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Nano Bite: December 2014

Welcome to the December Nano Bite, the monthly e-newsletter for the Nanoscale Informal Science Education Network (NISE Net).

  • NISE Net News and Announcements - Just a Few Days Left to Apply for Your NanoDays 2015 Physical Kit!; What's Nano about Light?; NISE Net Partners Learn-by-Doing the MOS "Sharing Science Workshop & Practicum" with Grad Students in Boston
  • Upcoming Events! - Stay Connected! Join One of Our Free Online Brown-Bag Conversations; 2014 MRS Fall Meeting
  • Featured on the Website - NISE Network Impacts: Report to Partners
  • Partner Highlight - A Bi-Polar Affair Captivates Visitors with EnLIGHTening Nanoscale Science
  • Nano in the News - "Invisibility Cloak" Uses Lenses to Bend Light; Surpassing the Limitations of the Light Microscope
Just a Few Days Left to Apply for Your NanoDays 2015 Physical Kit!
Applications for a 2015 NanoDays Physical Kit are due Monday, December 1st (learn more).

What's Nano about Light?
The United Nations has declared that 2015 is the International Year of Light (IYL) and Light-Based Technologies. This global initiative helps to highlight for the public the importance of light and optical technologies in ones' everyday life and it's role in the development of society and the future. Endorsed by the International Council of Science, the International Year of Light 2015 has more than 100 partners from more than 85 countries!

Are you looking for ways to get involved?
NISE Network Partners Learn by Doing the "Sharing Science Workshop & Practicum" in Boston at the Museum of Science
Partners flew in from southern Mississippi, Montana, California, North Carolina, Ohio, and New York to participate in the Network's "Sharing Science Workshop & Practicum," a professional development program in nanoscale informal science and education for early career researchers. With the goal of implementing their own professional development workshop at their institution in the coming year, NISE Net partners met a day early to share their career stories, organizational profiles, professional agendas, and learn the process of the Sharing Science Workshop & Practicum. Then the next day, seven informal science educators got to roll up their sleeves alongside the 14 Harvard and MIT graduate students to "share science with hands-on demos" on the exhibit floor for a two-hour NanoDays-style-hands-on-palooza with museum visitors! Read the full blog post for more about the workshop.

Workshop materials, videos, and more resources are available for free online at
Stay Connected! Join One of Our Free Online Brown-Bag Conversations

The International Year of Light 2015 - What's Nano about Light?
Thursday, December 4, 2014: 3 pm - 4 pm ET
Interested in learning what's nano about light, have questions about the science behind NISE Net's light-related NanoDays activities, or want to learn how to take advantage of the International Year of Light 2015 to bring new scientists into your organization and expand your outreach partners? Join us for this conversation to learn just what is nano about light and when you sign up, vote for the NISE Net activity you want to learn more about. Come see things in an all new light! [
Sign up]

Engaging Younger Audiences with Nanoscale Science
Thursday, December 11, 2014: 2 pm - 3 pm ET

Really tiny and constantly in motion! This discussion will offer tips, tricks, and real-life stories for tackling nanoscience in children's museums. Join us as NISE Net partners discuss their experiences and strategies for working with younger audiences and some of the NanoDays activities they've found work best with this age group. Questions, welcomed! [
Sign up]

Nano 101 - How to Introduce the Smallest Science
Wednesday, January 14, 2015: 2 pm - 3 pm ET
How can you present the basics of nano in just an hour or two? Join this discussion to learn how your colleagues introduce nano. We'll share our favorite examples, activities, and videos, and we welcome you to bring your own ideas and questions. [Sign up]

2014 MRS Fall Meeting is taking place in Boston November 30 through December 5. For a detailed list of professional development opportunities, sessions, and events of potential interest to NISE Network partners, please go to
  • NISE Network Impacts: Report to Partners - a NISE Net report (2005-2014) that provides an overview of the major activities of the Network and highlights our collective accomplishments related to building collaborations, engaging the public, and increasing the capacity of the field. The report also looks ahead to sustaining the Network beyond 2015. Included in the Report are three related projects: a printed report, a set of presentation slides, and a partner testimonial video.
A Bi-Polar Affair Captivates Visitors with EnLIGHTening Nanoscale Science
By Luke Donforth, The University of Vermont

The University of Vermont (UVM) Physics Department and ECHO Lake Aquarium and Science Center have a long collaborative relationship, through which the NISE Network has provided an excellent framework to help strengthen and deepen. Although an institution of formal learning, UVM values and contributes to informal education in the surrounding community.

