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NEWS
Professor Works to Inspire School Children
December 1, 2008

In his native Newark, N.J., Joseph Freeman, an assistant professor at the Virginia Tech — Wake Forest University School of Biomedical Engineering and Sciences and director of the Musculoskeletal Tissue Regeneration Laboratory, has been working with Diana Freeman, his mother and a science teacher, to provide school children in the third through eighth grades with DVDs showing the work he is doing in Blacksburg. The idea to share Dr. Freeman’s in-lab work at Virginia Tech with students in Newark was sparked in 2006 after she invited her visiting son to participate in Career Day.

Dr. Freeman arrived the next day, wearing a Superman T-shirt and spoke to her third through fifth graders about his career in scientific research. Using a classroom skeleton to show students the various bones on the body, he discussed knee replacements and knee ligament surgeries and replacements. He also drew complicated nerve cell structures on the classroom chalkboard to show students why doctors cannot rebuild spinal cords or so many of the body’s complicated tissues that allow paraplegics to walk, the mother said.

Dr. Freeman said he was thrilled that students became involved in the lesson, asking question after question. From that class, Dr. Freeman and his mother decided to start making DVDs of lab-based lessons that he films so she can show them to her students. The DVDs, according to Dr. Freeman, are under 10 minutes and have or will include work he is using in the lab, such as electrospinning, how nanofibers are made, mircospheres, and hydrogels.

So far two DVDs have been completed and Dr. Freeman has ideas for more. The cost is cheap: he uses a digital recorder from home, with graduate students demonstrating the lesson after he gives a brief introduction. He adds music, positive-themed hip hop mostly, and edits the production on his home computer.

In early 2009, Dr. Freeman says he also plans to work Internet conferencing into the classroom lessons, as well as DVDs.


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