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Secondary Teacher Interacting with Materials Professors Strikes Gold

Background: The JHU MRSEC conducts extensive K-12 educational outreach programs aimed at promoting interest in and awareness of the importance of modern materials research. The MRSEC's Research Experience for Teachers (RET) program provides high school teacher the opportunity to conduct research in MRSEC and to use the MRSEC's resources for the development of classroom modules or other materials.

One of the MRSEC's RET participants, Mr. James Ringlein of the Lancaster (PA) Country Day School has participated in the JHU MRSEC's RET program for six years. Working with Prof. Mark Robbins of JHU, he conducted research on the microscopic origins of friction, and developed computer simulations on friction that led to three publications in physics education journals. Since 2005, Mr. Ringlein has been working with Prof. Jonah Erlebacher of JHU, conducting research and developing educational materials on nanoporous gold leaf, a novel high-surface-area structure that has great potential for applications in fuel cell technologies.

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(Fig. 1) Teflon roller system used by Ringlein and Erlebacher to manipulate gold leaf floating on water.