RET Profile: Dana Fields and Kim Perez
Tallahassee teachers experiment with Martian meteorites and superconducting wires during MagLab internships
By Kathleen Laufenberg
Kim Perez (left) and research partner Linda Pike take a measurement in one of the Applied Superconductivity Centers labs.
Rickards High School teacher Dana Fields and Chaires Elementary School teacher Kimberly Perez will have a lot to share with their students this fall. Both spent their summers doing cutting-edge research at the National High Magnetic Field Laboratory.
They were two of the 11 teachers accepted into the labs prestigious Research Experiences for Teachers (RET) program. Teachers interned at both the main Tallahassee lab and, for the first time, at its satellite campus at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico. Both Fields and Perez did Tallahassee internships.
Fields spent the steamy months of June and July extracting data from Martian meteorites using extremely sophisticated equipment and techniques. Perez, a 20-year Leon County Schools veteran, spent much of her time at the MagLabs Applied Superconductivity Center, where she worked with samples of superconducting wire — wire that conducts electricity with no resistance and no loss of current.
The whole experience has really reinvigorated me, Perez said. My goal this school year is, lets make it exciting for the kids! I want to do some exercises in inquiry the first week, to get my students asking questions about the things that interest them, whether its Lifesavers or soap bubbles or what makes the best paper airplanes. Because science is a verb, its something that you do. Its about asking questions and wondering, What if?
Teachers accepted into the labs paid internship program work with scientists who do pioneering research in physics, chemistry, biological sciences, geochemistry, materials science, magnet science and engineering. The teachers learn how to use state-of-the-art technology to explore materials and phenomena at extreme magnetic fields, pressures and temperatures. Best of all, they do it while working alongside some of the finest scientists, magnet designers and engineers in the world.
Dana Fields (left) and research partner Gwen Jefferson polish their sample holders.
Fields worked with scientist Munir Humayun, a geochemist and Florida State University professor, and Shuying Yang, a graduate research assistant. In order to determine if a rock found on Earth is a Martian meteorite, scientists analyze what its made of, then compare their findings to what we know about Mars. In 2003, the U.S. sent two rovers to Mars, and theyve been transmitting data and photos back to Earth ever since.
Fields made her own holder, or puck, to contain tiny samples of a Martian meteorite. She polished the samples and used a machine called a mass spectrometer to extract information from the rocks.
She also enjoyed getting to know the other teachers doing lab internships.
Its been a lot of fun, Fields said. As weve all talked, Ive found out that the issues for teachers are the same everywhere. Everybody wants the students to know so much, they want the teachers to be so brilliant in presenting their lessons, and they want us to do it all with fewer and fewer resources. There are just high expectations for teachers everywhere.
At the labs superconductivity center, FSU Engineering Professor Eric Hellstrom and scholar-scientist Jianyi Jiang showed Perez how to examine superconducting wires. Perez worked with wires made from a form of bismuth strontium calcium copper oxide (or BSCCO, pronounced bisko) called Bi-2212.
They put the Bi-2212 under different atmospheric pressures to increase the density of the wire, Perez said. Each sample is smaller than a straight pin, so we are looking at very, very tiny things.
She and her partner — teacher Linda Pike from Jupiter, Fla. — also learned how to make a type of puck to contain their tiny samples of superconducting wire. They learned how to grind and polish the puck and how to examine the wires using an extremely powerful scanning electron microscope.
The microscopic level that this machine works at is amazing, Perez said. We spent most of our time looking at the samples and learning how to use the Photoshop program to identify everything as either the silver filament or the superconducting wire so that we could identify the density of the superconducting wire.
The scientists here are so incredibly friendly and helpful, she added. Its been an absolutely wonderful experience.
For more information about the MagLabs RET program contact Jose Sanchez at firstname.lastname@example.org or (850) 645-0033.