Recently, the UVM Physics Department and ECHO received a NISE Net mini-grant to develop a daylong event outside the purview of NanoDays. ECHO focuses on the Lake Champlain watershed, and the Physics Department wanted to show how basic science is a useful tool for investigating, understanding, and caring for the lake and world around us. Light, and specifically polarization, gave us a unifying theme to bring a number of activities and concepts to ECHO. Visible light, something most museum visitors have experience with, has wavelengths in the hundreds of nanometers. This provides a comfortable entry point to familiarize visitors with "nano," and from there we can highlight how interacting with light at the length scale of its wavelength allows us to investigate both light and the world around us.

The two institutions complement each other wonderfully, with UVM bringing students, staff, and professors to facilitate NanoDays activities and giving lectures; and ECHO for providing a comfortable forum for the public to interact with scientists, as well as training for those researchers on how to engage with the public. The public benefits from a deeper understanding of the science around them, and the scientists benefit from improved communication skills and a chance to share their passion about science with over 400 visitors.

To learn more about this collaborative event, or how polarized light is used to monitor invasive species, read the full Partner Highlight. You can also check out a video walking tour of the days activities and watch the public talk.
"Invisibility Cloak" Uses Lenses to Bend Light
The fictional Harry Potter may have been the one to make invisibility cloaks fashionable, but a physics professor, John Howell, and graduate student, Joseph Choi, from the University of Rochester just made "cloaking" a little more realistic and tangible. The Rochester Cloak [see the full University of Rochester Press Release] is the latest scientific effort to overcome some of the limitations of previous devices and uses inexpensive, readily available off-the-shelf materials in a novel configuration.
Previous cloaking devices required that the viewer and the object being cloaked remained still, but for the first time, University of Rochester researchers have made the "first device that can do three-dimensional, continuous multi-directional cloaking." Using a combination of four standard lenses, the cloak bends light and sends it through the device keeping the object hidden from the viewer. This cloaking device has the ability to be scaled up as large as the size of the lenses and works for the whole visible spectrum of light, rather than only for specific frequencies.
So what are the possible implications of cloaking technology like this one? Dr. Howell, the researcher who led this effort, believes that cloaking could be effective at allowing a surgeon to "look through their hands" to what they are operating on, or allow truck drivers to see through their blind spots while driving. Follow these simple steps to build your own Rochester Cloak, and watch a basic demonstration on option cloaking!

See related NISE Net activities and programs
  • Exploring Nano & Society-Invisibility Cloak - a NISE Net hands-on activity that demonstrates the scientific principles of light and refraction, making things appear to disappear.
  • Invisibility Cloak - a NISE Net short film that explores the idea of invisibility cloaks and how this potential technology could impact society.
Surpassing the Limitations of the Light Microscope

Recently presumed scientific limitation stipulating that an optical microscope would never be able to yield a resolution better than 0.2 micrometers (i.e., roughly half the wavelength of light) has been disproven. With the help of fluorescent molecules, the Nobel Laureates in Chemistry 2014 have circumvented this limitation bringing optical microscopy into the nanodimension. Nanoscropy is a technique in which scientists visualize the pathways of individual molecules inside living cells; seeing and understanding brain synapses, tracking proteins involved in Parkinson's, Alzheimer's and Huntington's diseases, and following individual proteins in fertilized eggs as they divide into embryos.


Through two different techniques, the Nobel Laureates have used fluorescent molecules to peer into the nanoworld. The first method, stimulated emission depletion (STED) microscopy, uses laser beams to stimulate fluorescent molecules to glow, providing the ability to gain imagery resolution on the nanoscale. The second method, single-molecule microscopy, allows scientists to turn the fluorescence of individual molecules on and off. By imaging areas multiple times and superimposing, this yields image resolution on the nanoscale. For more information and detail on the work of the Nobel Laureates, see the Press Release or Popular Science Background.


See related NISE Net activities and programs

  • Making Molecular Movies with QSTORM - a NISE Net public presentation that details the on-going interdisciplinary research project of scientists and engineers who are collaborating to make a breakthrough in biological imaging.   
Did you know that a "Hello, world!" computer program has become the traditional first program that many people are introduced to when learning a programming language because it is simple enough that people with no experience with computer programming can understand it. Computer Science Education Week and Hour of Code is taking place the second week in December, and what a great opportunity to introduce your visitors to concepts of computer science!

Some related NISE Net activities and programs that may also be of interest for Computer Science Education Week, include:
For a list of nano activities for use throughout the year, see NISE Net’s list of seasonal activities.


Follow the NISE Net on Social Media!

Read the Nano Bite e-newsletter online at /newsletter/nano-bite-december-2014.

Do you have something you would like to submit for inclusion in the NISE Network Nano Bite monthly e-newsletter? Please send your announcements, articles, or community acknowledgements to Kayla Berry, NISE Net Coordinator, at [email protected].