that connects everything.
So there are certain areas of science that I am passionate about. And I have a lot of experience understanding how to communicate these parts of science to people. I wrote a book called How to Define What’s Important: The Science to Know Today. It explains how we can learn a lot about the world around us through science. It’s a great reference and an accessible book for students.
The book helps make science a little less intimidating by bringing in two key elements: the effect of knowledge and how we use knowledge. Why do we need to know the facts? Because by knowing these facts, we can really make a difference in the world. How do we use knowledge? It doesn’t really matter what we use that knowledge for. My emphasis on this is that we can use knowledge to push us forward.
I had to find a way to fit learning into my personal life. I know it was incredibly challenging for many students—they have to find something that’s very personal to them to engage. I found that as an introvert, biology could be very appealing, because biology is where my desire to explore science was born.
Now I am a teacher, and I am trying to integrate learning into teaching. When I teach biology in a group, I ask the students to talk about either what they are interested in, or what can be learned about in the classroom through a particular topic. I am trying to figure out what interests the students and find ways to integrate it into my lab so they can do whatever they want.
I want my students to understand why they can’t do something without these important concepts and how they can make a difference. It’s a very fascinating time right now because a lot of science is no longer isolated. It’s involved in our everyday life.