Summer Research Experience for Teachers

In the summer of 2009, the following teachers joined the MRSEC team:

Pam Rasmussen, Raymond Central High School
worked with Jeff Shield, Mechanical Engineering.

“Each year I gain new insights as to how I can apply my summer research to the classroom. This summer I realized just how tightly chemistry is connected to nano-magnetic materials. I will be able to better foster student understanding of electron configurations and their importance, when I can relate those configurations to magnetic materials.”


Nicholas Reding, Papillion - La Vista High School
worked with Stephen Ducharme, Physics.

“This summer I am continuing my work with the construction and testing of capacitors. Capacitors are devices used to store electric charge and can be simply described as two conducting electrodes separated by an insulator called a dielectric. The capacitors I am making consist of two aluminum electrodes about 50nm thick each and a 200nm thick layer of paraffin as the dielectric. My main focus is to study the properties of the capacitors by observing any change in capacitance while adjusting voltage, frequency, and temperature. Some samples also have the addition of titanium dioxide nanoparticles. These particles range in size from 13nm to as small as 2nm in diameter and may influence the electric field between the aluminum electrodes.”


Steven Wignall, Seward High School
worked with Steve Ducharme, Physics.

“This summer I continued with the Educational Outreach to inform Educators on ways to implement Nanotechnology into their classrooms. This was accomplished through a workshop with Professor Ducharme for Lincoln Public School Science Teachers, where we presented two of last summers classroom activities: Planck's Constant with LED's and Organic Solar Cells. Besides this, I began in a research project with Professor Ducharmes' group that involves creating polymer coated Barium Titanate nanoparticles. It is hoped that this new process of treating the Barium Titanate will lead to higher Permittivity and Dielectric Strength.”


Jeremy Scheffler, Pius X High School
worked with Axel Enders, Physics.

“My research this summer has focused on using Spartan ’08 computer software to perform calculations on molecules, including equilibrium geometry, energy, molecular orbitals, electron density, and electrostatic potential. My role has been to explore ways in which this software can be used to complement the scanning tunneling microscopy (STM) experiments on molecular and metallic nanostructures that are being conducted in the lab.
Our group focuses our attention on the study of complex organic and organometallic molecules on noble metal surfaces. Specifically, we use the STM to make measurements of how the molecules interact with one another individually and as bulk systems. These local measurements allow us to examine how characteristics such as charge density, bond lengths, molecular orbitals, binding energies, and protonation change locally.
Spartan is capable of performing calculations using numerous methods, including molecular mechanics, semi-empirical, Hartree-Fock, density functional, and Møller Plesset. Each of these methods has advantages and disadvantages that we hope to learn about in an attempt to support the experimental data with theoretical calculations.”


Michael Clark, Creighton Prep High School, Omaha
worked with Alexei Gruverman, Physics.

“This summer I performed my internship unto the tutelage of Dr. Alexei Gruverman. My internship was split up into four major areas. First, I designed and conducted high school student tours in conjunction with and funding from Dr. Li Tan whom I worked for the previous two summers via MRSEC. For the tour, students had an opportunity to travel from Omaha to Lincoln to visit four research labs at Nebraska MRSEC. The students were able to learn and participate in activities throughout the laboratories and garner a sharper focus regarding scientific research at the university level. The second, third, and fourth areas were all linked together and focused on research. The second area I was assigned was replicating and standardization of a protocol for fabrication of Langmuir-Blodett (L-B) films of poly vinylidene fluoride (PVF) on silicon wafers and platinum/silicon wafers for the Gruverman group. After learning a procedure from the Ducharme group, I was able to consistently obtain quality films for our group and write a clear procedure while training members of the Gruverman group to successful fabricate L-B films.
The third area I worked on this summer was analyzing the silicon wafers with the L-B films using atomic force microscopy machine (AFM). The Gruverman group trained me in correct usage of the AFM machine to analyze and interpret the films I created for Dr. Gruverman's overall research aim. The fourth area I focused on this summer was observing and understanding the basic concepts behind PFM (Piezoresponse Force Microscopy). Our goal on PFM was locating desirable areas for applying electric impulses and then analyzing those impulses for uniformity of charge.
Dr. Gruverman's overall research aim is to construct an information storage system that can accurately and cheaply store data at the nanoscale level. If this can be successfully accomplished, it would be possible to place an entire library's materials onto a device no larger than a flash drive.”