Teachers experience firsthand cutting-edge research

It’s not every day that a person gets to see something levitate, unless of course, that person knows Washington University’s Ken Kelton.

Kelton, PhD, the Arthur Holly Compton Professor in Arts & Sciences, recently invited a group of educators from the St. Louis chapter of the American Chemical Society for a talk and tour of his laboratory.

Kelton, along with help of two of his doctoral students Mark Johnson and Chris Pueblo, introduced the group to his electrostatic levitation device. The group witnessed the machine in action as it suspended a liquid substance in midair.

Two ACS group members watch as the electrostatic levitation device suspends a liquid sample in midair.

The group first heard Kelton talk in 2014 at a meeting at the Institute for School Partnership’s (ISP) MySci Resource Center. Afterward, they requested an encore presentation that would allow them to expand their knowledge and take it back to their students.

“I think that enabling teachers to see this type of work is important because it allows them to make the subject a little more alive,” Kelton said. “One teacher even requested to bring students into the lab.”

Kelton said that as a child his father took him to tour one of Dow Chemical’s lab spaces, an experience that set him on the path to being a scientist, and that he hopes allowing students to see his work will have similar effect that his experience did.

Moving forward, Kelton hopes to continue to work with the ISP to bring his work into the K-12 classroom. Kelton said that oftentimes, science fails to engage high school students but that his work with material sciences could spark an interest because of its tangible applications to the real world.

Victoria L. May, assistant dean of Arts & Sciences and executive director of the ISP, said that it is very important to bring the work of professors like Kelton to the K-12 community.

“Here at the university, we have a wealth of knowledge and talent,” May said. “Our work as an institute is to connect our faculty to the education community in order to help educators spark curiosity in their students and empower them to take learning to a deeper level.”

June 2015   |   by, Gennafer Barajas

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