Oregonians Travel to Rutgers University for Outreach and Collaboration

When counted in hours spent sitting on a plane, New Jersey is an awfully long way from Oregon. From April 28th to May 1st, I traveled with Jacob Buchanan to Rutgers University in New Jersey as part of a CSMC broader impacts program concerned with expanding outreach efforts developed in Oregon to other CSMC affiliated-universities. Oregon State University and the University of Oregon both have the privilege of working alongside Portland’s Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI) to develop hands-on outreach demos focused on bringing scientific research and its concepts to the general public. These demos have been featured at countless Family Science Nights in local elementary and middle schools, as well as at OMSI’s Meet a Scientist events where we have engaged hundreds of eager visitors in scientific discussions. The great success of these demos prompted the CSMC to send Jacob and myself to Rutgers to build several of these demos and to join Rutgers CSMC members for a huge outreach event: Rutgers Day.


Saturday, April 30th was the 250th Rutgers Day event, which celebrates the founding of Rutgers University in 1766. All four campuses were packed with thousands of visitors who came to participate in games, activities, and prize giveaways hosted by each department. Jacob and I joined Mengjun Li to bring thin film chemistry to Rutgers Day visitors using the spin coating vs. vacuum deposition thin film demo. We talked thin film science with visitors of all ages. Many were surprised to hear that we had traveled so far to partake in Rutgers Day. It was definitely an experience to remember! Thousands of peoples milling about, live demonstrations and events, blaring techno music… It was a fun time!


I spent the rest of the trip meeting with Rick Garfunkel and his students about an ongoing collaboration that we have, aimed at understanding the chemical and structural differences of thin film dielectrics annealed under different annealing atmospheres. I also toured their lab space and learned much about the suite of surface characterization tools at their disposal. As a CSMC student, I have learned the value of collaborating with a wide range of experts to tackle complex problems in chemistry, and it was exciting to learn more about my collaborators and their own work.


When it came time to return to Oregon, I realized how quickly the time had flown by. The short trip had been a whirlwind, but a productive one at that. In the two days I had spent at Rutgers, I explained the basics of thin films to hundreds of children and their parents. I spent valuable facetime with scientific collaborators, and developed relationships with new graduate and post-doctoral students. Although exhausting, the trip was a grand success. Plus, I even got to check off a new state on my “to visit” list.