Skip to main content

Newsletter: May 2016

Welcome to the May e-newsletter for the National Informal STEM Education (NISE) Network and community.

  • Community News - "NanoDays Collection" printed book shipping soon to active NISE Network partners in the US, New opportunity! Forum stipend available for Building with Biology kit recipients, Building with Biology updates, National Informal STEM Education (NISE) Network transition
  • Upcoming Events - NISE Network at the Association of Children's Museums (ACM) Interactivity conference, Upcoming online workshops: Staying connected to the Network and community, Interested or involved in live public science events?
  • Featured on the Website - NISE Network Program Development: A Guide to Creating Effective Learning Experiences for Public Audiences, NanoDays: A NISE Network Guide to Creating Activity Kits, Building Communities, and Inspiring Learning
  • Science in the News - Bio Focus: Light-activated quantum dots kill antibiotic resistant superbugs; Test of Zika-fighting genetically engineered mosquitoes get tentative F.D.A. approval; Stephen Hawking, Mark Zuckerberg to launch nano spacecraft Breakthrough Starshot into deep space
  • Nano Throughout the Year   
NanoDaysThe NISE Network will soon be shipping a box of printed and digital materials to selected active NISE Network partner museums and universities located in the US. The NISE Network leadership wants to thank partner organizations for your involvement with the Nanoscale Informal Science Education Network (NISE Net) and for all your efforts to engage public audiences in nanoscale science, engineering and technology over the past years. We are pleased to share a compendium of all the NanoDays activities developed over the past ten years. For most partner organizations, we are only mailing one box, so please share these resources with your colleagues and local collaborators.
Building with Biology
We are excited to announce a new stipend opportunity for recipients of the Building with Biology 2016 physical kit to host a public forum in connection with your planned event. Public forums offer the opportunity to engage in thoughtful conversations with scientists about important issues regarding the potential societal and ethical implications of synthetic biology. A limited number of stipends in the amount of $1,200 are available for sites to host a Building with Biology forum. Forums, facilitated by educators, are designed to have scientists participate alongside members of the public.
  • The forum stipend deadline is May 31st. Read the Forum Stipend Overview for more details on the forums, eligibility, evaluation and reporting requirements and application process. 
  • Watch a recording of the April 28th webinar, Engaging Audiences in Science through Building with Biology Public Forums, which provides an overview of the two Building with Biology forum options, and discusses the stipend and its evaluation requirements. 
 Building with Biology updates
Building with Biology
The Building with Biology 2016 physical kit is shipping in June! We'll be hosting a webinar on June 21st, What's in Your Building with Biology Kit [register now], to help get host sites acquainted with all the educational and professional development resources provided in the kit.
Check out the newest updates and additions to the Building with Biology website! 
  • Watch our newest video, Introduction to Synthetic Biology and Society, which is designed to help create conversations in museums among scientists and public audiences about the emerging field of synthetic biology and its societal implications (video also available with Spanish subtitles).
  • The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) is leading Building with Biology project orientations for scientist volunteers focused on science communication best practices.
  • Get a sneak peak at the Building with Biology hands-on activities on the Kit Contents page.
  • The forum, Should We Engineer the Mosquito?, and it's resources are available on the Forums page to download.
  • Check out our new Blog for project announcements and highlights.
 National Informal STEM Education (NISE) Network transition
Wondering about the Network transition? Read more now.

If you're attending this month's ACM conference, we hope that you'll stop by the NISE Network booth (#11) in the exhibit hall, say hello and learn about new Network project opportunities coming down the pipeline. Network partners will also be featured in the following sessions: Museums and Community Partnerships: Leveraging Resources and Increasing Impact (5/5; 9:00-10:15 AM) and Tools for Collaboration: Increasing Your Museum's Local Impact Through Partnerships (5/5; 10:30-11:45 AM).

