Dr. Anne-Marie Nickel
Dr. Anne-Marie Nickel has always loved science. She believes more people might like it, too—if they just got to know it better. “The general public needs an appreciation, as well as a general knowledge of science, because that’s where new technologies come from,” she said, “and if people are afraid of new technologies it might be because they don’t understand them.”
Nickel became interested in educational development projects while working on her doctorate in inorganic chemistry at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
“My advisor was very involved in chemical education. We had a show we would do at museums or at public events,” she said. “I really enjoyed that a lot.” So much so, it became obvious while interviewing for industry positions that education was really where her heart is.
Nickel joined the MSOE Physics and Chemistry Department in 2002, and teaches general chemistry, as well as electives in nanotechnology and food chemistry. She also participates in chemical education through the American Chemistry Society, writing standardized exams. She is an author of on-line products for educational publisher McGraw-Hill, as well as a digital faculty consultant.
Nickel tries to impress upon her students the importance of their role in educating people, too. Her nanoscience and nanotechnology students get outreach experience by giving presentations and creating hands-on activities for St. Joan Antida High School students. “That’s been my servant-leadership project that’s succeeded best,” she said.
Chocolate has also succeeded as a fun way for Nickel and her students to get people interested in chemistry. Nickel co-authored “How the Study of Chocolate as a Material Can be Used to Enhance Engineering Education,” and has done quite a bit of outreach at area schools using candy.
“Taking an everyday material and being able to make sure people understand the science and engineering behind that—that’s the fun challenge to me,” said Nickel. Nickel has also found a way to incorporate literature with her nanotechnology classes. Her students read the novel “Prey” by Michael Crichton, about nanomaterials gone rogue.
“One of the big themes in my class is the societal impact of new technologies,” said Nickel. “As engineers, they’re going to be using nanotechnologies and making responsible decisions is important.” By critiquing Crichton’s novel, the students can start thinking about that in a safe place, she said.
As a CREATE Faculty Fellow, Nickel wants to make sure students not only have the basic skills of engineers, but also get more opportunities to work hard to solve the bigger problems. She’d like to find ways to incorporate that early in their coursework and carried throughout their academic careers. That will come from having good partners, she said. “Good collaboration with more industry and community will be very valuable to the students and MSOE.”
Nickel also serves as the MSOE Athletic Department Faculty Representative. Through strong relationships with faculty and coaches, Nickel has advocated for policies that assist student athletes in the classroom as well as on the playing field.
Away from campus, Nickel enjoys volunteering at her children’s schools, reading, exercising, yoga, and is a proud soccer mom to her oldest son, age 14, and a swim mom to her 10-year-old. Nickel met her husband while they were both competing on the swim teams at Lawrence University in Appleton, Wisconsin, so as a family, they do a lot of waterskiing and wake surfing.
“We’re water people,” she said. “Maybe I should have been a water chemist.”