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Natural Sciences Education Abstract - Articles

Nanotechnology Awareness of First-Year Food and Agriculture Students following a Brief Exposure


This article in NSE

  1. Vol. 36 No. 1, p. 58-65
    Received: Sept 30, 2006

    * Corresponding author(s): hdiefes@purdue.edu
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  1. Heidi A. Diefes-Dux *a,
  2. Melissa Dyehouseb,
  3. Deborah Bennettb and
  4. P.K. Imbriea
  1. a Dep. of Engineering Education, Purdue Univ., 400 Centennial Mall Dr., West Lafayette, IN 47907-2016
    b Dep. of Educational Studies, Purdue Univ., 101 University St, West Lafayette, IN, 47907


There is a great need for professionals trained to work in the field of nanotechnology, particularly in food and agriculture. However, the general public knows very little about nanotechnology; therefore, few students entering college seek out educational opportunities that will lead to careers with a focus on nanotechnology. This study was conducted to determine whether typical first-year seminar activities, including lectures, readings, and hands-on demonstrations, impact students’ perception and interest in the study of nanotechnology. In fall 2004, 514 first-year food and agriculture students at Purdue University were briefly exposed to nanotechnology through two 50-minute nanotechnology seminars and a related reading. Eighteen of these students also participated in nanotechnology-based, hands-on activities. A Nanotechnology Awareness Survey (measuring exposure, awareness, motivation, and knowledge) was administered before and after this brief nanotechnology exposure. Participants in the hands-on activities responded to open-ended questions about their motivations to pursue education and careers in nanotechnology. Analysis of 335 survey responses indicates that students show significant increases in nanotechnology exposure and awareness after the brief nanotechnology exposure. Students also showed significant increases in knowledge from pre- to post-survey. However, motivation was not affected, though a larger fraction of the hands-on demonstration participants expressed motivation to pursue a nanotechnology-related educational or career path. Typical first-year seminar activities appear to be sufficient to raise students’ awareness and knowledge of nanotechnology. However, these activities, at least in the short term, are not sufficient to raise students’ motivation to pursue further educational or career opportunities in nanotechnology.

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