In this issue NanoNews-Now Editor Rocky Rawstern and contributing writers Judith Light Feather and Pearl Chin cover nanotechnology education. We also surveyed several leading academic institutions to see how nanotechnology has changed their programs, and spoke with several other experts in their fields.

"Nanoscale science is the pervasive teacher in nature, from the macro to the micro, therefore our discoveries from the ability to work in this small scale of science will bring many gifts to humanity. Disruptive, yes, as our comfort zones are stretched and challenged, thus requiring many changes that may not be obvious in the present moment. However, there are signs and an early rush to commercialization has given us a glimpse of some important social implications we will have to face in the future. Most of the nanotechnology startups that I visited last year are managed with 4-12 people with high skill levels in the integrated sciences and engineering, while none of the companies had over a hundred employees. Is this a trend? If so, how do we educate people for a very different future? What about the children in school who are using outdated textbooks, which don't include nanoscale science? Are we paying attention?" Judith Light Feather

Join us as we review Nanotechnology Education.

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Nano Science Education - A Complex Issue

By Judith Light Feather, President of The NanoTechnology Group - A Global Education Consortium.
Judith Light Feather

Many of the phone calls that our organization receives are from parents searching for sample nano experiments for their children. Invariably, the conversation turns to the current crisis in our public education, and as I attempt to explain the many complex levels involved to change the current curriculum, the parents are astounded. So when the request came in for an article on nano science education, the topic seemed to be appropriate.

Most of the complexity involved with development of new or innovative educational environments for our schools revolves around a system that was created by our forefathers, and does not mandate a national curriculum. On the other end of the spectrum, the system has permitted Congress to mandate National Standards, Benchmarks in Education and National mandatory testing, currently in the form of TAKS and TEKS.

There are many problems that have been identified over the years with the existing curriculum, which are systemic, and even though research has been conducted consistently over the years and various solutions recommended, it seems like nothing ever changes. Stasis continues for many complex reasons, and I would say that the number one barrier to any meaningful change involves the politics of the system. Political solutions always involve budgets, and they tend to think if they commit more funding for a very intolerable situation that it will improve. However, systemic solutions are very difficult to implement without new mandates which dig down to the core of the problem rather than spending money on superficial cosmetic adjustments.

One of the chief proponents of improving science education has been the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Chief Executive Officer Dr. Alan I. Leshner who states, "Research clearly shows that textbooks and other classroom materials are a linchpin of effective student learning, yet we know from our evaluations of textbooks that most materials available today aren't serving the needs of students or teachers." In a series of National Standards-based evaluations, AAAS's Project 2061 put educators and parents on notice that textbooks were fatally flawed. Project 2061 rated all popular middle-school science books as "unsatisfactory," and criticized them as "full of disconnected facts that neither educate nor motivate" students. Not one of the 10 widely used high-school biology texts was deemed worthy of a high rating in a rigorous evaluation.

The Condition of Education 2003, a mandated report submitted to Congress on June 1st by the U.S. Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences and National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), each year has stated that students in middle grades had more out-of-field teachers who lack a major and certification in the subject they teach. This high risk group of students also has the highest drop out rates and do not return to school. You might ask, "How did this happen?"

In order to understand the dilemma that exists in now, a recap of the history of education in our country is necessary, I quote the following statement, from

"The Department of Education was created in 1867 to collect information on schools and teaching that would help the States establish effective school systems. While the agency's name and location within the Executive Branch have changed over the past 130 years, this early emphasis on getting information on what works in education to teachers and education policymakers continues down to the present day." This is the core of the education problem: The Department of Education has outgrown the need for their original mission. Education quality varies from state to state as our decision makers have not united their efforts to develop a strong education paradigm where each student in our country has an equal opportunity to excel.

The Department of Education must follow their mandate, which involves providing research to understand how we learn, to analyze the problems in current textbooks, and to create more tests for accountability. Every June an annual report by the aforementioned NCES titled: The Condition of Education is released that charts our failure to improve.

Example: The Commissioner's Statement in the 2003 report for mathematics performance states: "In 2000, 26 per cent of 4th graders, 27 per cent of 8th graders and 17 per cent of 12th graders performed at or above the Proficient level for each grade, defined as "solid academic performance for each grade assessed." (Indicator 11) In a country as large and wealthy as the United States, it is difficult to understand how these percentages could be defined as solid academic performances."

According to the findings from the 1999 Third International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMMS) Video Study, in 8th grade mathematics lessons in the United States, students spend 53 per cent of the time reviewing previously studied content and 48 per cent of the time studying new content." (Indicator 26). The NCES report is available for download here.

Participating Nations by Average Score

1.China -569 11.Slovak R.-535 21.Italy-493 31.Iran -448
2.Singapore-568 12.Belgium Fl-535 22.Malaysia-492 32.Indonesia-435
3.Hungary-552 13.Slovenia-533 23.Lithuania-488 33.Turkey -433
4.Japan-550 14.Canada-533 24.Thailand-482 34.Tunisia -430
5.Korea Rep.-549 15.HongKong-530 25.Romania-472 35.Chile -420
6.Netherlands-545 16.Russian F.-529 26.Isreal -468 36.Philippines 345
7.Australia-540 17.Bulgaria-518 27.Cyprus -460 37.Morocco -323
8.Czech R.-539 18.United St.-515 28.Moldova-459 38.S.Africa -243
9.England-538 19.N.Zealand-510 29.Macedonia-458
10.Finland-535 20.Latvia-LSS-503 30.Jordan-450

