Innovative and Relevant Lesson Plans for Grades 9-12
MEET THE SCIENTISTS
Scientists in Everyday Life
In a 3M laboratory scientists come to work every day prepared to research information, explore new possibilities to impact the world and propel innovation to make life better.
Here's how one 3M Scientist, Kris Thunhorst, recently described her experience as a Senior Research Specialist in 3M's Industrial Adhesives and Tape Division:
"I've always been a curious person, taking note of everything around me. As I progressed through school, I would notice products in a store and think, "One day, I want to know something is on that shelf because I helped put it there!" I went to college to study engineering, motivated by an interest to make a difference, and to make the world a better place in whatever way I could contribute.
It's amazing how behaviors like keeping an open mind, listening to customers, and having a good technical understanding can work together to yield some pretty cool discoveries. I found myself in just such a situation a few years ago, working in 3M's Nanotechnology area. Just prior, 3M scientists from diverse areas of expertise collaborated to develop nanoparticles, which in this case are extremely tiny particles, so small they are invisible to the naked eye! My team built on their work and discovered that these nanoparticles could be added to coatings (resins) and used in fibrous composites. You probably have fibrous composites in your home today, like high-performance carbon fiber composite sporting goods: hockey sticks, tennis rackets, bike wheels, fishing rods, or even snow skis. We found that pressure vessels are special fiber composite structures that are improved through the use of our nanoparticle resins. Our nanoparticle resins allow fibrous composites and pressure vessels to be made more efficiently, with lighter weight. This discovery allows for lighter (but bigger!) fuel tanks to hold compressed natural gas (CNG) for powering vehicles, like pickup trucks, semi-trucks, and refuse trucks. Drivers are very excited to use CNG as a fuel for their vehicles because it costs about half as much as gasoline! These discoveries, and the work and contributions of many exceptional team members, have led to a new business for 3M - CNG Pressure Vessels for Transportation.
My team developed new products that literally created new business for 3M, and in record time! It wasn't easy, but we were fueled by our own motivation to produce a meaningful solution that could result in powerful environmental change and use of a domestic fuel source. People can do absolutely amazing things when their passion aligns with their work, and these new products are just such an example.
When you're applying science to innovation, it's important to have a vision for the ultimate outcome... in my case, a tangible product resulting from my direct contribution, creativity, and analysis as a critical thinker - and working at a company as broad and diverse as 3M has enabled me to do just that. I have access to the scientific equivalent of a "candy store" of technologies, with flexibility to mix and match in the quest to discover new solutions to all sorts of problems. I'm lucky to be in the company of brilliant and passionate people who never give up on this pursuit. The culture at 3M revolves around collaboration, working with others to transform collective ideas and perspectives into reality.
I encourage all the young scientists out there to pursue your dreams! We need you out there inventing things we haven't even dreamed of yet. Keep your mind open. Every important change starts with someone who has the vision. But it takes passion and energy to make it a reality. Learn and collaborate. I can't wait to see what your world has in store for me!"
Video: Hear more from Dr. Thunhorst about her career.
Dr. Thunhorst is just one of many people who include "science" as part of their everyday job description at 3M.
Here's a snapshot of what some other 3M Scientists are currently working on:
New Product Development Specialist, Dr. Langer-Anderson invents products for the healthcare industry, using science and imagination to make products more comfortable, durable or easy to use, helping people feel better every day.
Learn more about Dr. Langer-Anderson
3M Corporate Scientist, Dr. Olester Benson invents energy-saving microscopic prisims that bend light to make the screens of cellphones, laptop computers and LCD TV's brighter and more colorful.
Learn more about Dr. Benson
Video: Hear from Dr. Benson about his career
Breathing Easier - 3M Research Specialist, Caroline Ylitalo is inventing new, more comfortable respirators to protect doctors and nurses from infectious diseases when they care for sick patients.
Driving Noteworthy Ideas - 3M Technical Director Tony Clinch, oversees the lab that develops all of the products that come from the Post-it® Brand. Most recently, his lab brought Post-it® Greener Notes to the marketplace, which are made using a plant-based adhesive.
Drinking Clean - 3M Senior Manufacturing Engineer Eric Jackson, is working on a solar water purification system.
Dr. Thomas Wood
3M Corporate Scientist, Dr. Thomas Wood, a 3M Corporate Scientist, joined 3M in 1980 and played a valuable role in creating the foundation for nanotechnology development at the company.
