Wednesday, June 04, 2014

My views on teaching "nano"

Blatant self-promotion time:  I was grateful for the invitation to write an editorial about teaching "nano" for Nature Nanotechnology.  The full text is available for free at the above link, and comments and feedback are invited below.  (As a blog reader, you get the added bonus of reading the analogy I made that was cut due to space constraints.  When I advise becoming an expert in a traditional discipline first before tackling an interdisciplinary field, I had written:  "To make a food analogy, it would be very difficult to become an expert at Korean/Mexican fusion cuisine if you did not first know Korean and/or Mexican cooking at a high level.") 


Rajesh Kumar 'Nachiketa' said...

Dear Professor,

I also love using analogies to make my students understand a concept. At the same time it is very difficult when a student writes these analogies while answering in the exam. Have you ever faced this? if yes, how you tackle this?

I liked your views on the editorial.

Douglas Natelson said...

Hi Rajesh - Do you mean that the students confuse the analogy with the real science? That can be tricky. When talking with students, I try to point out when analogies fail or only go so far. For example, you can give students physical intuition about general relativity by having them picture a bowling ball deforming a rubber sheet, but there are clear limits to that analogy.

JonB said...

This reminded me of a conversation with a colleague about ten years back when CSI was all the rage. Her father worked for the main forensics science service here in the UK and he was exasperated with the number of applicants who had a degree in 'Forensic Science', but had not studied physics, chemistry or biology as a core subject. He had to explain every time why their course of study was not going to get them into the profession.

Matthew Diasio said...

Dr. Natelson,

What's your opinion on minors in nano? I feel like it could be a good supplement to a "traditional" major, especially in helping to introduce students to the interdisciplinary nature of a great deal of nano research. I'm actually a Rice alum and tried to start work on making a nano minor my senior year, but that process took a lot more work than I could do then. The Smalley Institute people were interested, but I couldn't get in touch with a lot of the people in the various science and engineering departments who would also need to approve it.