The students participating in the 1999 TIMMS test from the United States had a high level of access to computers, along with the Internet at home and at school (80%) compared to the International average (45%). Even with this advantage the science and math performance for the United States students relative to the group of nations was lower for eighth graders in 1999 than it was for fourth graders four years earlier in 1995, before Internet access and computers were available in the schools. During the late 90's, efforts were successful in wiring schools for Internet access in the classrooms as reflected in these figures. However, recent technology reports have found that the teachers only allow the students to use the internet for research. They do not have time in their overloaded schedules to search for curriculum online, nor to use any of the excellent science learning materials that have been archived in the Eisenhower Clearinghouse of Excellence (link). The Department of Education is now funding another "What Works" Clearinghouse for curriculum through 2007, but only time will confirm usage of the archived contents. Meanwhile, the Asian Pacific countries are advancing rapidly and will be global competitors in the next decade as the TIMMS chart shown reflects their recent scores.

The complexities increase as we delve into solutions for education. Based on all of the current rules and regulations concerning improvement of education, how do the many Universities, dedicated Teaching and Learning Centers and Professional organizations resolve these fundamental but complex problems?

The Answer: Dedication and determination while working within the allowable guidelines. Over the years I have found that "unity of mind creates a powerful meme," along with a concentrated effort and right action, and most important, a heavy dose of perseverance to stay the course and explore the paths to reach the goals.

Nano Science education is particularly difficult to implement in classrooms where students are already failing science in large numbers. Many people ask why we need to add another science topic to an already massive curriculum. The answer is: we don't. To understand this premise, let us look at current 8th grade science as an example:

Science Starts with a Question
"Science is the process of gathering knowledge about the natural world. Asking a question is often the first step in the process of gathering knowledge. The world around you is full of amazing things that can lead you to ask questions."

Unit 1- Matter and Its Interactions
    The Atom
    Periodic Table
    Chemical Compounds
    Chemical Interactions
    Matter and Heat
    The Energy and Property of Waves
    The Nature of Sound
    The Nature of Light
    Forces and Fluids

Introducing Nanoscience in Unit 1: Matter and its interactions can visually bridge the gap between the atomic (invisible world of matter) as the atom is currently shown as a graphic on the page and the micro scale (matter we can see).

Highly Ordered Pyrolytic Graphite (HOPG). The "bumps" represent individual carbon atoms. The distance across the entire image is 2 nm (20 angstroms). For more of this type of image, see the Animated Scans Gallery at

Study of the atom is the perfect point to introduce the STM and AFM scanning tunneling microscopes to allow students to view animated scans of different elements at the atomic level. This leads into the next topic the periodic table, which will be an interactive virtual table of elements for teaching at all grade levels, enhancing the current 2-page photo of the periodic table in textbooks.

Since nanoscience is interdisciplinary (chemistry, physics and biology) virtual experiments that show the student Chemical Compounds and Interactions will enhance the next step in our approach to explore the physical world, leading into the section on Matter and Heat and The Energy and Property of Waves. At the nano scale properties we understand change and exhibit quantum behavior as energy waves and particles. This science expands our knowledge base on the energy movement of nature before it becomes matter in the visible world allowing us to create new materials that are stronger and lighter. Each of the topics are already included in the 8th grade science teaching syllabus, which can be taught with exciting innovative tools that stimulate the thinking process and allows students to feel the excitement of nature. Expanding each topic with interactive visual elements and prepared virtual nano-lab visual experiments adds a third dimensional quality to the subject matter and brings it to life.

The ability to visualize the atomic scale is creating excitement in university labs around the world, therefore introducing nano scale science to young children also challenges them to explore a world so small it is invisible to the naked eye. Science is, after all, the exploration of the world around us. Innovative curriculum that stimulates curiosity about our world also pushes the envelope of our minds to expand our knowledge and desire more information. Nature is the teacher at this small scale of science, opening new worlds to explore and answering questions that mankind has pondered for ages.

Technology as described in the 8th grade textbook leads us into the next section.
"Technology is the application of knowledge, tools and materials to solve problems and accomplish tasks. Science and technology are not the same thing. The goal of science is to gain knowledge about the natural world. The goal of technology is to apply scientific understanding to solve problems. Technology is sometimes called applied science."

Nanotechnology is the development of products in the material world from the manipulation of atoms and molecules, whose properties change to create new materials that are stronger and lighter. The students will have a working understanding of lab environments and equipment taught with the virtual nano labs sections, preparing them to understand how this technology will develop, while stimulating their desire to explore possible STEM career paths based on the current technological advances in nanotechnology for medicine, health, new materials in products, communication, information and space exploration. This section will show examples of products already in the market place, while defining the course of study necessary to reach the level of engineering necessary to work in the field.

Teaching young students that size matters in science can be accomplished much easier with visual elements. The following chart, produced by Sandia Laboratory is a perfect example of visual impact for science students and teachers.

Scale of things

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In the development of curriculum each organization must establish goals and plan a project strategy, and then proceed to find the right grant solicitation to match the project. The National Science Foundation (NSF) has been encouraging collaborations to answer grants as the unification of the sciences is so important, so finding a compatible group of collaborators to partner with your university or organization solidifies your efforts.

However, once your group of universities and organizations receives a grant, the complexity intensifies. The required assessments, evaluations, re-assessments, pilot testing, teacher input, parent input, School of Education evaluators, outside evaluators and NSF outside evaluators must be included in your budget for the project.

