At age 30, Jon Moreno-Ramirez gets butterflies in his stomach when he talks about science. He even has a forearm tattoo with a physics equation that explains the nuclear reaction inside the sun.
“I’m always looking for the reason why things happen,” said Moreno-Ramirez, a science teacher at Riverstone International School. “I’m constantly wondering about weird things.”
Moreno-Ramirez considers himself a math and science nerd. He walks around his classroom with a Rubik’s Cube in hand constantly solving the challenge and creating new patterns while teaching.
“I have to be fidgeting with something — this is nothing new to my students,” Moreno-Ramirez said. “It’s like science, every time I mess up with the Rubik’s Cube it’s a new problem.”
Moreno-Ramirez is preparing the next generation of scientists through teaching and real-world experience. He landed a $15,000 Partners in Science Program grant from M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust.
“I can’t wait to learn more and have this translate into further education for me,” Moreno-Ramirez said. “I’m along for the ride.”
Moreno-Ramirez will investigate the fundamental physical properties of nanoscale ferroelectrics and multiferroics in various devices, such as computer memories or microwave electronic devices. The grant program is to help high school science teachers obtain firsthand research experience that they can apply in the classroom.
“I never thought this would be a path I would take as a teacher,” Moreno-Ramirez said. “I can’t wait to get my hands on all the lab equipment.”
Boise State University physics professor Dmitri Tenne will guide Moreno-Ramirez through techniques in lab work and scientific research and serve as a mentor.
“This is great access for teachers to receive scientific research experience at the university level,” Tenne said. “This grant will allow Jon to establish contacts at the university and an opportunity for his students to see our physics department.”
Moreno-Ramirez hopes his pursuit of scientific knowledge will inspire his students. He said the research studies will enrich his math and physics classes.
“Moreno-Ramirez becomes very actively involved in his presentations providing us with information as well as interactive demonstrations on how different laws of physics work,” said Joshua Hanson-Kaplan, a junior at Riverstone. “His clear passion for what he teaches often rubs off on students and makes his class much more fun.”
Moreno-Ramirez will begin his research in June and will work two consecutive summers on the grant. At the end of the project, Moreno-Ramirez will write a paper with Tenne which could be featured in a scientific journal.
“I would feel accomplished and proud if our work made it into a journal,” Moreno-Ramirez said.
Riverstone is one of four Idaho schools who received a 2017 M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust grant. Capital High School, Kuna High School, Garden Valley High School and the Treasure Valley Math and Science Center also received grants.
Disclosure: Idaho Education News is housed in the College of Education at Boise State University.