“There were 87 proposals of which 12 were funded, including ours,” says Tom Mantei, Interim Director of UC’s Institute for Nanoscale Science and Technology. “We want to bring this subject to sophomores and juniors in the Colleges of Engineering and Arts & Sciences.” UC is ranked by Small Times magazine as #2 in the nation for undergraduate nano education.
|Dispersed carbon nanotubes.|
“We realized that the way in which we educate our undergraduate students has hardly changed over the past 150 years,” Mantei says. An undergraduate in engineering, physics or chemistry usually chooses within the first year the area of study on which he or she will concentrate.
“Students then delve more deeply into their particular areas over the following years, but without developing an understanding of closely associated areas. No real attempt is made to show students how things have changed fundamentally at the interfaces between these disciplines, and how they interact.”
|The components of nanotechnology.|
The UC group proposed a new sequence of lecture and laboratory courses directed toward both scientists and engineers, to expose undergraduate students to the very real changes that are occurring at the interfaces between the historical disciplines. The proposed lecture courses provide an overview of nanoscale science, engineering and related applications.
“We also include lectures on the societal and ethical implications of nanoscale research,” says Mantei. “The laboratory modules give a hands-on experience, including synthesis of nanoparticles and nanotubes and subsequent characterization. The purpose of this project is to formally integrate the teaching of nanoscience and technology into the educational program of engineering and science students. The immediate impact of this project will therefore be to provide undergraduate students from the Colleges of Engineering and Arts & Sciences with a substantial comprehension of nanoscale science and technology.”
“This is a tremendous opportunity for us to incorporate information from one of the most rapidly growing areas of science and technology into our undergraduate curriculum,” says Frank Gerner, associate dean for undergraduate and administrative affairs in the College of Engineering. “Normally these concentration areas first reside within the research domain, perhaps migrate into graduate education, have an impact upon industry, make their way into textbooks and then eventually are taught to undergraduates. This is an opportunity to expose a significant number of undergraduate students in engineering, chemistry and physics to cutting-edge science and technology.”
|Sparse carbon nanotube array, side view. Scale in micrometers.|
To be sure, nanotechnology encompasses many fields, as one might expect. But philosophy?
“Although the Philosophy Department only plays a minor role in this grant project, we’re excited to develop another connection with science and engineering departments and programs,” says John Bickle, chair of the Philosophy Department. “Most of our interdisciplinary connections so far have been with biology, neuroscience and psychology. This is our first serious project with physics, chemistry and engineering (outside of computer science).”
“From a philosophy of science perspective, nanoscience and technology appears poised to develop into another major ‘scientific revolution,’ akin perhaps to the development and influence of molecular genetics in biology and biotechnology — only now we get glimpses of such a development in the early stages,” says Bickle. “From an ethical standpoint, it raises a host of thorny issues about privacy (given the ways that nanodevices might be used to gather and transmit information, and informed consent (within some of its medical applications). Finally, it raises interesting philosophical issues about the relationships between basic science, engineering applications and technological developments.”
|This volume, co-edited by UC’s Mark Schulz, contains 24 chapters, four of which are co-authored by UC faculty.|
Read more about nanotechnology at UC:
Stay tuned for more big developments in tiny areas!
|Vertical carbon nanotube array.|