The educational mission of the IIN is to foster lifelong interest in science and technology by teaching people of all ages about nanoscience and nanotechnology. Through a comprehensive educational effort, the IIN seeks to inform and nurture the scientists, engineers, technicians, and teachers of the future; enrich the academic community; and engage the public. In addition to the over 550 graduate students and postdoctoral scholars who are engaged in IIN research, the IIN provides unique educational opportunities for people of all ages. Several of these initiatives are described below.
The IIN initiated the first NU partnership with the Museum of Science and Industry, Chicago (MSI) to develop a conceptual design plan for a unique exhibit on nanoscience and nanotechnology. The exhibit is scheduled to open in 2013. It will be centrally located in the Museum, occupy 2,400 square feet of the south balcony in the museum’s main building, and will have the potential to reach over 2,000,000 visitors per year.
In 2004, the IIN launched the first undergraduate journal of nanotechnology in the country - Nanoscape. The journal includes articles written by undergraduate researchers. In 2005, IIN researchers collaborated with Wiley Publishing on the development of Small, the first professional international journal of nanotechnology.
Interdisciplinary research centers partner with the IIN to provide hands-on summer research opportunities for promising undergraduates through several Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) programs. IIN researchers working with pre-college administrators and teachers developed the first nanoscience module for pre-college classrooms. The inquiry-based module includes hands-on team activities and design projects and is being disseminated nationwide by the Materials World Modules program.
Providing educational opportunities for the community is another important focus of the IIN. For the academic community, the annual IIN Symposium features talks by world renowned scientists and engineers and attracts over 700 attendees. The IIN Frontiers in Nanotechnology Seminar Series brings national and international researchers to campus for talks and to meet one-on-one with faculty and students. These events are offered without charge due to generous support from corporate sponsors and are listed on the Calendar page and on Northwestern University's Plan-it-Purple.
For the public at large, the IIN launched DiscoverNano in 2006. This interactive web site includes an historical time line of uses and developments in nanotechnology; a primer to understanding nano; video interviews with leaders in the field; the Nano Art Gallery; searchable nano glossary; and extensive links to educational and government sites. Over one million people around the world visit the DiscoverNano site each year.
The IIN also sponsors Nanotechnology Town Hall Meetings, which introduce the public to nanotechnology in an open forum setting. The annual All Scout Nano Event, conceived by Michael Kleppinger, Northrup Grumman engineer and assistant scoutmaster, brings hundreds of Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, and Venturing Crews to campus each year to learn about nanotechnology, participate in hands-on activities, and tour laboratories and facilities. Finally, regional and national events like Science Chicago, National Nanodays, high school career fairs, and science cafes are just some of the other important activities in which the IIN and its partners engage.