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Partner Highlight: NANOMonth: The Museum of Life and Science goes big on things that are really small

Brad Herring, Museum of Life and Science

On certain Saturdays throughout the year the Museum of Life and Science in Durham, NC, hosts local scientists in The Lab to show off some of their most recent research. For the entire month of February we partnered with Dr. Chih-Hao Chang to explore natural versus engineered nanostructures through a series of hands-on activities and a curated art installation. Dr. Chang is an associate professor of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at North Carolina State University and his research focuses on multifunctional nanostructured materials and nanomanufacturing. More simply put, many natural organisms have unique microscopic features, which reveal properties that aren’t observed in traditional materials. Observing these features has led to the field of biomimetics—where engineers take inspiration from biology to create new materials that can recreate these fascinating properties.









Each weekend throughout February Dr. Chang and his students joined our Lab facilitator in leading hands-on activities exploring natural and engineered nanostructures and their potential societal and ethical implications. Each lab was designed from a selection of activities from the NISE Net’s NanoDays kits covering the following content areas: Tiny Things, Animals, Plants and Nano and You. Having Dr. Chang and his students lead each of these activities allowed our visitors the opportunity to interact first hand with a nanoscientist and learn more about the exciting research happening right here in their community. Dr. Chang found this experience to be extremely valuable and an exciting way to engage the public in the research his lab is currently conducting.

“Working with the Museum of Life and Science has been a fantastic experience. We are able to interact with kids of all ages, and they really do ask the tough and interesting questions. It is also great to see all the parents and grandparents, who are so engaged and seem to be just as excited as the younger audience. A lot of amazing science and engineering can be found in nature, and we hope this experience can encourage the little ones to take a closer look.” – Chih-Hao Chang































In addition to these hands-on activities we worked with Dr. Chang to develop a curated art installation, Nanostructures: Nature vs. Engineering, to accompany our copy of the Nano exhibition. Dr. Chang curated a series of engineered nanostructure images using a scanning electron microscope, or SEM. These images were then paired with an image from nature along with a description illustrating nature’s inspiration for developing these new nanostructured materials. A selection of these images along with their nature inspired image and description are below.

























For more information on this art installation please feel free to contact Brad Herring at the Museum of Life and Science or Dr. Chih-Hao Chang at North Carolina State University. And for more information regarding the Nanomonth program please visit our website:

Below is a listing of the activities and resources we used for each themed week throughout Nanomonth and where you can find them on

Nano Engineering: Tiny Things

Nano & Nature: Animals

Nano & Nature: Plants

Nano & You