Thanks to an unexpected grant, some students at Waddell High could get a chance to make a big impact while working on a minuscule scale.
Biology teacher Tamica Stubbs and five students have started a nanoscience club at the school. Club members will conduct studies, attend college lectures, observe professionals and gain invaluable experience for their post-high school plans.
After receiving the $14,500 Arts & Science Council grant, Stubbs decided to focus on nanoscience – a rapidly growing field that studies ways to combine tiny atoms and molecules to make new products. Nanoscience uses a scale to measure size at 1 nanometer to 100 nanometers. A human hair, for example, is approximately 100,000 nanometers thick.
“I believe that in a couple years, it's going to be a vital component of chemistry and biology,” Stubbs said.
For the five students, staying after school for a few hours a week is no issue compared to the opportunity to participate in a program never before seen in a Charlotte-Mecklenburg school.
“I've always been a huge science nerd,” said senior Chanelle Whitehurst, who wants to major in marine biology or biochemistry in college.
Nanoscience has become popular in recent years mostly for its diverse uses. Recently, scientists have used it to capture harmful metals in water and to create a product that's identical to bone. On a more recreational scale, it's being used for stain-repellant clothing and car parts that are light, scratch-resistant and rust-proof.
Stubbs said the club will create nanoparticles and study their effect on the environment. The students will also create a publication to keep Waddell students updated on what the club's doing.
“A lot of people aren't sure what (nanoscience) is about,” said senior Jennifer Pelschow. “They've never even heard of it.”
Stubbs is still surprised to have earned the grant. She said she applies often, with limited success. Now, depending on the program's success, she wants to expand it to other elementary, middle and high schools.
For senior Michael Ferguson, a Pineville resident who has many friends at the mostly affluent Providence and South Meck highs, it's just nice having the flagship nanoscience program.
“It gives us a chance to show that just because we don't have it all,” he said, “doesn't mean we can't be the best.”