Science & Engineering Saturday Seminars       Spring, 2013

-        Designed for science teachers; new teachers are especially welcome        

-        Five Saturdays each term; 8:30-1 at UMass Amherst, Lederle Grad Towers 1033 (except as noted)

-        Educational materials, refreshments, parking, PDP’s included

-             Advance registration is required; capacity is limited

-             Cost $30 per session, $120 for all five sessions

-        4 PDP’s per half day session; option for 3 grad credits at reduced cost with extra work


Click here for online seminar registration and payment


January 26. Air Pressure, Clouds and the Weather.  Laura Schofield, Ipswich schools. Predict the weather by understanding air pressure and clouds. Participants will be presented with content to strengthen their own understandings as well as student friendly materials from the National Weather Service and NOAA. Topics covered will include Clouds, Air Pressure and Weather Systems. The presentation will include tutorials, hands-on analysis of current weather data using online resources and materials that support nonfiction reading and writing skills which address ELA Common Core Standards.

February 2. Everyday Particle Physics. Andrea Pocar, Physics. Elementary particles are often viewed by the general public as remote concepts.  The recent discovery of the Higgs boson has required one of the most complex machines ever built, but many pioneering discoveries have been made with much simpler detectors. This workshop will present an overview of elementary particles and techniques at a level presentable to high school students and show how particle physics is all around us and can be used to introduce quantum and relativity concepts to students.  Using easily-available components, we'll build a cloud chamber, a particle detector in which particles leave distinct tracks that can be seen by eye.  Bring a digital camera, laptop, laser pointers and a bright white light (like the ones for bicycles) if you can. 

**** Moved to April 6 **** Pollen Biology. Alice Y. Cheung, Hen-ming Wu, Qiaohong Duan and Yanjiao Zou, Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. Pollen is a specialized cell type in plants whose function is to deliver sperm to the female for fertilization. Therefore pollen is important for seed formation and essential for agriculture, ecology as well as the economy. It is also an excellent system for studying many fundamental biological processes, including genetics, cell-cell communication and cell growth. Pollen grains and pollen tube growth are also visually fascinating to observe. Much of the methodology is readily transferable from the research laboratory to the teaching laboratory at all levels. In this workshop, we shall introduce pollen biology in a short lecture and have experimental set-ups for participants to explore during the session. In addition, we will provide a protocol packet and some essential experimental materials for participants to facilitate their adopting some of the experiments to their classrooms.

March 2. How much arsenic do we eat? Julian Tyson, Chemistry. A workshop starting with an overview of some topics that could form the basis of activities for your students, both in and out of class. The contamination of apple juice and rice with potentially harmful arsenic compounds has been highlighted in the news recently. This comes on top of the drinking-water contamination issues that many countries, including the US, are facing. Relevant agencies have recently revised guidelines for human consumption of “arsenic”, and there are discussions concerning possible regulations for the arsenic content of foods.  Answering the question “is it safe” is complicated and involves (a) making decisions about what level of risk are we prepared to accept, and (b) a knowledge of what is reasonable to expect in terms of information about chemical composition—all rich topics for discussion.  Members of my research group (including K-12 students and their teachers, undergraduates and graduates) have been working on the development of a procedure for the measurement of the relevant arsenic compounds in rice that can be performed in a kitchen at home (or, of course, in a school lab).  We’ll work through the analysis of water and of rice extracts by a colorimetric metric that involves the examination of the image, produced by a digital camera, with powerful, free software, AnalyzingDigitalImages. Bring a digital camera and a laptop if you can.

March 9. Patterns Around Us. Benjamin Davidovitch, Physics; Jennifer Welborn, Amherst Regional; Wayne Kermenski, Mohawk Regional.  “Science may be described as the attempt to give good accounts of the patterns in nature. The result of scientific investigation is an understanding of natural processes.... Overall, the key criterion of science is that it provides a clear, rational, and succinct account of a pattern in nature....” Massachusetts State Frameworks for Science and Technology. We will explore the process of pattern recognition, analysis, and prediction  (RAP) through a variety of activities which align with the Frameworks. Professor Davidovitch will present his current research on the quantitative analysis of wrinkling patterns. We will then investigate wrinkling patterns through hands-on activities which culminate in a real-life design challenge.

April 6. Weather Makeup if needed.
April 27. Recall for those registered for graduate credits. Hasbrouck Lab.

Graduate credit option: There is a charge of $300 for 3 graduate credits plus a $45 registration fee; register for Nat Sci 697A  (Cont ed) or 697 F  (University). This is in addition to the $120 STEM Education Institute fee. Teachers may obtain credit for the seminar as many terms as they wish, but only 3 credits may be applied to UMass Amherst degrees. A lesson plan and a book report will be required for those enrolled for graduate credit. We will have Continuing Education registration forms at the first seminar.

Questions: Mort Sternheim,, 413-545-1908,

Online seminar registration and payment: Required for everyone whether or not they are registering for graduate credit.