By Will Rosenthal
This summer, I was given the privilege of attending the UCLA Summer Session Nanoscience Lab Summer Institute. The Nanoscience Lab Summer Institute is a week long program at UCLA where students are given the opportunity to perform experiments and listen to lectures relating to nanoscience, all while bonding with each other.
Because I was going to stay at the UCLA student dorm during the Nanoscience Lab Summer Institute, my parents and I drove up to Los Angeles early one day so that I could get acclimated to my new dorm room. After meeting my roommate, I said goodbye to my parents, and headed over to the orientation for all of the Nanoscience students. The orientation included a short tour of the UCLA campus as well as a review of the rules that we would need to follow for the week. Later that evening, the three UCLA graduate students who were in charge of the students when we were not at the nanoscience lab, took our entire group to downtown Westwood. Every night after that, we had the choice of going to Westwood, the gym, the pool, or staying back in the dorms (and even one night, the planetarium) after dinner.
On the first day of class, we met our instructor, Dr. Jia Chen, who was in charge of the nanoscience program. Dr. Chen dove head first into nanoscience, and soon, I was busy taking copious notes and writing equations in my notebook. Each day, the class performed a different experiment relating to nanoscience, ranging from creating our own circuit boards, to developing a miniature version of a solar panel, to creating super hydrophilic and phobic (water “loving” and “fearing”) surfaces. We had different graduate students helping us through each of these experiments, and because each grad student was in the process of getting a PhD in a different area, we were able to ask them a variety of different questions, about college classes, or their graduate thesis. We also were extremely lucky in that we were able to have a different guest speaker (chemistry, nanotechnology and engineering professors or researchers at UCLA) each day. Each guest speaker lectured us on the “topic of the day,” whether it was biotoxicity, or super capacitors. Through these guest speakers, I was able to learn a great deal about all aspects of nanoscience, and its everyday uses.
Because the UCLA Nanoscience Lab Summer Institute was a rigorous program, Dr. Chen insisted that we have homework every night. Each night, we had to draw a picture representing one main idea from the topic of the day. When Dr. Chen first told us this, we all groaned, because it sounded pretty basic. But, Dr. Chen explained to us that when we became scientists, we would need to explain our ideas on a level that “ordinary” people could understand, in order to have these people support our research. With this satisfying explanation, we all set out eagerly, anxious to complete the homework, and get a perfect grade. However, this homework assignment was much more difficult than we expected. It was quite difficult developing an everyday analogy for biotoxicity and different antimicrobial nanoparticles, and how their forms and size affected their effectiveness on a fungi cell, while communicating the idea to people of all levels.
Throughout my week at the Nanoscience Lab, I was not only able to learn an incredible amount about Nanoscience, but I was also able to have a great deal of fun, and make some wonderful friends. The UCLA Nanoscience Lab Summer Institute is certainly something I would recommend to any young and aspiring scientist.