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Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Manhattan High School Student Explores Growing Nanowires

    Zach Culbertson, a junior at Manhattan High School in Manhattan KS, enjoys learning about science research.  At school, he participates in the Science Olympiad, Scholars Bowl, Quest, FRC Robotics Club, Tennis, and Fencing.  He also enjoys studying Arabic, the Middle East and Politics.
    As part of a class assignment, Zach was asked to explore his career interests and select someone in that position of interest to interview. He knew he enjoyed science, engineering and “hands-on research." In addition, he knew "practical lab experience is very useful in any science career,” so, Zach decided to investigate a career in physics and to interview Dr. Bret Flanders, Associate Professor of Physics at Kansas State University and a member of the Kansas NSF EPSCoR Track 2 Collaborative Research: Imaging and Controlling Ultrafast Dynamics of Atoms, Molecules and Nanostructures research team.  It was during this interview that Dr. Flanders saw great potential in Zach and offered him an afterschool internship opportunity to work in his lab.
    The focus of Dr. Flanders’ research is making electrodes for the creation of nanowires to be used for experiments involving electronic transfer.  Zach is responsible for constructing and thinning electrodes so that “we can ‘grow’ nanowires” on the tips of the electrodes by sending an electrical current through a solution containing the unique materials needed to create them.
Above are illustrations of methods used for growing nanowires.
    Zach said his lab task is to grow nanowires that can be used to study electronic transfers that will “help increase the speed and efficiency of the electronic devices.”  He stated that the best part of the internship experience is seeing the practical use and impact of what he has learned in his high school science classes.  Zach added that this internship has given him “lots of practical laboratory experience related to lab procedures and practices" as well as an opportunity to better prepare him for whatever kind of science career he chooses to pursue.
    As for his future plans, Zach said, “I would like to attend college, hopefully Harvard, and am looking at going into Aerospace Engineering or Biomedical Engineering, and Middle Eastern Studies. I would also like to try to get involved with the World Food Program as a volunteer.”

The Flanders Group works in the areas of soft matter nanotechnology and biological physics.  Current projects focus on measuring the distribution of cell-electrode residence times as a function electrode-voltage.

Education and outreach funding for this high school internship opportunity is provided by the Kansas and Nebraska NSF EPSCoR Track 2 Grant #1430519 titled: "Imaging and Controlling Ultrafast Dynamics of Atoms, Molecules, and Nanostructures."  The grant's educational objectives are designed to enhance STEM education in Kansas by supporting activities that will lead to an expanded STEM workforce or prepare a new generation for STEM careers in the areas of atomic/molecular/optical science.