Education Outreach Activities

NNF Training
Education & Outreach

The main goals of NNF’s education and outreach programs and communications are to increase awareness of nanoscience to students, teachers, businesses and the general public and to increase the number of students entering nanoscience fields, especially among underrepresented groups.

Facility Training

  • Video Tutorials

    Equipment training videos provide new facility users with an effective and efficient method of learning information needed to work in NNF labs. New users can access “how to” information from facility specialists before and after real-time training, which increases efficiencies and level of learning. Several video tutorials for users have been prepared to introduce instruments, their functions, and overall capabilities that will give users a proper understanding of the analytical capabilities and operational procedures. Also, K-12 teachers benefited from some of these videos as part of our online nanoscience teaching modules.

    Screenshot of an NCMN/NNF training video.
  • Facility Tours

    We conduct several tours of our facilities throughout the year and continue to use virtual tours in some instances for junior and senior high students, parents, and teachers interested in learning more about what UNL has to offer in nanoscience research. Continuing to offer virtual tours has allowed us to reach further out into the state, where personal attendance is not always easy.

    A group of high school students taking a tour of an NNF lab.
  • Nanotech Lab Course for Student Users

    This course provides graduate students with an introductory yet comprehensive view of the various instruments available at the NNF. The purpose of this course is to help students master experimental skills in their own research area and to broaden their horizons in experimental nanotechnology methods complementary to that area. This one-credit course spans two semesters and covers the theoretical introduction and demonstration of technical capabilities in areas such as thin film fabrication, X-ray and TEM characterization, nanofabrication, and SPM surface analysis.

    A small group of students take a quick break to pose for a photo.

For Teachers

  • Teacher Conferences and Workshops

    NNF is represented at several workshops and conferences throughout the year. Those in-state included the Nebraska Association of Teachers of Science (NATS) and the state AAPT meeting and Astronomy Day (Oct 22nd). We had a booth at both activities, and a Nano/Quantum activity was presented during the NATS meeting for the attendees. We also presented at the CCC Stem workshop in Columbus for 20 rural teachers in North Central Nebraska. Out of state this year, a Zoom presentation was done for the South Dakota Science Teachers meeting with Larry Browning of SDSU, and we also presented at the EO meeting in Cornell via Zoom.

    Classroom full of teachers participating in STEM training.
  • Nanoscience Summer Institute for Middle School Teachers (NanoSIMST)

    Last summer, nine teachers participated in our NanoSIMST four-day virtual workshop at the end of June. This summer, we have ten middle school teachers signed up from across the state. The workshop's goals are to: 1) excite teachers about nanoscience, 2) equip middle school teachers with content knowledge and empower them with pedagogy to teach their students, and 3) effectively teach thousands of students about nanoscience. Teachers across Nebraska will learn about quantum, nanoscience, and engineering through lectures, hands-on activities (materials sent in advance), facility video tours, and guest speakers. They will also develop their own lesson plans to bring back to their classrooms. Sessions on the social and ethical implications of quantum/nanotechnology, a remote access session through RAIN, and a career panel featuring reps from different local companies will also be part of the curriculum.

    Group of teachers learning new things to take back to their classrooms.

Workforce Development

  • Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU)

    Two undergraduate students are selected regionally to work in research labs for 8-10 weeks as part of NNF’s Summer REU program. We were also honored again this summer to represent the NNCI as one of the Host schools for the Japanese exchange program. Kota Aono selected the lab of Ruiguo Yang to study. He will also present his research at the NNCI REU Convocation in Bozeman, Montana, this year. NNF has committed to hosting the NNCI REU Convocation in August 2024.

    The four summer 2022 REU's strike a pose at the end of the summer poster session.
  • High School Internship Program

    This summer, we will be sponsoring 19 high school student interns. Faculty from chemistry, physics, and engineering give students the opportunity to work in research labs for 8-10 weeks with the help of a graduate student mentor to guide and train them in research techniques. Following their summer internship, students prepare a poster presentation of their research work and present alongside the REU graduate students at the beginning of August.

    Summer 2023 cohort of high school interns.
  • NNCI Site Collaboration

    Three community college undergraduates from Central Community College in Columbus will use our facilities this summer for six weeks as part of the REU program at UNL. This is a continuation of the program we started in 2021. Two students will be full-time during this program and participate full-time in our Grad Studies SRP program. Another student will attend half-time. These students will all present posters of their research at the REU convocation at UNL in August.

    Central Community College students receive training from Dr. Jacob John, NNF facility manager.


  • Family Science Night

    This year we attended Family Science Night, sponsored by Southeast Community College, at the Lincoln and Beatrice locations. We set up a table with Demonstrations and activities for children and their families to experience the wonders of Nano and Quantum Physics.

    A group of children visit our booth at Family Science Night.

Traveling Nanoscience

  • Traveling Nanoscience Exhibit

    Our 400-sq.-ft. the hands-on exhibit was hosted by the Children’s Museum in Brookings, SD, from May–Nov. 2022, then transferred to the Children’s Museum in Kearney from Dec-May 2023. Our second Traveling Exhibit, the Sun, Earth, Universe Exhibit, was hosted by Wayne State College in Nebraska from Oct 2022-Dec 2022 and the SAC museum from Dec-May 2023.
    We look forward to hosting museums and Colleges to increase their impact in reaching hundreds of underserved populations in Nebraska and other neighboring states with the mini-exhibits in the future. The exhibits were created by NISE Net, funded by NSF, and sponsored by NNF and Morrill Hall at UNL.

    Groups of students interact with different parts of NCMN/NNF's traveling nano exhibit.

K-12 Diversity Programs

  • ETS Partnership

    NNF’s partnership with Educational Talent Search (ETS), which serves eligible low-income, first-generation students in grades 6th through 8th, expanded to serve six middle schools in 2022. NNF created lessons and gave bi-monthly presentations to 90-100 junior high students for a total of almost 500 students.

  • Upward Bound

    We continue to partner with the Upward Bound program to provide high school students with nano workshops during the summer, featuring career information and hands-on activities. Last year we presented three two-hour workshops to 30 students.

    Middle school girls mix colored liquids.
  • Girls Inc.

    A diverse group of 25 Girls Inc. high school students was given a two-hour nano workshop during the school year that included tours of nano-related research in NNF labs, career information, and hands-on activities.

    Students from Girls Inc. build spectrometers and 'super cool shades'.

National Nanotechnology Day

  • Plenty of Beauty at the Bottom

    NNF submitts images by graduate and postdoc students to the national NNCI Plenty of Beauty at the Bottom image contest every year.Referencing Richard Feynman’s 1959 lecture, "There’s Plenty of Room at the Bottom," this image contest celebrates the beauty of the micro and nanoscale. Click here to view all submissions from Nebraska.

    This image, resembling a Sandhill Crane, is of a helical silicon nanostructure and a bit of extra broken material from another structure hanging from the carbon nanofilm of a TEM grid.
  • ETS After School Program

    Nano Day was recognized during our ETS after-school programs at six “Under-Represented” middle schools in Lincoln for 75 students. This was our recognition of the nationwide festival about nanoscale science and engineering sponsored by the National Science Foundation.

    A group of youth putting together DNA bracelets.