The final hurdle for project success involves distribution to public schools. In the U.S., all decisions for classroom textbooks or learning tools are made by individual State School Boards. Example: A textbook publisher, such as Holt, Reinhart and Winston, had to produce a special edition of their 8th grade Science and Technology textbook for Texas with revisions after the School Board reviewed and edited the original text. Therefore, even after all of the criteria are met in the assessment and evaluation process, any School Board can revise and change your finished product or simply refuse to use the textbooks.

Back to the question: Why do we continue to tread this path that has so many challenges to overcome? Passion and 'right action' coupled with determination to succeed in the endeavor.

Even with all the current excitement at the recently funded University Nano Centers, most of the outreach programs that have been developed as part of their funding matrix have not reached beyond their local environment. A few area schools have agreed to pilot tests, but many do not adopt the curriculum into their current teaching syllabus. Science museums in the local area of the Nano Centers usually participate in co-developing some type of informal temporary science exhibit, which again only reaches local students. Therefore, the funding allotted for education outreach since the first Nano Initiative in 2000 has had a limited scope for K-12, with most of the outreach into a classroom designed for grade 12. The end products, which the Nano Centers presented to the Senate Committee on Science in 2003 involved some type of classroom kit, mostly made from "legos" that had to be purchased by the school districts. Some of them were out of budget range, therefore eliminating any large student base for a positive learning experience.

The future Workforce is also a complex problem:

Student enrollment for Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) careers has flatlined over the past 10 years, as defined in the following chart for 1990-2001.

associated degrees chart

Since only 17% of high school students are working at proficiency levels or above, the number of graduate students in engineering related technologies will not increase in this decade. Industry will continue to be impacted with unskilled workers unless we introduce nano scale science to students in grades 7-12 within the next five years and encourage them to choose a STEM career path for their future.

The solution is to help parents and teachers understand the complexities described in this article and encourage them to attend their local school board meetings. Stay informed by reading and utilizing the charts and reports that are published each year.

The future does hold promise as long as our goals for improvement drive society to demand Life Long Learning opportunities and innovative education in our public schools to shift the paradigm, allowing our civilization to reach for new heights. Education is everyone's responsibility, including government, academia, corporations and private citizens. Be the source for the future and encourage others to get involved and the next time someone asks you WHY? don't we have better education? you can give them the complex answer while you enlist their help.

Judith Light Feather is the President and Founder of The NanoTechnology Group Inc., a Global Education Consortium of universities, organizations, and corporations dedicated to facilitating the development of nanoscience and math education in the public domain, and travels extensively around the world to promote nano science education. Public awareness and societal implications are important aspects of education and the organization is developing a News Division with an online TV station, which will offer "Video News Releases" as the "voice of nano" to universities and nanotechnology companies, video stream conferences and archive all data for "Video on Demand News", along with an electronic newsletter "Nano for People" distributed to an international audience. www.NanoNEWS.TV

She can be contacted here.

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Interviews with Educators

By Rocky Rawstern - Editor Nanotechnology Now, NanoNews-Now, and NanoNews-Digest
Rocky Rawstern - Editor Nanotechnology Now -

In a series of interviews, designed to gauge the changes happening in response to the need for more qualified "nanotechnologists," NanoNews-Now Editor Rocky Rawstern asked the following three questions to representatives of leading universities:

1. In the past few years, what changes have you seen at the [your university] regarding courses in nanoscale sciences? To what do you attribute these changes?
2. Regarding the need for a growing number of graduates who understand nanoscale science: over the next few years what changes do you expect to see at academic institutions world-wide?
3. What are some of the positions your "nanotech" students can look forward to in the job market after graduation?

Catherine J. Murphy, Guy F. Lipscomb Professor of Chemistry, Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, University of South Carolina.

1. In the sciences and engineering, mainly we see special topics graduate courses related to nano - as a result of hiring new faculty members with nano-interests. In the humanities, special topics graduate and honors undergraduate courses are being offered as a result of (a) faculty member interest in the topic and (b) NSF award on social implications of nantech.

2. I predict "graduate certificates" in nano will rise, but still Ph.D.'s will still be awarded in traditional departments.

3. In my case my people tend to do postdocs at other universities or national labs, and there are lots of nano-bio opportunities. National lab positions can turn into permanent staff positions. Also, academic departments are now starting to specify "nano" faculty positions within science or engineering departments, so that is definitely a growing thing.

Kristen M. Kulinowski, Ph.D., Executive Director CBEN--Center for Biological and Environmental Nanotechnology. Faculty Fellow, Department of Chemistry, Rice University

1. Rice has created several new courses in nano and incorporated nano into many more existing courses. I've attached a listing of those courses in which CBEN has a role. Demand for these courses has come from industry people who would like to recruit well-trained Ph.D.'s, from our funding agency (NSF), which would like to see centers training the nano workforce of the future, and especially from our students, who see nano as figuring into their career plans. The research has really jumped out ahead of the curriculum and lots of places are playing catch-up.

2. I expect to see more universities creating nanotechnology Ph.D. tracks for their grad students. A potential model for this is Rice's program in applied physics, which is a hybrid of physics, computational science and engineering that can be tailored somewhat to an individual student's interests. I do not expect to see large numbers of new undergrad degrees in nanotech, though concentrations or specializations are more likely. (e.g., chemistry B.S. with concentration in nano).

3. Our industrial affiliates are eager to recruit talented PhD's from a number of disciplines who have experience with the tools and techniques of nanotech. Some of our students will go onto positions in large chemical companies with programs in nano, some will join small start-ups, others will go into academia. In this sense, it's not all that different from the choices they have now.

