Science of Nanoscale Systems and their Device Applications
Science of Nanoscale Systems and their Device Applications
Education and Human Resources

University Activities
Current and Planned


  • Kathryn Hollar, PhD, Director of Educational Programs, Division of Engineering & Applied Sciences
  • Robert Graham, Director, Gordon McKay Laboratory; Assistant Director, NSEC and MRSEC

Ongoing Internship opportunity: Graduate students: Interested in communicating the excitement and relevance of nanoscale science & engineering research to the public. Apply for 2-week internships at the Museum of Science, Boston. During the two weeks, you will work with with museum staff to develop a 15 minute presentation on nanoscale research suitable for presentation to museum audiences, and a 5-10 minute video story about your research. Internships are offered quarterly, and are open to Harvard graduate students, including first year students. Please contact Kathryn Hollar (hollar at to apply.

The NSEC actively promotes interdisciplinary education and research in nanoscale science and engineering. Center participants are actively involved in programs that engage the public, teachers, students, and young scientists and engineers in the excitement of

Presentation Skills Workshop at the Museum of Science, Boston
REU participant Brandi Coleman receives feedback on how to present her work from REU and RET participants and Carol Lynn Alpert at a presentation skills workshop at the Museum of Science, Boston.
scientific discovery and increase awareness of the impact of scientific research on their daily lives. Our broad goals as a Center are to increase public engagement in and awareness of advances in nanoscale science and engineering, and to promote career advancement for a diverse group of young scientists who represent the future of science and engineering. We continue to enhance and expand existing programs and collaborations that address the needs of a diverse population.

Public Presentations-Holiday Science Lecture for Children

2004 Holiday 'Unique Properties of Polymers' Lecture.
Howard Stone and Kathryn Hollar, with assistance from a young audience member, explain the unique properties of polymers during the 2004 Holiday Lecture.
Each year, Professor Howard Stone and colleagues develop and deliver a Holiday family science presentation. This children- and family-friendly science presentation is modeled after the Christmas Lectures first presented by Michael Faraday at the Royal Institution. This year's lecture, A Playground of Polymers: From strings & worms to bouncing balls & glowing goo, was attended by over 160 children and adults, and was heavily publicized in local newspapers, at the Museum of Science, Boston, and among the community of science teachers we work with in the greater Boston area.


Pre-College Activities-Project TEACH

Robert Westervelt demonstrates rotational motion during Project TEACH.
Robert Westervelt demonstrates rotational motion during Project TEACH.

NSEC faculty share their enthusiasm for science through Project TEACH (The Educational Activities of Cambridge and Harvard). This early college awareness program is a joint effort of the MRSEC, the NSEC based at Harvard, and the Harvard Office of Community Affairs. Coordinated with the Cambridge Public Schools, Project TEACH brings each 7th grade class (approximately 500 students) from the Cambridge Public School District to Harvard University throughout the school year. During the visit, students receive information about college admissions, and learn about college life from Harvard undergraduates. The class visit culminates in an interactive science presentation by a NSEC faculty on his or her research and its societal benefits. We continue this relationship with the Cambridge Public Schools at the high school level through our collaboration with the GK12 program, as discussed below.

RET Program

The NSEC, in collaboration with an REU/RET Site in Materials Research and Engineering, hosted 7 teachers in 2004. These teachers work side-by-side with faculty, postdoctoral researchers, graduate students, and REU participants on research or science curriculum projects. Teachers commit to 6-8 weeks during the summer, and are invited for a second summer to refine educational modules that are developed as a result of their research experience.

RET participants also attend weekly seminars on research topics and on research ethics. The integrated nature of RET and REU activities, particularly the faculty seminars during the summer, provide ample opportunity for teachers to explore development of small classroom modules based on seminar content. Howard Stone's seminar on "Unintended Consequences of Research" was particularly amenable to conversion to the high school classroom, as it presented the progression of science as a nonlinear process that includes many reversals and rewritings, in contrast to the often cut-and-dried presentation in many textbooks. As a result, several teachers adapted this material for their classrooms.

Robert Westervelt demonstrates rotational motion during Project TEACH.
Howard Stone (left) engages RET and REU students in a discussion of the unintended consequences of scientific research; Eric Mazur (center) and postdoc Veronica McCauley discuss projects with RET participants Chris Clements and Bryan Menegoni; and RET Chris Clements (right) presents the results of his summer research project at the LIFT2 Externship Expo at the Intel Campus in Marlborough, MA.


In addition to weekly Wednesday afternoon research and ethics seminars that were part of the REU/RET program, RET participants met once weekly over lunch to discuss informally their research projects and how to best relate their summer research project to their curricula. The summer research experience for teachers culminated in a poster session. Teachers took these posters back to their classrooms to give students an introduction to scientific research, and to emphasize that science and engineering careers are accessible, interesting, and that science and engineering profoundly affect everyday life. These posters have also served as the basis for talks at regional and national conferences for teachers and faculty. To date, 4 of the 7 teachers from the 2004 program have shared their research experience with a larger audience of teachers. Additionally, materials developed by teachers can be accessed at our RET website. Participant and project information can be found in Table 1.

