MRS Proceedings


In To Africa: Teaching Nanoscience to Undergraduates in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa

2010 MRS Fall Meeting.

Brian H. Augustinea1 and Orde Q. Munroa2

a1 Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, James Madison University, Harrisonburg, VA 22807, U.S.A.

a2 School of Chemistry, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Private Bag X01, Scottsville, 3209, Pietermaritzburg, R.S.A.


There has been considerable interest in developing curricular programs and materials for teaching undergraduate courses in nanoscience in the United States and other developed countries in the past decade. Materials science and nanoscience research programs are growing in developing countries in South America, Africa and Asia. However, there still exists a significant disconnect between the research efforts in developing countries and undergraduate coursework. This report will focus on the teaching of an upper-division one semester lecture/laboratory course developed at James Madison University (JMU) called “The Science of the Small: An Introduction to the Nanoworld” taught in the School of Chemistry at the University of KwaZulu-Natal in Pietermaritzburg (UKZN-PMB), South Africa in 2009 through the Fulbright U.S. Scholar program. We report insights into the preparation needed to teach a cutting-edge laboratory course in South Africa. Also addressed will be some of the challenges of teaching an instrument-intensive laboratory course in a developing country, academic preparation of the typical native isiZulu-speaking UKZN undergraduate student compared to a typical U.S. student, and pre and post attitudes and content assessment of students who were enrolled in the course. Further discussed will be observations of post-apartheid science and math education in South Africa, and the beginning of a pilot program bringing South African undergraduate students to the U.S. to gain undergraduate research experience.

(Online publication April 27 2011)

Key Words:

  • economics;
  • education;
  • nanoscale