Dr. Linda Schadler, Education Director for Rensselaer's Nanotechnology Center

1. An introductory graduate and undergraduate course in nanotechnology. I attribute this to the funding available to develop such courses, student interest, and faculty interest.

2. More innovation in nanotechnology, new types of equipment for characterization, possibly minors in nanotechnology.

3. Research positions in many academic institutions as well as industrial research labs. Positions in the processing/manufacturing of nanostructured materials. They will also have the training or breadth to work in areas besides nanotechnology.

James T. Yardley, Professor of Chemical Engineering, Columbia University. Director, Center for Integrated Science and Engineering (CISE). Managing Director: Center for Electron Transport in Molecular Nanostructures.

1. We do have a couple of courses directly aimed at nanotechnology, and nanotechnology is creeping into most science and engineering courses. On the other hand we have not made sweeping curricular changes. Columbia maintains a fairly traditional discipline-based educational program.

2. The big changes are going to be in interdisciplinary research and collaborative research (and nanotech is an example of interdisciplinary research so it will set the model).

3. There are a wide variety of directions that the nanotech Ph.D. recipients will take. Many will find their place in conventional industrial settings (IBM, Intel, Dupont etc). Others will go to academia, particularly in developing countries.

Dr. Andy DiPaolo, Executive Director of the Stanford Center for Professional Development (SCPD) and Senior Associate Dean in the School of Engineering at Stanford University.

1. We have seen both a diversification and a specialization of nanotechnology programs over the past few years. Leaders in academia and industry have begun to realize that nanotech is not an isolated field unto itself, but rather an entirely new paradigm with widespread implication and applications in many diverse fields. As such, while nanotechnology entails increasing specialization in the particular technologies being developed, it also requires increasing collaboration among a very wide range of participants from different fields and industries. Our strategy is therefore to infuse nanotechnology concepts into courses and programs in many different fields of research.

Specifically, while we have had a general course on nanotechnology (MSE 316) for four years, in the last year we have also started to offer more specialized classes such as nanoelectronics and computational nanotechnology. We have created three new programs in direct response to the growing need for both technical specialization and interdisciplinary collaboration in nanotechnology:

    1) Our academic certificate program in Nanoscale Materials Science is designed for engineers who need to learn how to use nanofabrication and nanocharacterization to make advanced materials with new electrical, optical, magnetic and mechanical properties for use in IT, bioengineering, and energy and environmental applications. It brings a wide variety of specialists together to learn related techniques. See Nanoscale Materials Science.

    2) The Stanford Engineering and Science Institute (SESI) is a summer event that invites leading industry and academic experts to explore cutting-edge topics at the intersection of Stanford research and industry practice. It delves into the promise of a wide range of new nanotech products and applications capable of transforming and redefining industries, ranging from bottom-up molecular assembly to computational nanotechnology to "bionanotechnology." Presentations from the 2003 event may be viewed online by enrolling here.

We are currently planning the upcoming SESI for 2004 to offer even greater specialization and collaboration. We will be posting new content and new speakers for this coming July 26-30 here.

    3) Finally, we are making more of the campus-taught academic nanotechnology related courses available to students in industry via our unique distance learning program, called Stanford Online, as well as via local broadcast. Making nanotechnology courses available online is critical to expanding the programs to the widest possible range of global participants so as to build the largest network of concept exchange: See Nanotechnology related courses.

2. We expect that academic institutions world-wide will follow the lead of top institutions such as Stanford, expanding the catalogs of specialized nanotechnology courses and increasingly extending offerings to students remotely via distance learning technologies as we do through the Center for Professional Development. We also anticipate that because industrial applications drive the diversity of nanotechnology pursuits, academic institutions will increasingly seek to collaborate with private industries.

3. Nanotechnology affects so many industries and companies that advanced training in this area provides invaluable aid to finding desirable work. In a testament to the value of advanced nanotechnology training, even in this difficult economy our students are having great success finding jobs in industry, government and academic labs. Within industry, they are working for startups as well as large companies.

Wanting to get a different take on the education issue, I interviewed Robin D. Hanson, Assistant Professor of Economics, George Mason University. Given his background (1), I thought it appropriate to ask him to address a couple questions:

1. In your opinion, and in regards to advanced technology, how much should the general public participate in the debate over whether or not to implement a given technology?

That's a really tough question. In principle a rational public should attend to a few issues, but then delegate most others to their representatives. The question then would be whether this issue is important enough for the public to address directly.

However, for an irrational public it may well be better for them to remain ignorant of the technology until it is nearly ready to be deployed. It seems that for real publics, discussions of future technologies are often highjacked to become places where extremists have symbolic discussions about how much we care about each other, or the future, or nature, etc. The political mainstream tolerates this because they typically don't really believe the future technology will appear or make much difference.

2. What do you see as the major issues we as a society face in regards to advanced technology? Are we adequately addressing those issues? If not, what must we do?

The biggest issues are whether "radical" nanotech will be possible, and if so whether we should subsidize research into that area. Unfortunately, what has happened is that the mainstream powers have decided to declare that the radical scenarios (e.g., "nanobots") are impossible, in order to avoid possible public opposition such as biotech has suffered. Each person gives a different description of what these radical scenarios are, and a different reason why they are impossible. The only common element is that they are whatever it is that ordinary people are afraid of.

3. What would you consider the best and greatest use of advanced technology, and what needs to be done to ensure that with it we don't create a divide between the "haves" and "have-nots?"