Enhancing Smiles - 3M Corporate Scientist Joe Oxman, works in the field of photochemistry. This means that Joe uses light to transform small molecules (called monomers) into extremely large molecules (polymers or plastics). This technology is used extensively at 3M to polymerize or harden dental filling materials, electronic adhesives, tapes, abrasives and many other applications with simple exposure to ultraviolet or visible light.
In the world of innovation, ideas have no limit, and science provides the platform for launch. More than 6,000 other scientists come to work every day at 3M to help develop new solutions to problems around the world.
Earlier Pioneers of Everyday Science
Innovator: ROGER APPLEDRORN
Discovery: Optical innovations and microreplication technology
Ever wonder how traffic signs on the road stay so bright and visible? Each inch of sign material contains thousands of microreplicated prisms that reflect light back to drivers. This is made possible by 3M microreplication technology, the creation of tiny, precisely shaped structures arrayed to dramatically alter the physical, chemical and optical properties of a surface. Back in the 1950s, Roger Appledorn, a young physicist at 3M, was asked to work on overhead projectors when he became curious about the fine patterns on transparent surfaces he was examining. The rest is history.
Innovator: ALVIN BOESE
Discovery: Nonwoven fibers (decorative ribbon, cleaning pads, filters, insulated apparel)
Fascinated by nonwoven technology and its potential applications, Al Boese experimented in the 3M lab for years until he developed Sasheen decorative ribbon, a huge hit when it was launched in 1950. A few years later, 3M "married" nonwovens to abrasives to produce Scotch-Brite® scrubbing and polishing pads. Later innovations stemming from Boese's initial exploration of nonwoven technology led to oil sorbents, Thinsulate™ thermal insulation for apparel, industrial respirators, and filters for residential and commercial buildings.
Innovator: RICHARD DREW
Discovery: Scotch® Tape
Abandoning a musical career for a job at 3M in the early 1920s, this young, banjo-playing engineer became an expert in the area of pressure-sensitive adhesives after developing the first-ever masking tape in 1925. Persistent innovation led to the development of Scotch® cellulose tape in 1930, with the purpose of providing a moisture-proof seal for the cellophane food packaging then coming into vogue.
Innovator: ART FRY & SPENCE SILVER
Discovery: Post-it® Note
In the 1960s, 3M Scientist Spence Silver had developed an adhesive that was strong enough to stick to surfaces, but could be easily removed without residue. What could the world do with something like this? 3M Researcher, Art Fry had an idea. While in church, he noticed the bookmarks in his hymnal kept falling out. If only there was a way to keep them in place with something that would stick without damaging the page... he connected with his colleague to explore creative synergy between technology and idea. The repositionable "bookmarks" took on new functions, revolutionizing the way we communicate with the invention of the Post-it® Note in 1980.
Innovator: LEW LEHR
Discovery: Surgical Drapes
When it came to sterile surgical conditions in the 1940s, the best surgeons could do was to sterilize a cloth towel and position it around the operation site, attaching it with pinchers to the patient's skin. The wound became exposed, increasing risk of infection. Laboratory researcher (and future CEO of 3M), Lew Lehr got inside the world of doctors and healthcare professionals to understand how his 3M team could improve conditions. The result? 3M's breakthrough surgical drapes featured a plastic sheet with adhesive that would stick to the skin right up to the wound edge, dramatically reducing the risk of infection.
Innovator: MEL SATER AND JOE MASSITELLO
Discovery: Magnetic Audio and Video Recording Tape
Led by Mel Sater and Joe Massitello, a team of dedicated 3M researchers and scientists developed the world's first high quality magnetic recording tape more than 50 years ago. It proved to be an instant success when legendary crooner Bing Crosby used the tape to pre-record his broadcasts, solving the problem of national time zone changes. Five years later, RCA used Scotch magnetic tape to record television programs for the first time.
Innovator: PATSY SHERMAN
Discovery: Scotchgard™ protector
There she was in a 3M lab, in the middle of researching a new rubber for jet aircraft fuel lines with colleague Sam Smith in 1952, when Chemical Researcher Patsy Sherman noticed something odd. A lab assistant accidentally dropped a glass bottle containing an experimental compound on her new tennis shoes. The spill would not wash off, nor would any solvent remove it. Big Idea: develop a compound that repels oil and water from fabrics. Scotchgard™ fabric and material protector was born in 1956.