Partner Highlight: ECHO and UVM

Vrylena Olney

In 2008, Dennis Clougherty, a physics professor at the University of Vermont, called up nearby ECHO Lake Aquarium and Science Center to see if they’d be interested in working together to host a NanoDays event. In the three years since, ECHO and UVM have developed an ongoing partnership. I recently spoke with Linda Bowden at ECHO about their work together.

The partnership didn’t get started in time for the official week of NanoDays that year. Instead, Linda, Dennis, and Dave Hammond, the scientific electronics technician in the physics department, organized a series of monthly Exploring the Nano World talks to get ECHO guests up to speed with what nanoscience was all about. The talks, part of ECHO’s Meet the Scientist program, were geared toward children ten and up and included hands-on activities. Along with some of the NanoDays kit activities that the University acquired, Dennis brought equipment from the UVM physics department to explain the nanoscience topics, relating the program back to work happening in the lab. Linda and Dennis continued the collaboration that first year with a café scientifique titled Nanotechnology: Size Does Matter.

The next year they were ready to participate in the official NanoDays celebration. Linda, Dennis, and Dave organized a group of graduate students from the physics department to lead ECHO visitors through some hands-on activities from the NanoDays kit.

More recently, the team has worked to incorporate more of the research going on at UVM into NanoDays. This year, they mixed the lab equipment and activities with the NanoDays kit activities so visitors could explore the hands-on demos from the kit to pick up some basic nano concepts, learn about how those concepts are being applied in labs at UVM, and meet and talk to the local scientists.

These days, Linda says, “we’re calling each other all the time” and the UVM/ECHO partnership continues beyond nano. In January, Dave Hammond and students from the UVM physics club developed and presented activities addressing the physical properties of the lake and water for ECHO’s Lake Science program.  Dennis is now part of ECHO’s Science and Technology Committee, helping museum staff think about new kinds of adult science programming and exhibits. Finally, ECHO is working with several faculty members on the broader impacts requirements for NSF grants. In the words of Linda, “we have the expertise in delivering programs, plus the audience that is hungry for science, and they have the current scientific knowledge. It’s a win-win.”