What do People Think of Science?

As an emerging scientist, I often can’t help but conclude that the public must think science is a bad thing.  After all, that’s the view I get every time I do my weekly groceries.  Take a stroll through your grocery store and you will find products that have labels such as “chemical-free,” “non-GMO,” “all-natural,” “rBST-free,” …

New Filter Gives Drinking Water a Silver Lining

The next time that you go to your sink and pour a glass of water, take a second to think about what’s in it. It likely has a little bit of chlorine, some fluoride for your teeth, and small amounts of minerals—but most importantly it has no appreciable amount of nasty disease-causing pathogens or toxic …

A Scientific Car Salesperson Visits the Factory Floor

Imagine yourself as a “scientific car salesperson.” Your job is to study how to get people to buy your cars. People ask you questions about the cars, and you usually have an OK answer. But, imagine if you could actually visit the factory floor and see the cars being made in person. Might that be …

Paper or Plastic? Sustainability is a Multi-Dimensional Problem

Part 1 in the "How is That Sustainable?" Series “Paper or plastic?” This was the question you always used to get once you’d made it through the checkout line to the grocery store register (at least when I was growing up). Ever since about 2005, however, it seemed like it was becoming increasingly rare to …

“Leaning In” — Scientists’ Thoughts on Gender Equity

Last week, we scientists from the Center for Sustainable Nanotechnology, who usually use our weekly video conference calls to discuss science, spent time discussing the recently published book “Lean In” by Sheryl Sandberg. This is not standard reading for chemists; in fact, it’s written for business people, but I was inspired to read it because …

Nanomedicine Explainer – My Cat is in a Clinical Trial

I present to you my cat, Graboid. She has nanoparticles coursing through her veins, and those nanoparticles may save her life. Grabby is 14 years old. She was not featured at the Internet Cat Video Film Festival at the Minnesota State Fair, but I still think she’s pretty great. Unfortunately, Grabby has oral squamous cell …

Nano-Koosh-balls: What They’re Good For and How I Made Them.

We talk a lot about nanoparticles, which are nano-sized and nearly spherical. But, the shapes accessible in the nano-world are plentiful! For example, I recently made these! (click for larger images...  DO IT!) I like to call them “nano-Koosh-balls,” because of how closely they resemble the children’s toy of the same name. These nano-Koosh-balls are …

Forensic Nanotechnology: a scientific whodunit

“You know my methods, Watson.” “Yes I know. It’s NANOPARTICLES.” If Sherlock Holmes was a nanomaterial scientist, his partner might have replied as above. Yes, nanoparticles are a big deal in forensic science. If you have ever watched the TV series Crime Scene Investigation, you know that science can help us to catch criminals. As …

How to Avoid Bitter Coffee and Why it Exists in the First Place – a scientific look at brewing

Coffee. Not only can it be used in scientific experiments, but every day the delectable flavors derived from the humble coffee bean wake up and fuel a substantial proportion of the population. But just how do those delicious flavors get from the bean into your cup? It all comes down to a process called extraction. …