Nanotechnology: Mystery Science or Small Materials Doing Big Things?

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Course DatesLengthMeeting TimesStatusFormatInstructor(s)CRN
June 28, 2021 - August 11, 20216/28 - 8/116 WeeksOnlineOpenOnlineThomas Webster

Course Description

This is a Course-based Research Experience (CRE) class that will provide students with the chance to propose, design, and conduct their own research projects, working on topics and seeking answers to questions that are currently unknown to science.

Ever hear of nanotechnology? The science of small things? Think of designing and making materials a billion times smaller than the diameter of one piece of the hair on your head ! Then, think of using these materials to build an elevator to the moon, fight cancer, create T-shirts that only display logos when outside, make stronger tennis balls and bikes, or improve solar panel energy efficiency. That is nanotechnology and it is revolutionizing the world. In a field that dates back to ancient Egyptians who used nanoparticles to make colorful pottery to today developing nanorobots that can roam your body monitoring disease, nanotechnology is at the forefront of every scientist’s mind.

In this course, you will make nanomaterials and explore why they are so exciting to so many fields. This course will allow students to learn the fundamentals of nanotechnology and what makes them so special for so many applications, from medicine to energy. Students will participate in interactive lectures learning the fundamental and applied science behind nanotechnology. Fundamental science concepts such as chemical bonding, grain size, crystallinity, energy, physics, and chemistry will be combined as students make nanoparticles and explore the multitude of products that currently contain nanoparticles today. Throughout the course, students will be encouraged to develop new uses for nanomaterials for the future addressing a critical area of need of their choosing. Further, since nanoparticles are too small to see individually with the naked eye, students will also learn state-of-the-art nanoparticle characterization techniques that can help them characterize what they have made.

As a CRE, each student will answer their own research questions. Specifically, in this course, each student will design and fabricate nanomaterials that can address a significant problem in society today of their choosing (for example, global warming, improved disease detection and treatment, or lack of clean water). They will compare their nanotechnology solution to what is used today, developing advantages and disadvantages of their approach. Students will use the scientific process of developing a hypothesis, designing an experiment to make and test such nanoparticles, and analyze the results. Students will analyze and present their work to the class.

At the end of the course, the successful student will have learned the fundamental and applied science that goes into nanotechnology for a diverse range of applications. They will also have learned a number of laboratory techniques in making and characterizing nanoparticles for specific applications as well as how to design, execute, and analyze their own experiments. Further, through reading and analyzing journal articles, they will have learned state-of-the-art nanotechnology for addressing society’s largest concerns.

Students will be able to:

  • Understand what makes nanotechnology so unique for numerous applications
  • Use appropriate terms to discuss science advances
  • Complete literature reviews of current nanotechnology advances and be able assess their importance
  • Be able to critically evaluate new nanotechnology advances and propose their own
  • Utilize the scientific process to develop brand new nanomaterials to address a societal concern
  • Understand how to characterize nanomaterials
  • Maintain a laboratory notebook
  • Design experiments
  • Predict experimental outcomes
  • Critically analyze results
  • Effectively communicate scientific results both orally and in written format

Prerequisites: This course is open to advanced students 16 years of age and older who are rising juniors, seniors or will have recently graduated. Students will be most successful in this course if they have a strong interest in science and solving diverse real world problems using critical thinking, hypothesis driven experiments, and data analysis.

Course Information

  • Course Code: CECH0809

Program Information


Brown’s Pre-College Program in the liberal arts and sciences for students completing grades 9-12 by June 2021.

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