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Schug taking science to large audience at State Fair

Kevin Schug
Kevin Schug

UT Arlington chemistry assistant professor Kevin Schug and his students will leave their lab for the State Fair of Texas this weekend, bringing with them fun experiments they hope will get students excited about science. The first-time exhibit is funded by the National Science Foundation as part of Diversity in Science in the United States or DISCUS, a program started by Schug. The DISCUS booth will feature live experiments demonstrating concepts like density and gravity and some "chemistry magic." Features on famous minority and women scientists and microscope-aided lessons on microorganisms will also be part of the action.

"We wanted to reach as large a group of people as possible," said Schug, whose research focuses on developing new methods for drug discovery. "It occurred to me, here is a very large and diverse group of people that you could communicate science to. The fair just seemed like the perfect fit and it's just right down the road."

Schug and his students have spent the summer preparing thousands of goodie bags of take-home experiments for all ages. The exhibit will be open Sept. 24 through Monday, Oct. 4.

Schug's DISCUS project also includes a recently launched website where teachers publish, search and share peer-reviewed lesson materials. Featured lesson plans will be highly interactive and particularly appealing to limited English proficiency or LEP students. The lessons will use two research-tested models - "sheltered instruction operation protocol," or SIOP, and the 5E method. The 5E method provides an optimal series of steps for a classroom lesson and stands for engage, explore, explain, elaborate and evaluate.

The SIOP model is an engaging, hands-on style of teaching that incorporates graphical elements, said Jennifer Cruze, a chemistry teacher from Carroll High School in Southlake. Cruze has been working with Schug to develop the DISCUS site.

"Those strategies are strategies that we mainly see in elementary school and then they seem to drop away from the curriculum. So what it does is it brings back in those things and makes the learning more meaningful no matter what language you speak," said Cruze, who is also the winner of the DFW chapter of the American Chemical Society's 2010 Werner Shulz award for chemistry teaching.

The DISCUS website,, also includes activities for students as well as a list of more than 400 programs that aid minority and LEP students at universities and colleges across the country. A map of the DISCUS booth location at the State Fair is also available.

DISCUS is the public outreach portion of Schug's $550,000 CAREER award from the NSF. The majority of that grant work focuses on using mass spectrometry to study interactions between molecules.

This year, Schug was the lone recipient of the Eli Lilly and Company Young Investigator Award in Analytical Chemistry. The national honor comes with an unrestricted $50,000, the opportunity to renew the grant for a second year and a lifetime opportunity to collaborate with the Eli Lilly pharmaceutical company.