Message From The Dean

Penelope Peterson Our focus on the sciences in this issue of Inquiry is particularly timely given the recent National Academies report entitled Rising Above the Gathering Storm: Energizing and Employing America for a Brighter Economic Future. This report comes from a committee that was charged with coming up with the actions that federal policymakers should take to enhance the science and technology enterprise so that the United States can successfully compete, prosper and be secure in the global community of the 21st century.

Herein we discuss some actions our own faculty members are taking to address U.S. competitiveness in science and technology. The first featured article involves a major project by Danny Edelson to improve science education "from the ground up."

The second article involves Dan Lewis's study of how adults understand new technologies such as "nanoscience" so that one might better educate adults about technological advances. This research is particularly critical in light of recent books such as the one by Michael Crichton entitled Prey, in which nanobots get loose and terrorize people. How does one learn how to separate fact from fiction in an area such as nanotechnology? What are the challenges to adults' learning about and adopting such new technologies arising from nanoscience?

The third article describes endeavors to develop collaborations among social scientists and life scientists with the goal of improving the health of children, youth and adults in our society. Leading this effort is Lindsay Chase-Lansdale, who directs the new center called Cells to Society. Previously, our Human Development and Social Policy (HDSP) faculty have focused on cognitive, social and emotional development of humans across the life span. Increasingly, HDSP faculty have realized that physiological, neurological and physical factors are critical to understanding and improving cognitive, social and emotional development. Thus, faculty members need to forge new interdisciplinary collaborations with the sciences.

We conclude with stories of our current and former graduate students. Current Learning Sciences M.A. student and Feinberg School of Medicine professor Michael Wolf is applying learning sciences to health education and policy. Meanwhile after receiving her PhD in Learning Sciences last year, Ravit Golan Duncan has moved to Rutgers University, where she is forging new connections between science educators and biology professors with the aim of improving K-12 science education for the next century.

As a member of our learning community, we encourage you to continue your support of efforts at the School of Education and Social Policy to connect with science and help the nation "rise above the gathering storm."
By Penelope Peterson