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May 29th, 2010

Science funding: Science for the masses

The US National Science Foundation's insistence that every research project addresses 'broader impacts' leaves many researchers baffled.

Nonetheless, there have been some successes. At Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, New York, for example, the NSF's Nanoscale Science and Engineering Center for Directed Assembly of Nanostructures sponsors the Molecularium project, which has produced teachers' materials on nanoscience and an animated three-dimensional IMAX film called Molecules to the Max. At the University of Wisconsin-Madison, microbial biochemist Douglas Weibel and his group have prepared a child-friendly, interactive display about microscopy that they exhibit every year at the university's one-day public science exposition. At Stanford University in California, chemical engineer Andrew Spakowitz spends two to three hours a week working with graduate and undergraduate students to provide workshops for patients at Stanford's Lucile Packard Children's Hospital, most of whom are unable to attend school. Spakowitz and his group create the workshops that cover topics such as pH and gravity, and lead the hands-on activities at the hospital.


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