As an economist I have to give the standard economist answer - we should and do use tech to give people more of the things they want. Social inequality is largely independent of specific technologies, and if you want to reduce inequality the answer is simple - take money from the rich and give it to the poor.

(1) "I have a social science Ph.D. from Caltech, and a physics M.S. and philosophy M.A. from the University of Chicago. I have been thinking about nanotechnology since 1985, when I read a draft of Eric Drexler's first book, and have specialized somewhat in economic analysis of future technologies." In December of 2003, he published "Five Nanotech Social Scenarios" See also Five Nanotech Social Scenarios

In an article (1) published by Better Humans on January 19th, 2004, Mike Treder of CRN spoke about the "responsible alternative" to relinquishment of molecular manufacturing. In discussing the alternatives, Treder offers three policy choices "nano-shutdown, nano-anarchy or nano-regulation."

I followed up with him, and asked this: Given the likelihood that we'll have to make a decision within the next decade (or so) regarding the three choices you've outlined, how can the average citizen hope to understand enough about MNT to make an intelligent and informed choice?

Treder: The challenge will be to sort out the accurate and meaningful information from the hype and hysteria. Advertisers are already touting nano's value. As the general public awareness of nanotechnology's awesome potential increases, novelists and moviemakers will have a field day. Some of that will be useful and a lot of it will be nonsense. In the next two or three years, there will be a lot of chatter out there, both positive and negative.

Fortunately, there are people like the NanoTechnology Group (TNTG), the Foresight Institute, and CRN that are providing scientifically valid and thought-provoking information. Judith Light Feather of TNTG is actively developing curriculum to teach students the real facts about nanotechnology. And the rest of us are trying hard to get the true picture out into the media, as well as through academic channels and various conferences. It's our challenge, as you suggest, to provide the kind of information that will enable "the average citizen" to make intelligent and informed choices.

Treder closed his case at Better Humans (and we'll close our's) with "When the time comes for lawmakers to decide what to do about molecular manufacturing, what option will they choose? As citizens, as future users of the technology, and as potential victims of unwise policy, it is up to us to make our voices heard. We have too much to gain-and too much to lose-to remain silent." We wholeheartedly agree.

(1) Nanotechnology: Time to Make a Choice. With molecular manufacturing on its way, we must reject relinquishment and resignation in favor of responsible regulation

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Nanotechnology Education

By Pearl Chin - Managing General Partner, Seraphima Ventures

Universities such as Rice, Harvard, MIT and Cornell offer nanotechnology specializations at the graduate level. A full Ph.D. in nanotechnology is available from the University of Washington. In the UK, Cranfield and Leeds offer a Masters of Science in nanoscience and nanotechnology, and in Australia, Flinders and the University of New South Wales offer a Bachelors of Science, just to name a few.

However, is it really feasible or necessary to offer a degree in nanotechnology? Nanotechnology represents the interdisciplinary nexus of all the science and engineering disciplines, which are already being taught. Except as a way we attract new students, why do we need new degree program?

How can you teach someone all the scientific disciplines at the graduate level? A student could be in graduate school for over 10 years. A minor in nanotechnology would not be as feasible as a minor in math or composite materials. A nanotechnology degree would demonstrate no more proficiency in understanding nanotechnology than having a comparable physics or chemistry or engineering degree at either the undergraduate or graduate level.

Perhaps it's time to start teaching science with a completely different and interdisciplinary approach. This may be necessary because nanotechnology is not a single specific discipline. It is an integrated way of observing and understanding behavior, all types of behaviors (electronic, chemical, physical, biological, mathematical, etc.), on the nanometer scale. Being able to observe nanoscale phenomenon makes it more obvious that these behaviors are interrelated. Nanotechnology is by nature broad and interdisciplinary because the various branches of science and engineering are interrelated. The scientific community understood this phenomenon before they called it nanotechnology. For instance, chemistry, physics, and biology combine into biophysics, biochemistry, and chemical physics with similar combinations in traditional engineering (i.e. chemical, mechanical engineering to biochemical, biomechanical engineering) disciplines in general. Among those majors are overlaps in types of required first and second year classes - for instance, chemistry, physics, thermodynamics, kinetics, and calculus.

An interesting note is that many university professors focusing on nanotechnology have teaching titles in two, seemingly to us, different departments. For instance, Naomi Halas is both Professor of Chemistry and Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Rice University. She is also co-founder of Nanospectra Biosciences Inc, which focuses on using gold nanoshells to target and kill tumor cells, and is a nanotech company that could be also classified as a biotech company. This is what nanotechnology is all about.

The industries that nanotechnology will likely have a disruptive effect on in the near term include the following:
(Amounts are Billions of US Dollars)




Long Term Care








U.S. Chemical












Hospitality / Restaurant


US Insurance




Corrosion Removal


US Steel




Diet Supplement


















Blue Jeans




Fluorescent Tagging

Figures are from:

The Next Big Thing Is Really Small: How Nanotechnology Will Change the Future of Your Business. J Uldrich & D Newberry. March 2003
Read our review

Nanotechnology and
Homeland Security
New Weapons for New Wars.
Dan Ratner, Mark Ratner. Nov. 2003

It's Alive: The Coming Convergence of Information, Biology, and Business.
Chris Meyer, Stan Davis

Got Nanotechnology?
If not, read this:

Our Molecular Future: How Nanotechnology, Robotics, Genetics, and Artificial Intelligence Will Transform Our World.
Douglas Mulhall, March 2002
Read our review

NanoNews-Now Editorial Calendar

Mar '04

Bulk Nanotech

Apr '04


May '04

Nanotubes & Buckyballs

Jun '04

Thin Film

Jul '04

Memory & Chip Technology

Aug '04


Sep '04

Life Extension

Oct '04

Space Elevator

Nov '04


Dec '04

Self Assembly

Jan '05


Offering a nanotechnology degree program is a great way to market to and attract potential students who will pay tuition. If it gets students interested in studying nanotechnology, I am not too hard pressed to complain, much. We don't have to call it a "nanotechnology degree" or major or minor, it's just more attractive.