 Upcoming online workshops: Staying connected to the Network and community
There is no charge to participate in any of these online workshops.
Building with Biology
The Building with Biology project is hosting online workshops and project orientations throughout April, May and June to provide support to Building with Biology 2016 host sites in preparation for summer events and forums.  
The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) will be hosting a series of upcoming online project orientations in May for Building with Biology host site staff and scientist volunteers. For more information on project orientations, visit
  • Host Site Overview - Communicating Synthetic Biology (for host site staff only) 
  • Building with Biology: Public Engagement Fundamentals (for scientists) 
  • Building with Biology: All about Audiences (for scientists) 
  • Building with Biology: Communicating Synthetic Biology (for scientists) 
Other Building with Biology online workshops include
  • 6/14: Evaluating the Public's Experience at Building with Biology Events (for host site staff) 
  • 6/21: What's in your Building with Biology Kit (for host site staff) 
  • 6/23: Evaluating Building with Biology Forums (for host site staff) 
In case you missed it: A recording of the following webinars and resources are available online at 
  • 4/28: Engaging Audiences in Science through Building with Biology Public Forums 
The International Public Science Events Conference (IPSEC) 2016 convenes June 13-14 at MIT in Boston, MA. If you're producing mission-driven public events, looking to improve your institution's strategy for public offerings, or needing inspiration on how to forge relationships with new audiences, consider joining other event organizers, producers, performers and researchers from across the country involved in public science events at this year's conference. 

  Nano News
The overuse and misuse of antibiotics has recently led to a global epidemic of multi-drug resistant bacteria, or "superbugs." In an effort to combat this growing concern, scientists at the University of Colorado Boulder have developed photoexcitable (meaning light-activated) quantum dots that effectively and specifically kill superbugs without harming mammalian cells. Quantum dots are semiconductor nanoparticles and are easy to modify and tailor, which is important considering how quickly pathogens evolve. More research needs to be conducted, however, on refining the design of the nanoparticle, as well as the potential toxicity to other healthy mammalian cells in the body.
  Synthetic Biology News
The threat of Zika virus spreading throughout the U.S. has sped up the approval process for a field trial in Key West to release genetically engineered mosquitoes. However, final approval for the trial is likely to take months and will not be made final until the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) receives and assesses comments from the public. The mosquitoes, developed by a British company, Oxitec, contain a gene that kills the insect. More specifically, male mosquitoes containing the gene are released to mate with wild females. Offspring from such matings die before they reach adulthood suppressing the population of mosquitoes capable of spreading Zika and other diseases such as dengue fever and malaria. The FDA states that these genetically engineered mosquitoes are unlikely to cause harm to people because the male mosquitoes do not bite. However, this proposed field test has been met by some strong opposition from residents in the Key West communities. 
See related Building with Biology activities and programs
 Earth & Space Science News
Scientists and billionaire investors are teaming up to develop a new, tiny spacecraft that could potentially reach another solar system within the next 30 years. The Breakthrough Starshot project involves deploying small, light-propelled vehicles to carry equipment like cameras and communication equipment. These vehicles would eventually fly at 20 percent of the speed of light, more than 1,000 times faster than today's spacecraft. However, there are plenty of obstacles to overcome: surviving impact on launch, the punishing environment of interstellar space and dust collisions, technology, and money. Not to mention, should Breakthrough Starshot reach our neighboring star system and succeed in taking photographs, it would take another four years to transmit them back to Earth.
Take a look, it's in a book, National Children's Book Week festivities are happening in early May! It's also time to start gearing up for summer, sun and a lot of fun with hands-on nano activities. 
National Children's Book Week (May 2-8)
World Oceans Day (June 8)
For a list of nano activities for use throughout the year, see NISE Net's list of seasonal activities.


May 4 - 7 - Association of Children's Museums (ACM) - Norwalk, CT

June 13 - 14 - International Public Science Events Conference - Boston, MA

July 19 - 23 - Visitor Studies Association (VSA) - Boston, MA

September 24 - 27 - Association of Science Technology Centers (ASTC) Annual Conference 2016 - Tampa, FL - Registration now open


Facebook          Twitter           LinkedIn

NISE Net      Explore Science      Building with Biology     sustainABLE

Do you have something you would like to submit for inclusion in the NISE Network monthly e-newsletter? Please send your announcements, articles, or community opportunities to Kayla Berry at