Program helps girls get WISE to nanotechnology

Program helps girls get WISE to nanotechnology

From the UIC News :

11/28/07 ~ Christy Blandford

UIC’s Women in Science and Engineering program is heading into cyberspace to teach girls about an emerging science field.The group’s Women in Nanotechnology program received a $50,000 grant from the Motorola Foundation to create an online mentoring network.

The network will connect girls in elementary through high school with nanotechnology professionals.

“Nanotechnology is changing everything in our world,” said Veronica Arreola, director of UIC’s WISE program.

“It really is a rapidly growing field. Part of our mission is to get our women and girls hooked into fields that are growing.”

The mentoring network will provide the girls with information on nanotechnology — the ability to manipulate materials on atomic or molecular scales to produce microscopic devises.

Nanotechnology is used in many consumer products, Arreola said.

“Nanotechnology is in our lipsticks, shampoos, sunscreens, our iPods — it touches everything,” she said.

“It’s definitely something where a girl could say: ‘I’m not really into science, but I want to have my own makeup line.’ Well, now you are into science.”

The mentoring program will be set up through a social networking site, similar to MySpace or Facebook, Arreola said, where girls can ask questions about nanotechnology or seek career advice.

“We see that online social networking is increasing — the MySpaces, the Facebooks really seem to be where the younger students are,” she said. “Instead of leading them to where we think they should be, we’d rather go to where they are.”

At first, the network will link girls in the Chicago area with Motorola professionals. But the program should eventually have a national scope, Arreola said.

The network is in its planning stages, but Arreola hopes to have it running in early 2008.

Women are well suited to work in nanotechnology, said G. Ali Mansoori, professor of bioengineering and chemical engineering.

Nanotechnology equipment requires great precision and accuracy, he said.

“I think there are probably more women than men in nanotechnology because women are so much more careful,” he said. “They do a better job of understanding nanotechnology.”

Mansoori teaches BIOE 494 and CHE 494, courses on atomic and molecular nanotechnology. He said about half of the students in the courses are women.

Cultivating an interest in nanotechnology among girls is important because the science is expected to be “the route to the next industrial revolution,” he said.

“It’s a new, evolving field that you see more women in,” he said.

“It’s a really important subject and it’s a developing subject.”