A nanotechnology degree program could be a traditional science and or engineering degree program with a focus on nanotechnology. You could simply repackage the course requirements to include other departments.

A possible course of action would be the way Materials Science and Engineering education is approached. Some of the required coursework can be offered in other science and engineering departments and taken alongside those students. Solid state physics, also offered in the physics department, is a typical example.

Even materials science and engineering is an area that has evolved from metallurgy into the interdisciplinary discipline it is now. Materials science traditionally includes metals, ceramics, and polymers. Now it also includes composites as it is about combining materials. For a while, German scientists were saying that nanotechnology is nothing more than materials science. They're right to some extent if their definition includes biological systems. Materials science does not currently include biochemical systems, which is subject to change too if we keep an open mind and draw on basic biology and chemistry training.

Nanotechnology requires a good grasp of all basic sciences. An undergraduate education that requires all the basic science courses, regardless of major, is a good start. Interestingly enough, some of the leading nanotechnology pundits did not major in either science or math nor are they deep tech with Ph.D's. Several of the better known ones are journalists, such as Stephen Herrara and Howard Lovy, and are quite credible.

We should all be exposed to basic math, chemistry, biology, and physics in K-12, shouldn't we? I was helping two bright K-6 kids with their math homework when I made some interesting and distressing observations. One was an 8-year-old who still didn't know their multiplication tables and was about to embark on learning division. Upon further examination, this student was still counting on fingers for addition and subtraction. The other was an 11-year-old who could not understand a simple word problem that had to do with how many rolls of wallpaper would be needed to cover a room with certain dimensions. The student didn't understand how to apply what they had learned in math to solve a problem. These types of problem-solving skills are essential for understanding science. You cannot do much in the sciences without math skills. What is happening to these children who are falling through the cracks in our education system? This was alarming indeed, and probably not the first time these issues have been raised.

The basis for understanding nanotechnology is a fundamental understanding of all the sciences, and math. We should make sure our K-12 kids do better, in addition to spending money on the higher levels of education. Without that basic foundation, university-level nanotechnology programs will not be effective. In the long run, a nanotech program targeted towards the K-12 range, and geared toward reinforcing science and math skills will produce greater results versus those targeted at the graduate and post-graduate levels. If this is not addressed soon, the U.S. will continue to fall behind the rest of the world in education rankings, reducing the number of trained employees in a country and world employment market that needs them now, and at an ever increasing rate into the future.

This is not to expect that all children will win science fairs and end up with Ph.D's in Physics, but a significant portion of them will become the investment bankers, venture capitalists, sales and marketing people, teachers, etc. who will be the enablers of nanotechnology breakthroughs. It is these same people who, with a better grasp of basic science and math, will embrace responsible investments in nanotechnology, spread its benefits, and help make it acceptable to society in general.

Most children's first introduction to science comes as a result of their natural curiosity for the world around them. My 7, 8 and 9-year-old female cousins and I together love visiting the interactive Sony Wonder Technology Lab, the American Museum of Natural History, and especially the Hayden Planetarium. I personally have always loved the dinosaurs and the blue whale at the museum. Their parents also take these children to the Liberty Science Center fairly regularly, and as a balance, the Children's Museum of Manhattan.

The Sony Wonder Technology Lab happens to be free. Sony has the right idea in terms of long term investment goals, by giving back to society and their community. On the less altruistic side, Sony recognizes these children are their future customers, and an educated consumer is your best customer. This tactic fosters brand loyalty in these future adults, having its roots back to when they were kids. That type of loyalty is hard to shake as an adult. How often do you think back fondly of childhood experiences? Do you now use the same brand toothpaste or eat the same foods that you used to as a kid? Interesting long term marketing strategy.

So how do we keep these children as adults working and interested in science and less interested in hanging out at the mall? Make it fun. This is not that easy because as adults, sometimes we forget what kids consider fun. People's interest in science in this sense never quite goes away. New technology is constantly sought and being embraced not just to make our life easier, but because it can be entertaining. For example, the mobile phone and texting has invaded schools. Many may not care how it works, but they do recognize it is cool technology. CD's, DVD's, iPods, digital cameras - need I go on?

How do we keep that natural curiosity in us alive? Simple: personal interest, and challenging work, with an appropriate incentive structure will help keep people interested in advancing technology - something that motivates many of us, and is one of the reasons that you are reading this.

Teachers are enablers in nanotechnology; K-12 teachers more so than at the university level. They are an important part of the value chain, which influences and shapes children's thoughts and futures.

However, often the public school systems are not structured so as to attract good teachers. The system has evolved into an institution that protects teachers' jobs instead of insuring that our children are properly educated. Public school systems are compensated by government money based on how many children are enrolled. The more students leave to go to private school, the less money the public school systems get. This leads to teachers getting paid less, and the good teachers leave because they can't afford to live. As a result, more students leave. This is a vicious cycle. I recommend overhauling the public school teaching system to make sure children are learning what they need to know instead of ensuring teachers are protected. Goals and incentives for improving teaching standards need to be appropriate and put in place. Privatization can be an incentive until public school systems raise their standards and get their acts together. Politically this will not happen until school administrators are brave enough to take a stand against the teacher unions and politics.

