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Beyond the Bench: Bringing Electron Microscopy into the Classroom

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Mark McClendon teaches high schoolers about scanning electron microscopy at Loyola Academy.

BENCH (noun): A long, sturdy work table used by a carpenter, mechanic, scientist, or other worker.

Imagine a scientist. What do you see? A person in a white lab coat wearing goggles and wielding a beaker? Or, perhaps a frazzled, spectacled fellow huddled in a windowless lab? Think again. Scientists are much more than the stereotypes we’ve become so accustomed to seeing. “Beyond the Bench” aims to shed light on the many talents, interests and activities of Northwestern scientists, and the way in which their scientific training influences how they live their lives. From community outreach to sports to culinary endeavors, these scientists are not afraid to venture beyond the bench!

In this episode, we sat down with Mark McClendon, a graduate student who connected with the community by sharing his love of scientific art.

Mark works in the laboratory of Samuel I. Stupp and often uses a scanning electron microscope (SEM) in order to see the extremely tiny nanofibers and polymer molecules he uses on a daily basis. Fascinated by the level of detail an SEM allows one to see, Mark began to image random objects, saving pictures to share with family and friends. From the hairs on a spider's leg to the divets in a single grain of pollen, these images offered a closer look at the world we live in.

Mark's research images won him prizes in Science in Society's annual scientific images contest, "Capturing the Beauty of Science," which gave him the opportunity to speak to the public about his work. This experience led him to develop a high school microscopy outreach program to share his love of electron microscopy and scientific art with a future generation of potential scientists.

View Mark's story here:

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