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Electron microscope heads to BA

DAILY LEADER / NATHANIEL WEATHERSBY / I-Wei Chu (left), research associate at the Institute for Imaging and Analytical Technologies at Mississippi State University, demonstrates (above) to Trent Nettles (right) and other BA students the Atomic Force Microscope that allows her to interact with things at the nanoscale.

DAILY LEADER / NATHANIEL WEATHERSBY / I-Wei Chu (left), research associate at the Institute for Imaging and Analytical Technologies at Mississippi State University, demonstrates (above) to Trent Nettles (right) and other BA students the Atomic Force Microscope that allows her to interact with things at the nanoscale.

Representatives from Mississippi State University visited Brookhaven Academy and brought with them high-priced and high-powered equipment, a slew of insects and tons of knowledge all aimed at sharing the fun of science with younger students in the school.

The visiting researchers were quipped with a Scanning Electron Microscope that magnifies up to 10,000 times, ProScopes magnifying up to 50 times and an Atomic Force Microscope that allows viewers to interact with matter at the nanoscale.

Leslie Hood teaches biology and college biology at BA and wanted to invite the researchers. Hood said she knew who to contact because of two classes, scanning electron microscopy and transmission electron microscopy, she took in graduate school at MSU.

Extension Associate Lois Connington (right) shows (bottom right) an African Hissing Cockroach to BA student Bryce White (left) during a presentation of a trio of high-powered microscopes from MSU.

Extension Associate Lois Connington (right) shows (bottom right) an African Hissing Cockroach to BA student Bryce White (left) during a presentation of a trio of high-powered microscopes from MSU.

“I wanted them to see something like this because they probably wouldn’t see it until college or grad school,” Hood said.

Operating the machines were Outreach Coordinator and Research Associate Amanda Lawrence, Research Associate I-Wei Chu and Extension Associate Lois Connington. Lawrence and Chu both work at the Institute for Imaging and Analytical Technologies, and Connington works with Entomology and Environmental Education.

“The university is real big on outreach and introducing students to technology they’d otherwise not have access to,” Lawrence said.

Lawrence pointed out that many women do not go into science-related fields, but that could possibly change “if they see how cool it is, what kind of cool instruments they get and not just sitting in a class all day.”

This sentiment mimics the main focus of the event: to get young people interested in science as a viable career path.

“The big thing is STEM [Science, Technology, Engineering, Math],” Lawrence said. “The younger we get the kids and show them that science is fun, the more apt they are to want to study it further.”

Connington, who deals mainly with entomology or the scientific study of insects, uses her focus of study to reel in the kids.

“Insects give more interesting pictures,” Connington said about the specimen she brought in to demonstrate the ProScopes to the BA students. “You can use insects to teach just about anything.”

Accompanying Hood in the classroom was Dianne Watson who teaches anatomy and physiology, chemistry and physics at BA. She shared that it was great for the students to be able to see in person the pictures they see in their textbooks and presentations during class.

“You can just look at their faces,” Watson said. “You know when their into it or not.”

Hood and Watson say the visit by the MSU researchers had been in the works since last semester, but it was rather easy getting them to come to their classes.

“If we know there’s an opportunity for students, we’ll do everything we can to make it happen,” Hood said.