Bringing AFM to life-science and hospital people. The educational side
The ambitious aim of COST action TD1002 is to foster the spread of Atomic Force Microscopy (AFM) into the life-science, NanoMedicine and clinical research environment; the professional figures working in these areas must be able to operate consciously AFMs by themselves.
In order to bring AFM out of the physical sciences shell, it is compulsory to teach pure biologists and medical doctors about how to use it, which in turn requires the development of novel educational strategies. Carrying on this educational project is one of the tasks of the COST action TD1002.
This document aims at drawing a shared strategy to accomplish this task. Tentatively, the work plan may consist in two separate steps:
step 1 * a preliminary work will be devoted to report personal experiences and case studies, and to discuss the peculiarity and the required scientific bases of the AFM technique;
step 2 * the second step will be more operative, and will consists in the definition of a didactic strategy aiming at teaching AFM to pure biologists, medical doctors, hospital technicians etc... Reasonably, it would represent an important goal to complete step 1 within the duration of the present COST action, and fulfill a preliminary part of step 1.
Concerning step 1, this will require both a survey and a discussion work.
The survey will be twofold. First, it is important to collect personal accounts from scientists who work with AFM (from all scientific areas, but particularly interesting will be those contributions from biologists, medical doctors, etc…), where the personal attitude and approach to the technique is described, with an eye to the impact of the personal scientific education on AFM activity. COST action TD1002 gathers several scientists with different backgrounds and professional experiences, united by using AFM for their scientific studies, therefore this task should be accomplished relatively easily. Also the contributions of scientists not belonging to action TD1002 can be collected, of course. Second, it may be interesting to report about existing or recent activities aimed at teaching/disseminating AFM among biologists, medical doctors etc. Also in this case COST action partners are ideal candidates for providing this kind of information, because some of them are likely already involved in this kind of activities, or because they are informed about similar activities carried on by colleagues. It should be considered the possibility of reporting about activities related to the more general field of Nanotechnology, rather than only specifically to AFM.
The discussion must be aimed at identifying the (minimal) scientific fundamentals, as well as the technical skills, necessary to approach a complex technique like AFM, and to be able to use it with consciousness and to get useful information out of it. Provocatively, a conclusion of this discussion could be that no scientific bases are really needed to operate an AFM and to gain useful information out of it, and that AFM can be used as a single button tool. More realistically, a set of minimal scientific/technical knowledge and skills can be identified, and suitable didactic strategies must be developed in order to communicate these knowledges/skills to the final users; defining strategies and means is the specific aim of step 2.