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Presentations and Curriculum Discussions with Teachers at Local Schools

Graduate Student Speaker Series

Presentations and Curriculum Discussions with Teachers at Local Schools

The Graduate Student Speaker Series (GS3) was launched in 2014 with two aims: to provide Northwestern Ph.D. candidates with an avenue for practicing their skills in communicating their research to a non-expert audience, and to help local high school STEM teachers stay up-to-date on the cutting-edge research being conducted at Northwestern. The program organizes visits from graduate students to local schools to talk about their research with small groups of teachers. The research presentations can be adjusted to fit the time available (20-45 minutes presentations) and are followed by questions and a discussion with the teachers about how the research content fits into their curriculum. We are primarily targeting graduate students who were fellows in either Reach for the Stars or Ready Set Go (RSG) to provide an opportunity for them to continue applying the teaching and communication skills that they developed in either of these programs.

If you are a graduate student who would like to practice your communication skills in a local high school, or a Chicagoland-area teacher or administrator who would like to bring GS3 to your school, contact the program coordinator Michelle Paulsen at m-paulsen@northwestern.edu.

GS3 is supported by CIERA, the National Science Foundation, Northwestern University’s Office for Research, the Graduate School at NorthwesternOSEP, and The Alumnae of Northwestern.

 

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Speaker Biographies

Adebola Adeniran

Chemical Engineering

Have you ever thought of using yeast cells as a medical diagnosic? Adebola’s research focuses on training yeast cells to sense urinary proteins and then change color when a certain protein is present. She is particularly interested in detecting a urinary protein that indicates how well kidneys are functioning.
Jessica Perez

Chemical Engineering

Synthetic biology is an emerging field dedicated to designing biological systems to have new functions such as producing therapeutic drugs and biofuels. In Jessica’s presentations you will learn the most exciting discoveries in this field and be introduced to a genetic engineering card game and other NGSS-compliant synthetic biology lesson plans.
Jessica Stark

Chemical Engineering

Proteins are the workhorses of cells, and can have many diverse functions. In some cases, proteins gain new functions through chemical changes called post-translational modifications (PTM). Jessica will introduce several types of PTMs, learn how they differ in terms of their chemistries and how they impact protein function, and introduce a hands-on, inquiry-based activity to identify mystery PTMs.
Nick Thornburg

Chemical Engineering

Catalysts are advanced materials that accelerate chemical reactions without themselves being consumed, playing a central role in >90% of chemical manufacturing processes. Nick’s presentations will highlight current research in catalysis and classroom demonstrations for introducing basic catalyst concepts for introductory or advanced chemistry courses.
Victoria Weidner

Chemistry

Vicki’s research involves making catalysts – complexes that chemists use to make reactions proceed faster and more efficiently. She is using lanthanide metals to replace expensive platinum-type metals for making small molecules that are relevant to drug synthesis.
Bernard Beckerman

Materials Science

On the ingredients list of the human body, the first two words are water and protein. To learn how humans are different from a cup of water, Bernard’s presentations will merge physics, chemistry, biology, and computation to explore what proteins are, and what happens when we mess with them.
Fernando Castro

Materials Science

Lithium-ion batteries are commonplace in today’s electronics, but there is still a lot of room for improvement. Fernando’s research focuses on studying the structure-property relationships in new conversion reaction battery materials that could lead to high-performance batteries for use in future applications, like renewable energy storage.
Matt Peters

Materials Science

Despite being one of the first sciences studied, materials science is often overshadowed by more popular fields, leaving many unaware of its existence. During Matt’s talks, you will learn about the fascinating world of new materials, and how this field has helped define both the world we walk on and what we put in our mouths.
Jessica Lenoir

Molecular Biology

During viral infections, cells mount and manage an inflammatory response (similar to a burglar alarm) that helps recruit additional proteins to fight off the infection. Jessica’s research studies the management of the antiviral response by cells and how protein-protein interactions can lead to new therapeutics for viral infections and autoimmune diseases such as lupus (SLE) and type I diabetes.
Saoirse McSharry

Molecular Biology

The many tubes inside of human bodies carry out critical processes like nutrient uptake and gas exchange. If these tubes aren’t the right sizes, however, serious diseases can result. Using the fruit fly, Saoirse studies how the sizes of these tubes are regulated by genetics and protein dynamics.
Peter Ashton

Physics and Astronomy

Interstellar dust is the catalyst for chemistry in space, the material from which stars and planets are formed, and (frustratingly) a significant impediment to observing the distant universe. Peter’s research aims to put observational constraints on dust properties by building and using data from high-altitude balloon-borne telescopes.
Zachary Hafen

Physics and Astronomy

Zach researches the universe by making “virtual galaxies”: computer-simulated galaxies that look and act like real galaxies. He shares with teachers how virtual galaxies extend our reach into space, and brings the essence of simulation-based research into the classroom via hands-on demos.
Sadie Witkowski

Psychology

Sadie is fascinated by how memories are strengthened and changed during sleep. Her primary focus is on how humans can use sleep to make our memories easier to recall and more accurate. She is constantly looking to investigate how sleep alters many of humanity’s physical functions and mental experiences in all sorts of contexts.

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