Academic and Summer 2017 outreach by graduate students: Physics Experiments for High-School Students during the Penn Summer Science Academy

Graduate Student Sarah Friedensen ran a lab group for the Penn Summer Science Academy’s program in Experimental Physics Research in which explored a range of topics (standing waves on violin strings, Chaldni plates, and approximate spheres (water balloons) using a high-speed camera to film each experiment, as well as a strobe light for the water balloon).
Sarah and the high school students also used the high-speed camera to film collisions between two-by-fours, objects hitting both water and ooblek, and the bursting of the water balloon and a balloon filled with ooblek.
Sarah helped guide the group with respect to what was achievable in the time frame of one week, and the students worked together to develop the specific phenomena they wanted to investigate (the group theme was “film analysis”).
The students ranged from sophomore to senior in high school and were in a group of four.
By the end of the session, through their own research, students had connected the results of their experiments to models of the hydrogen atom.

Graduate student Priyanka Thiruraman ran GEMS, a summer school program at SEAS for middle school girls, helping out with nanotechnology sessions from July 24 to July 28, 2017.
Priyanka ran two sessions on:

  1. DNA extraction from strawberries, where she also touched upon the concept of DNA sequencing and nanopores (our lab’s research), and
  2. Nanotechnology in basic physics. Experiments included polymer synthesis, non-Newtonian liquids, lasers/ optics, polarizers, kinetic sand etc. Students were also given a tour of the Singh center to see the fabrication facilities, scanning microscopes and most importantly “the microscope that occupies an entire room” aka TEM.

See the program and a video.


Graduate student Paul Masih Das was in charge until May 2017 of a volunteer group called Moelis Access Science Physics.
A team of about 10-12 undergrads and Paul would take equipment from the physics department (with the help of Bill Berner) every week and go to various public schools in West Philly (Sayre HS, West Philly HS, Comegys MS), where they performed introductory physics experiments with the students.
Paul has also given 1-2 hour outreach talks on DNA sequencing and our lab’s research in various location including the Comegys MS, Huey MS, and the Franklin Institute.
For the past two summers, Paul helped with the Franklin Institute’s Summer Camp.
A few other physics grad students and Paul went to the Franklin Institute every other week and performed an educational science activity with middle school children (building hovercrafts, learning about constellations, making circuits, etc.)

Drndic Lab at Philly Materials Day

At this year’s Philly Materials Day hosted by Drexel University, the lab showcased a variety of demos to the general public.
Students and parents alike were first shown the process of isolating thin 2D materials such as graphene via mechanical exfoliation.
They were then able to see the principles behind 2D-material-based water desalination using interactive large-scale models of filtration devices.

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Physics at Masterman Middle and High School

Prof. Drndic gave a physics talk to about two hundred curious fifth graders in the Masterman Middle & High School. She talked about subfields of physics, how to become a physicists, and covered topics in kinematics (mass, velocity, force, energy, work) as well as example of motion in two dimensions, pendula, motion in two dimensions, momentum, collisions, motion on the inclined plane, as well as explained the origin behind gravitational acceleration. She also showed mechanics demos.
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Outreach talk : Science and Comedy: Creativity in Public Engagement

Tue 12/6/2016 2-3pm Singh 221

Jessamyn Fairfield, NUI Galway, Hosted by Prof. Marija Drndic

Jessamyn organized creative and effective education and public engagement initiatives for the AMBER materials research centre at Trinity College Dublin.
Her most successful project has been the development of Bright Club Dublin, a monthly research/comedy variety night featuring academics alongside comedians in a night of idea-driven entertainment.
Jessamyn is also a frequent contributor to Futureproof, the Newstalk science show.

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Penn Summer Science Academy

This July, Prof. Drndic gave a research presentation to high school students from the Penn Summer Science Academy (PSSA).
Roughly 40 students went on a tour of our lab, in coordination with Bill Berner, where they learned about the process of fabricating and testing a solid-state nanopore.
They also learned about the wide variety of techniques and instrumentation that we use: chemical vapor deposition, photolithography, electron beam nanosculpting, and DNA translocation experiments.
More information about the Academy can be found here:

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Philly Science Festival

The Drndic group, Science Outreach Initiative of the School of Arts and Sciences, and Project BioEyes from University of Pennsylvania demonstrated how DNA affects physical features in living organisms, like zebrafish, and the importance of DNA sequencing in an educational exhibit at Philadelphia Science Festival on Saturday April 30 2016 as a part of National DNA Day initiative. Children from all age groups visited the booth, which was aptly titled “What Can Fish Tell Us About DNA?”, and learned about how a small
change in DNA sequence can create two different types of zebrafish – wildtype and albino – and how nanopore sequencing technology can help us find these differences easily.
Microscopes were installed in the booth to observe the physical differences between the two types of zebrafish larvae and adult, following which the visitor was handed an index card with a fish scale printed on one side and a colored DNA code on the other. These cards could then be inserted into punched envelopes revealing a specific color code, very similar to how nanopore DNA sequencing technology works. The color codes could be matched up to a map aiding in classification of the fish scale into the two types of fishes. A “DNA inside a nanopore” bracelet were also given to every visitor, which consisted of a colored strip of paper inside a rectangular movable sleeve with a hole in the middle.