Teacher Professional Development

During the 2004-2005 school year, the Center is also co-sponsoring a Nano- and Meso-Scale Science Seminar Series for Cambridge science teachers. Through a collaboration with the GK12 Program (PI John Hutchinson) of the Division of Engineering and Applied Sciences at Harvard and the Cambridge Public Schools, we have developed a seminar series for teacher professional development and infusion of the K12 science curriculum with inquiry-based modules that derived from ongoing research at the Center.

Soft lithography presentation by RET participant Colleen O'Shell and graduate student Logan McCarty.
RET participant Colleen O'Shell and graduate student Logan McCarty present their project on soft lithography at a teacher professional development seminar.
Teachers receive in a resource notebook to take back to their classrooms and use for future activities. The seminar series is also an opportunity for participants in our NSEC RET program to present their research to colleagues and receive feedback during the school year as they continue to refine classroom modules.

This program also enriches our collaboration with the Museum of Science, Boston. The materials developed for this seminar will be further refined and disseminated through a Nanotechnology Symposium for teachers at the Museum of Science, Boston in November 2005. Director of Educational Programs Kathryn Hollar and RET Christina Talbot are on the planning committee for this symposium.


Undergraduate Activities-REU Program

The NSEC has increased the number of REU participants by substantial supplemental funding from the Division of Engineering and Applied Sciences (DEAS), Harvard College, and the Rowland Institute at Harvard (Frans Spaepen, Director). An NSF-funded REU/RET Site in Materials Research (PI, Cynthia Friend) has also allowed us to expand our professional development opportunities for participants, including an ethics component. We visit colleges and conferences to recruit for our REU program each year.

Soft lithography presentation by RET participant Colleen O'Shell and graduate student Logan McCarty.
Kathryn Hollar meets with former REU participants at the joint NSBP/NSHP annual conference.
The enhanced infrastructure provided by the REU/RET Site Program has allowed us to expand the program of professional development workshops, faculty seminars, and social and cultural activities that are designed to create community among participants and research advisors. The summer 2005 schedule can be found at the eduprograms site.

One goal of our REU program is to develop essential skills in approaching and conducting research responsibly, and also in communicating effectively with scientists and the public. In collaboration with the Museum of Science, Boston, we developed a presentation skills workshop for REU and RET participants. During this workshop, students observe a public presentation at the Current Science & Technology Center at the Museum, are given guidelines on how to present complex scientific concepts, then discuss their final presentation drafts in small groups. This workshop is then followed by evening practice sessions in the week prior to the final symposium. This format is very effective in increasing the confidence of these young scientists and engineers in discussing science with their peers and mentors, and is particularly valuable for students for whom English is a second language. Students also receive individual mentoring on their final papers.

Kit (Kevin) Parker describes his path to becoming a faculty member at Harvard.
Kit (Kevin) Parker describes his path to becoming a faculty member at Harvard, including his service in the military in Afghanistan, as Dr. S. Allen Counter, REU participants and mentors listen at a luncheon sponsored by the Harvard Foundation for Intercultural and Racial Relations.


In addition to the end-of-summer research symposium, mentors are encouraged to seek out opportunities for their students to participate in professional meetings. From the 2004 program, at least 3 students have presented their research in national venues and over 15 students have attended national or local conferences or workshops at the suggestion of faculty. This type of early exposure to the professional life of an academic is essential in encouraging young scientists and engineers to continue in academia.

Cynthia Friend shares goals of the REU program with mentors at a luncheon.
Cynthia Friend shares goals of the REU program with mentors at a luncheon.


Mentoring an REU student is a valuable professional development opportunity for a graduate student or postdoctoral researcher, allowing this population to explore effective models for project management. To enhance this experience for mentors, we are currently implementing a series of program preparation sessions with REU mentors. New mentors participate in a series of luncheons in which faculty and other experienced mentors share strategies for mentoring undergraduate students, including planning a realistic project, modifying project goals, effectively managing time, and motivating students to work independently and as part of a team.

Graduate Activities-Course Development

Assistant Professor Jennifer Hoffman presents her research during AP298r.
Assistant Professor Jennifer Hoffman presents her research during AP298r.

In addition to the mentoring and professional development activities embedded in our other educational programs, graduate and advanced undergraduate students participate in AP298r, Interdisciplinary Chemistry, Engineering and Physics, an interdisciplinary graduate survey course of ongoing research at the Center. Course requirements include a paper and oral presentation on one of the topics. Course handouts and faculty presentations can be downloaded.


Postdoctoral Fellowships

NSEC Postdoctoral Fellow Dr. Amy Prieto explains her research.
NSEC Postdoctoral Fellow Dr. Amy Prieto explains her research while microscopist Dr. David Bell gives students from Boston English High School a recent tour of shared facilities.

These Fellows are integrated into the research and educational community of the NSEC, and connections with faculty and institutes across the university are facilitated through this program. Access to research facilities and educational and professional development opportunities helps develop a strong pool of well-prepared researchers for faculty positions and the scientific community. These Postdoctoral Fellows include: Vidya Ramaswamy (Advisor Michael Aziz, is now at General Electric); Amy Prieto (Advisor Hongkun Park, will begin faculty position at Colorado State University in Fall 2005); Laurie Calvet (Advisor Marc Kastner, MIT, is now in postdoctoral position in Paris, France); Heather Tavernier (Advisor Moungi Bawendi, MIT); Mark Bray (Advisor Kevin (Kit) Parker).

For information about Nanoscale Science and Engineering related courses at Harvard visit:



  Last Modified May 29, 2008 by the NSEC Office.