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Teaching teachers to make sense of sensors


Polyaniline nanofibers. Conducting polymers. Chemical sensors. Are your palms getting clammy yet? Maybe you’re flashing back to scary times in high school chemistry?

This sort of reaction is something Professor Richard Kaner is used to dealing with when he tells people about his research. Even his title sounds intimidating: He’s a professor with joint appointments in Chemistry and Biochemistry in the College of Letters and Science and in Materials Science and Engineering at the UCLA Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science.

But Kaner, who recently received an American Chemical Society Award for Chemistry of Materials, insists his work is actually so simple to comprehend that not only can his undergraduate and graduate students get it, but high school students as well.

And that’s exactly what the California NanoSystems Institute (CNSI) put to the test on Feb. 25 when they hosted some 20 Southern California high school teachers at a workshop dedicated to Kaner’s research on nanowire sensors.

(All CGI trainees volunteer with the CNSI High School Nanoscience program and teach nanoscience experiments to high school teachers throughout the academic year. The teachers receive kits which allows them to take the experiments back to their respective classrooms.)