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Nanogroup Teaches Science at Children’s Museum

Giant balloon towers stretched three stories high and filled the Children’s Museum of Houston for Nano Days.  

Dr. Birgit Mellis, assistant professor of physics in the Department of Chemistry and Physics, and her University of St. Thomas student team spent two days building the carbon nanotubes made out of balloons for Nano Days on March 25-April 2.

The aim of Nano Days is to educate children about nanotechnology and its applications. UST students performed fun activities with children to facilitate the education process.

Fifteen students volunteered from the UST student chapter of the American Chemical Society and the nanogroup that includes students who work on nano research led by Mellis. Currently, Mellis conducts research in the field of nanomaterials, especially with gold and other metal nanoparticles.

In addition to balloons structure, UST students built models of buckyballs that consist of 60 carbon atoms and made nanostructure butterfly wings shine bright.

“It is really fun and interesting to introduce children to this kind of science topic,” Mellis said. “Children were asking questions and were responding positively to the nanoscience activities.” 

Children learned how to interact with invisible things under the guidance of junior, Biology major Elizabeth Maccato. She volunteered at the station where bright, blue colored butterfly wings exposed their nano structure by turning colorless if a flashlight illuminated them from below.  

“Most of human inspiration in creating nano structures comes directly from nature, where many types of nano structures exist, for example letting gecko feet attach to any surface,” Maccato said.

This annual event also included students from other universities, including University of Houston and Rice University. 

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The University of St. Thomas, dedicated to educating leaders of faith and character, is a private institution committed to the liberal arts and to the religious, ethical and intellectual tradition of Catholic higher education. St. Thomas is Houston’s only Catholic University and was founded by the Basilian Fathers in 1947.


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