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Home > Nanotechnology Columns > UAlbany College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering > New Degree, New Curriculum, New Horizons

Daniel R. Smith
CNSE Associate Vice President for Student Affairs and CNSE Director of Student Services
UAlbany - College of Nanoscale Science & Engineering

Abstract:
Heraclitus, a 6th century BC Greek philosopher, once said, "There is nothing permanent except change." A change in the academic landscape took place in early June 2009 when the New York State Education Department approved a comprehensive baccalaureate program in Nanoscale Science at the College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering (CNSE) of the University at Albany.

August 31st, 2009

New Degree, New Curriculum, New Horizons


Heraclitus, a 6th century BC Greek philosopher, once said, "There is nothing permanent except change." A change in the academic landscape took place in early June 2009 when the New York State Education Department approved a comprehensive baccalaureate program in Nanoscale Science at the College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering (CNSE) of the University at Albany. With the approval, CNSE offers all levels of nanotechnology-focused education from K-12 outreach to graduate doctoral programs. In addition, CNSE also provides access to its one-of-a-kind, world-class Albany NanoTech Complex by offering training for community college students, summer internships for undergraduate and high school students, and more formal summer programs for middle and high school students. Finally, CNSE has provided workshops and collaborative ventures for high school science and math teachers so they can incorporate the principles of nanoscale science into their syllabi.

With the advent of the new undergraduate degree, CNSE builds on its unique graduate-level program to educate future scientists and engineers earlier in their educational careers. The nanoscale science major features a fully integrated, yet customizable curriculum, with the goal of "training the student's intellect to explore, discover and innovate while ensuring proficiency in a specific nanoscale discipline."1 A further advantage of the program is that students learn an inherently interdisciplinary field, and its graduates will help fill the need forecasted by the National Science Foundation for two million nanotechnology-educated professionals in the U.S. by 2014. It has been further projected that another five million jobs in these fields will be needed worldwide.2

What does CNSE offer that makes the new program so unique? CNSE is recognized as the world's leading college for nanotechnology and is the only college devoted solely to the acquisition and dissemination of knowledge at the nanoscale. In addition, CNSE's Albany NanoTech Complex is a $5 billion, 800,000-square-foot modern facility, with laboratories , classrooms, and 80,000 square feet of Class 1 capable 300mm wafer cleanrooms,. The complex also houses many corporate partners including IBM, TEL, AMAT, ASML, AMD, GlobalFoundries, and International SEMATECH, and has more than 250 academic and industrial partners around the world. The undergraduate program will utilize the complex, its labs, tools, equipment, and strategic partnerships to teach the students about the cutting-edge research happening on-site. The model will also provide opportunities for students in research and supervised work with corporate partners in industrial internships and research experiences. The result will be well-rounded scientists trained in theory, methods of inquiry, analysis and discovery, but with an eye toward practical application.

The curriculum itself is an innovation - an integration of biology, chemistry, physics, and materials science that allows students to develop the skills of inquiry, experimentation, observation, and analysis while learning to fully explore phenomena at the nanoscale using an inherently cross-disciplinary approach. These methods allow the students to spur inquiry and innovation in research, while simultaneously learning about teamwork and working as part of a research team. The curriculum design is meant to maximize training, while allowing each student to customize his or her program by focusing during the junior and senior year on a research project which will culminate in a public presentation of the senior project to the students and faculty of CNSE. Such flexibility prepares students to meet the challenges posed by an economy that is increasingly focused on technology, products, goods, and services created using nanotechnology know-how. The curriculum is constructed to train the students to understand that nothing is permanent except change, to embrace that concept, and to innovate to meet the challenges posed by our society's needs.

During the four-year undergraduate program, students will complete 102 credit hours across five thematic areas: Foundational Principles, Core Competencies, Concentration in Nanoscale Science, Capstone Research Design, and appropriate mathematics. This rigorous curriculum is in addition to the 30 credits of university general education requirements.

Through the undergraduate program, CNSE is preparing its students for the range of nanotechnology-related employment opportunities that will continue to grow as more products are created that use materials, processes, or technology at the nanoscale. Think of cell phones with more features, larger memory, increased speed; medical diagnostics and treatments that are less invasive and more effective; computers that use less energy but run faster, and it becomes easy to see the potential offered by nanotechnology. A few of the emerging growth areas include health care (medical diagnosis, treatment, and therapies), semiconductors (faster, smaller, higher capacity computer chips, sensors, "Lab-on-a-chip" for sensing and testing), architectural coverings (paints that last longer and offer resistance to chemicals, chipping, or scratching), military applications (materials to more effectively arm and protect a soldier), and alternative energy (more efficient solar and fuel cells). Innovation based on research that produces these new materials, processes, and products will spur further growth, and will not only create entirely new jobs and careers for scientists and engineers, but also new employment opportunities for the businesses that construct the tools and facilities that produce these new products.

The promise that nanotechnology holds is characterized by the National Nanotechnology Initiative as "leading to the next Industrial Revolution." Its success is dependent upon new and innovative approaches to education, especially science and engineering curricula. Evident in its new nanoscale science undergraduate program, CNSE is continuously changing and evolving to proactively meet this growing demand.


1. University at Albany, University Senate Bill No. 0708-27: May 5, 2008. P.4
2. University at Albany, University Senate Bill No. 0708-27: May 5, 2008. P.3

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