In addition, science industries do not pay as well as other occupations and are still having problems retaining their most gifted students-turned-employees. I've seen many a gifted Princeton Ph.D. in Theoretical Physics go to Wall St. modeling derivatives. This is partly because of more attractive salaries, but also because of the lack of positions available for them in academia. For even the most gifted students, the attraction to non-science majors is greater, so the brain drain is still happening. The same phenomenon is occurring in teaching.

Nanotechnology is about a new era of possibilities and technological breakthroughs to be enabled by this generation of minds. What is great about nanotechnology is that within lies the hook, bringing kids to science, if it can be conveyed properly. The fact that nanotechnology is here and now and not 20 years down the line can be impressed upon kids. What will interest them more will be to make them understand that they can contribute to the world somehow by introducing new technologies, in whatever enabling role they choose. The idea that they can make the difference in how our world is sculpted could be of interest to these seemingly bored and unmotivated children. This boredom and malaise among our children needs to be eradicated and their attention channeled into something productive, challenging and meaningful. One way is via nanotechnology education. The responsibility for conveying, marketing and selling these opportunities lies with us adults.

Perhaps even more basic is our responsibility to teach our children to think. This comes about by encouraging their questions and helping them to find the answers when we cannot answer them. It becomes just as important for scientists to remember to question themselves, since they too are human and can be wrong. Richard Smalley, Nobel Prize winning physicist for discovery of fullerenes or buckyballs, advised young aspiring scientists that "the main thing you need to learn is doubt. Don't believe anything you're told without good reason and argument. Doubt underpins science." The type of doubt Richard Smalley is talking about advances science by making us question everything and everyone; it is a healthy skepticism. Sir Harald Kroto, who also shared the Nobel Prize with Smalley, said, "The key is to ask the right questions and check the answers."

The interdisciplinary teaching approach should be actively embraced at the graduate and undergraduate levels. While it is unlikely that any one person can master of all of nanotechnology, at least if students are taught to be open-minded about how useful all other technical disciplines are to a system or problem, then collaborations across disciplines at these levels will help us make even greater strides in science and technology. This approach also needs to start being implemented at the K-12 levels, sooner rather than later.

Stay tuned for next month's article on venture capital and nanotechnology.

Dr. Pearl Chin, Managing General Partner, Seraphima Ventures. MBA from Cornell, Commencement Marshall, PhD in Materials Science and Engineering from University of Delaware, Center for Composite Materials, B.E. Chemical Engineering, Cooper Union.

She specializes in advising on nanotechnology investment opportunities. She consults for and writes a regular column for on business and management issues in nanotechnology companies. Dr. Chin is advising the student run VC fund at Cornell's Johnson Graduate School of Management, Big Red Venture Fund, on investing in nanotechnology. Dr. Chin is also Managing Director of Glocap Search LLC Small Tech Practice.

She is a Senior Associate of The Foresight Institute in the US and was formerly US Representative of the Institute of Nanotechnology in the UK.

She can be contacted here.

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In closing, these quotes:

From Glenn Harlan Reynolds:

And the final reason is that there's just a lot of enthusiasm among young people for advanced nanotechnology. While chemist Richard Smalley accuses nanotechnology expert Eric Drexler of creating fear ("You and people around you have scared our children") (however) Howard Lovy notes something a bit different:

    Is Drexler, as Smalley so infamously put it, "scaring our children"? No. In fact, his ideas continue to do the opposite -- inspire and challenge them. Kids do not get excited about new nanotech companies and products. But they do enjoy the challenge of proving their elders wrong and achieving what was once thought "impossible." If some old scientist says self-replicating nanomachines are out of the question, I'll bet there are a few bright kids out there plotting ways to send comets raining down on that dinosaur.

I think that's right. And while I feel a certain degree of sympathy for the dinosaurs, I think that if the nanotechnology business community, because of the PR strategy that it has chosen, finds itself scissored between the scientists and visionaries on one side, and the environmentalists on the other, it will have cause to regret its rather shortsighted PR strategy. It's too early to predict that outcome now. But, like a lot of things relating to nanotechnology, it's not too early to worry about it. A Tale of Two Nanotechs

In the United States, Europe, Australia, and Japan, several research initiatives have been undertaken both by government and members of the private sector to intensify the research and development in nanotechnology. Hundreds of millions of dollars have been committed. Research and development in nanotechnology is likely to change the traditional practices of design, analysis, and manufacturing for a wide range of engineering products. This impact creates a challenge for the academic community to educate [engineering and other bioscience] students with the necessary knowledge, understanding, and skills to interact and provide leadership in the emerging world of nanotechnology. Nanotechnology is truly interdisciplinary. An interdisciplinary curriculum that encompasses a broad understanding of basic sciences intertwined with engineering sciences and information sciences pertinent to nanotechnology is essential. [An introductory course, for example, can include the study of DNA, RNA, protein synthesis, recombinant techniques, genetic engineering, molecular chemistry, cell biology, physics, and other fields.] Nanotechnology education should be integrated into mainstream undergraduate [engineering and other related bioscience] curricula. Government, industry and university bodies should foster collaboration among themselves in order to educate students in nanotechnology. Nanotechnology Education Mahbub Uddin, Ph.D. and A. Raj Chowdhury, Ph.D.

