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Albuquerque High School Students Discover Chemical Engineering

April 20, 2010

ahs-studentsApproximately 40 students from Albuquerque High School spent part of their day last Friday thinking about chemical engineering at UNM. The students visited Farris and Centennial Engineering Centers as part of an ongoing outreach program of professors in the Chemical and Nuclear Engineering and Center for Biomedical Engineering professors to attract students to the wonders of an engineering career.

The Biomaterials Engineering Outreach program was formed in 2005 as part of a research and educational grant from the National Science Foundation. The grant’s focus is to increase the participation of minorities and females in materials science-related careers, and to stimulate general interest in science and technology. The demonstrations developed through the outreach program are focused on the understanding and improvement of human health through advances in engineering and materials science.

In one lab the students learned about UNM research to engineer cells that can easily be lifted from a growth medium to be used to repair damage to skin. In another lab they learned about the properties of polymeric materials, forming colored “goo” by cross linking alginate in cationic solutions. UNM researchers are particularly interested in polymers that can be used as scaffolds for tissue engineering, an emerging interdisciplinary field that applies the principles of biology, medicine, and engineering to the development of viable tissue substitutes that restore, maintain, or improve the function of human tissues.

The students were fascinated with the properties of the polymers, since they can be stretched, formed and altered in a variety of ways. UNM faculty and graduate students have prepared dozens of outreach opportunities over the last few years in an effort to help students preparing for college to understand some of the more interesting fields of study in engineering. The Biomaterials Engineering Outreach program is supported by an NSF grant, and the Center for Biomedical Engineering.