The booth was managed by the volunteers from both the participating groups from 10 am to 4 pm at Penn’s Landing, Philadelphia. This exhibit was one of the two demonstrations which Drndic group participated in during the Philadelphia Science Festival, the other being “Nanopore Explorin’” on the previous Sunday, April 24 2016 in the Singh Nanotechnology Center, Philadelphia.

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Philly Science Festival

Drndić lab participate at two Philadelphia Science Festival events on April 24 and April 30, 2016.

The Drndic Lab has partnered with Dr. Slavko Milekic at Philadelphia’s University of the Arts to create two educational tools for this year’s Philadelphia Science Festival. The first “scanimation” uses an artistic technique known as persistence of vision to give the illusion of a fish swimming through an array of nanopores. The other is a cartoon-based game in which the user must guess the weight of characters in an elevator, effectively modeling nanopore DNA sequencing. Both tools are presented on portable tablet devices and suitable for a wide range of audiences.

Also, the Drndic Lab has developed a virtual nanopore app. Developed for Google Cardboard, the user can experience the actual translocation of a DNA strand through a nanopore in a stunning virtual reality environment.

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Drndic Lab at the Philadelphia Science Carnival

Graduate students Francis Chien Chen-Chi, Gopinath Danda, and Paul Masih Das are leading our group’s outreach effort at the Philadelphia Science Carnival, to be held on April 30th, 2016.
This is also part of the National DNA Day.

We are collaborating with the BioEYES, a partnership to advance K-12 science education.
We will present an integrated research exhibit spanning a range of topics related to DNA and genomics research.
We will discuss how the eye color in zebrafish is related to DNA and DNA sequencing.

We know that DNA is what genes are made up of, and that genes are responsible for the way we look and the traits we have.
Fish are an excellent animal model that allows us to visually study how the trait of dark pigmentation vs. albinism gets passed down from parents to offspring.
The title of this collaborative exhibit will be “What can a fish teach us about DNA?

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Paul Masih Das releases iPhone sequencing game Master Sequencer

Now available on the iTunes store!

In Master Sequencer, the player runs along a DNA strand, effectively threading it through a nanopore and allowing it to be sequenced. This model is based on nanopore DNA sequencing, in which characteristic current changes due to the presence of a DNA base-pair in a nanopore are converted into a DNA sequence. In both the game and reality, sequencing is terminated when the DNA strand crashes into the membrane. The iOS game is similar to the well-known Temple Run and appeals to a wide range of audiences.

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Second Annual AMC8 Math Day at Greenfield Elementary School

For the second year in a row, Marija is organizing the Greenfield Math Day in Albert Greenfield Elementary School in Center City, Philadelphia, to be held on November 18, 2014. (Any interested parents or children from other local schools interested to participate are welcome to contact Marija).
Last year, the whole middle school consisting of about 200 students participated. The AMC8 is an international competition consisting of 25 multiple-choice questions and students have 40 minutes to work on it initiated by the Mathematical Association of America (MAA). MAA encourages all students in grades 6, 7 and 8 to participate in the AMC 8. All USA, USA embassy, Canadian and foreign school students in grade 8 or below are eligible to participate. Especially talented students as young as 8 years old have participated in the past.

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Philly Science Festival

Come see our work at the Philly Science Festival Carnival on May 3, 2014.

The Carnival runs from 10am to 4pm, and our group will demonstrate our work at a booth between
21st and 22nd on Benjamin Franklin Parkway.

The Philadelphia science carnival features more than 175 exhibitors offering non-stop, family-friendly experiments, interactive activities, games, and a packed line-up of live entertainment. Enjoy making slime, meeting live zoo animals, checking out the inner-workings of robots, taking a tour of a helicopter, extracting DNA from a strawberry, testing a “crime scene” for forensic evidence, and so much more!

For more information, please go to

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Drndić Lab Research Featured On History Channel Show The Works

Research from our lab was featured on the History Channel show The Works on July 24th, 2008.

THE WORKS: POWER TOOLS (Thursday, July 24th at 10pm ET/PT) Since the Egyptians invented them three thousand years ago, power tools have transformed the face of the earth. As we trace their evolution, we find out their hidden commonalities: from power tools that slice mountains in half to new breakthroughs in nanotechnology that enable them to literally split hairs. Follow the life of a power tool as it goes from an idea to our garage shelf as we discover how they’re being used in surprising ways in sports, medicine and art.

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