New Perspectives in Science Education

Edition 13

Accepted Abstracts

Strategies and Methods for Improving Understanding of Advanced Concepts in Introductory Nanotechnology Course

Daniela Topasna, Virginia Military Institute (United States)


Nanoscience and nanotechnology represent a rapidly developing field, highly complex and interdisciplinary, that seeks to understand and manipulate structures at the nanometer level. We present a selection of methods of instruction that are used in the undergraduate nanotechnology introductory course. The goal is to help students with any learning style (aural, kinesthetic, or visual) to comprehend and retain the new material and to be engaged during class. The course is offered as a technical elective with introductory physics as prerequisite. Enrolled students come from various STEM disciplines and at various stages in their education. The topics that are usually covered include fabrication and characterization techniques, nanostructures, biomimetic concepts, and social and ethical implications. Each time the class is offered, it is adapted to existing resources and to students’ educational backgrounds and interests. Therefore, we include specific activities to supplement the lectures, such as combination of short exercises, videos, discussions of new developments and career opportunities, applications, demos and lab activities, and visits to research labs. These types of activities help to engage students and facilitate their understanding of new and complex topics. Several assignments require students to produce reports and presentations. Ultimately, these activities enhance their writing and communication skills. We envision that similar approaches can be used in other courses, such as modern physics, quantum, optics, and with careful selection, even in the introductory physics classes.

Keywords: higher education, nanotechnology, class activities, communication skills, student engagement

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