Nanotechnology is a multidisciplinary field of discovery. Scientists working in physics, chemistry, biology, engineering, information technology, metrology, and other fields are contributing to today's research breakthroughs. The worldwide workforce necessary to support the field of nanotechnology is estimated at 2 million by 2015. How does the U.S. educational system train these workers and how do students choose the appropriate educational path for their interests? As in other fields, a passion for science is developed while students are young and an introduction to the many facets of nanotechnology will provide the basis for future educational opportunities. Curricula development is beginning and is available for K-12 and undergraduate education. Right now, however, only few degree programs in the field are available nationwide (and worldwide). National Nanotechnology Initiative - Nanotechnology Education Center

And today, nano-science is the modern word and the nice thing about nano-science is that physics, chemistry, biology come together and you have everything in nature, which is built up by nano-science. In Conversation With ... 1985 Nobel winner for Physics, Professor Klaus von Klitzing

Nanotechnology education has at least two unique challenges. First, the topic covers so many fields that it requires students to become familiar with fields they could previously have neglected and it requires that teachers address students from many different backgrounds. Second, there is great time pressure to train students and workers to fill positions in research and industry that will soon be created in the nation's push to excel in nanotechnology. Adams Group

Small tech (nanotechnology) - with its "magical" materials, tiny robots, and quantum weirdness - has the potential to ignite a child's curiosity about the order of nature and the tools of technology. We just need to fuel the fire. David Pescovitz, in Small Times.

Q: Since nanotech can require multiple disciplines (engineering, physics, molecular biology, materials science), is either our industry or our higher education system structured so that development is going to happen in any organized way?

(UC Berkeley chemistry Professor Paul) Alivisatos: The fact is there's really only one subject of science. We have this breakdown into subjects that people have done in order to make progress on difficult problems. But it's an entirely artificial set of breakdowns into subjects. There's no real intrinsic breakdown.

One of the reasons why I think nanotechnology is evolving so well is that it's not a division. It's a unification of disciplines.

In terms of education, it's difficult for a young person because they do need to learn all of these vocabularies, and if they learn all of them, they'll probably know everything very superficially. So for the education system, it's a tremendous challenge. Eventually it'll be a big challenge for industries.

From ON THE RECORD: NANOTECHNOLOGY Unlocking the smallest secrets.

From Our Molecular Future, by Douglas Mulhall:

  • What happens to the monetary system when everyone is able to satisfy his own basic material needs at very low cost?
  • How would we use cash when digital manufacturing makes it impossible to differentiate a counterfeit bill or coin from the real thing?
  • What happens to fiscal policy when digital information, moving at light speed, is the major commodity?
  • How fast will monetary cycles move compared to, say, the ten- or twenty-year cycles of the late twentieth century, when products and patents go out of date in a matter of months instead of years?
  • What happens when we don't have to worry about trade or social services for our basic needs, because most of what we need is provided locally with digital manufacturing, and the biggest trade is in information?
  • How do we control the excesses of the ultrarich, the overabundance of the molecular assembler economy, and the challenge to intellectual property laws created by intelligent, inventive machines?
  • What happens if half of all jobs are made redundant every decade?
  • What happens to the War on Drugs when there's no import, export, or transport of contraband because drugs can be manufactured in a desktop machine using pirated software downloaded from the Internet?
  • What happens to democratic controls when individuals can get as rich as small governments in a year or so?
  • What's the relevance of insurance if many things are replaceable at very low capital cost, but liabilities from software are potentially unlimited?
  • How should organized labor react when molecular assemblers and intelligent robots eliminate most manufacturing jobs?
  • What is the nature of work going to be?
  • What happens to land prices when an individual can build a tropical farm under a bubble in North Dakota, and get there from New York in an hour?
  • What happens when everyone can go everywhere, whenever they want, and work from wherever they want?

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For further research, here are pages we found valuable:

National Nanotechnology Initiative - Nanotechnology Education Center

Nanotechnology Education Mahbub Uddin, Ph.D. and A. Raj Chowdhury, Ph.D.

Want to study nanotechnology?

Nanotechnology Now Academic Directory Currently listing 352 programs, world-wide.

The best primer is: Nanosystems by K. Eric Drexler

Studying Nanotechnology by K. Eric Drexler

The Study Of Nanotechnology from Zyvex

Nanotechnology White Papers from Cientifica. From Bottom-up techniques to NEMS, Quantum Dots to Dendrimers, Cientifica offers over a dozen free white papers.

ASME Distance Learning - Nanotechnology Webcasts

NanoComputer Dream Team Multidisciplinary project to make first nanometer supercomputer via the Internet.

Nanoworld Cineplex

Lab Manual for Nanoscale Science and Technology

Get started exploring the Nanoworld Movies, kits, demos and more

Various Programs For Kids

Main Street Science - For Kids

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Issue #9 will cover Bulk Nanotechnology. It will land in your mailbox March 1st, 2004.

Infamous Quotes:

"There is no reason anyone would want a computer in their home." (Ken Olsen, Digital Equipment Corp, 1977)
"Computers in the future may weigh no more than 1.5 tons." (Popular Mechanics, 1949)
"I think there is a world market for maybe five computers." (IBM's Thomas Watson, 1943)
"This 'telephone' has too many shortcomings to be seriously considered as a means of communication. The device is inherently of no value to us." (Western Union internal memo, 1876)

And the lesson is? It's a tough game to call.

Need advice? Check out NanoStrategies

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