Pupils inform debate on ethics of nanotechnology
TEENAGERS from a Bristol school are helping to write an ethical code for the use of nanotechnology in medical science.
The students from St Mary Redcliffe and Temple School made their contributions to the so-called Nano Carta at a debate involving PhD students from Bristol university.
The school pupils, aged 14 to 16, came up with their ideas after learning about nanoscience – the study of manipulating matter on an atomic and molecular scale.
The code will cover privacy issues, acceptance, human health, access, liability, regulation and control.
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The school has been working with the research students from the Bristol Centre for Functional Nanomaterials as part of a project known as Nanochannels, which is funded by the European Commission.
It involves 20 teachers from eight countries across the continent, each engaging students through the use of social media such as Facebook, Twitter and live debates. The Guardian newspaper is a partner in the project and is publishing articles on its Nanotechnology World microsite.
Dr Paul Hill, a chemistry teacher and head of e-learning at SMRT, established the collaboration with the university. Postgraduate students have since been teaching pupils about the theory and practical challenges of researching nanotechnology, with examples from their own PhD research.
Dr Annela Seddon, teaching and research fellow in the BCFN and lecturer in the school of physics, said: "Our postgraduates have already been engaging in lively and thoughtful debate with Year 10 students about the benefits and ethical implications of nanotechnology through a moderated Facebook group.
"This week's event brought everyone's thoughts together and enabled us to write what we're calling a 'Nano Carta' – a document prepared by students to act as an ethical code for nanotechnology.
"The whole project has been a fantastic opportunity for both staff and pupils at St Mary Redcliffe and everyone from the BCFN. We all very much hope that it has been thought-provoking and will inspire a new generation of students to study science and engineering."