SFU scientists aim to wow non-scientists at AAAS
News Jan 30, 2012
The two-day event incorporated within the American Association for the Advancement of Science’s (AAAS) four-day annual meeting (Feb. 16 to 20) aims to engage non-scientists of all ages and backgrounds in celebrating science.
Nancy Forde, a pioneer in developing multi-trap optical tweezers to probe biological molecules, will take centre stage at a Meet the Scientists session at 2 p.m. on Sun., Feb. 19.
The associate professor of physics will present some amazing physical feats of nature’s nano-machines.
“These biological molecular motors perform an enormous number of critical tasks, such as transporting waste outside of cells, communicating signals through long distances and sensing cues from the external environment.”
Like LEGO toy builders, and inspired by nature’s motors, Forde and her research colleagues are trying to build novel nano-machines using natural building blocks in their lab.
“It’s like seeing how a car works first,” explains Forde. “You’d observe it driving and then take a pile of parts, such as nuts, bolts, pieces of metal and wires, to see if you can build a car.”
Forde takes very seriously her job of engaging the public in understanding the importance of her lab work.
“This is not just because it has a possible long-term application,” says Forde, “but also because it is basic, discovery-driven research, which is often overlooked by mainstream media. The more scientists who get involved in this type of event, the broader the exposure provided to different areas of scientific inquiry.”
Two senior lecturers, Sophie Lavieri in chemistry and Sarah Johnson in physics, known for their explosive antics in Science in Action, an SFU program, will follow Forde’s act at 2:30 pm on Feb. 19. The duo will also have an exhibit booth in the AAAS’s Family Science Days section, 11 am to 5 pm, Feb. 18 and 19.
The two say the conference gives them a chance to practise demonstrations they would like to stage at SFU’s open house in May. At the AAAS they will start up a superconducting train to illustrate how to make a high-temperature superconductor float in a magnetic field.
They’ll also shine red and green lasers through different colours of Jell-O to demonstrate how fibre optic cables work.