The National Science Foundation’s Nanotechnology Undergraduate Education (NUE) in Engineering program strives to help universities like UAF better their undergraduate research education programs in nanotechnology.
NUE offers funds to help establish new, innovative engineering programs that offer more nanotechnology courses and advance undergraduate participation in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) disciplines.
Full proposals for NUE –Solicitation 11-524 – are due April 20, 2011. The goal of the program is to use a variety of interdisciplinary approaches to introduce nanoscale science, engineering and technology to undergraduates in engineering programs.
One program currently under way at UAF that fits into this category – and offers collaborative funding potential – is the Alaska Native Science and Engineering Program (ANSEP). Originally envisioned to enhance retention and success of Alaska Native students, the program has evolved to promote professional development through meaningful summer internships, networking and public presentations.
“Students come from all corners of the state and are expected to be engaged in their studies as full time students earning at least C grades in all courses,” stated Tom Clausen, director of UAF ANSEP.
Born at the University of Alaska Anchorage in 1996, ANSEP has shown great success in increased retention rates of Native American students in engineering programs—from a national average of 27 percent to more than 86 percent for the life of the program. The ANSEP program at UAF began in 2002 and quickly expanded to include students in science degree programs. Sponsorships at various other research programs at UAF helped extend ANSEP scholarships and internships for Native students to other fields of science including biomedical fields, biology, chemistry, fisheries, geology, natural resources, physics and wildlife management.
The ANSEP program at UAF currently has 65 students pursuing B.S. degrees in STEM fields as well as 6 graduate students, Clausen said. About half the students receive semester awards for earning grade point averages of 3.0 or better. This year ANSEP expects to graduate 17 students, which will include 2 Ph.D. and 2 M.S. degrees.
Collaboration is also possible through UAF’s Advanced Materials Group (AMG), led by faculty Nilima Hullavarad and Shiva Hullavarad, which already offers nanotechnology research education. Currently the largest research center in the areas of nanotechnology and microelectronics in Alaska, AMG aims to address key challenges through innovations in novel materials processes and device configurations. Other researchers at UAF could utilize resources at AMG in a collaborate research funding opportunity through the NUE solicitation.
“With the state-of-the-art capability at the Advanced Materials Group in nanotechnology, UAF provides a wonderful opportunity with emphasis on undergraduate research education,” Shiva Hullavarad stated.
Other institutions have already taken advantage of NUE funding. Indiana University-Purdue University at Indianapolis (IUPUI) used NUE funds to support the development of the Integrating Nanotechnology in Engineering Curricula, which established a new research-based academic nanotechnology track within the Electrical and Computer Engineering and Mechanical Engineering departments. The program boosts nanotechnology research and education locally and nationally by enhancing existing curricula, providing a multidisciplinary education model with national impact, enhancing industrial impact and enhancing impact on minority and under-represented groups.
At the University of California Santa Barbara, Dr. Sumita Pennathur is directing the project “NUE: Using Peer-to-Peer Support to Build NEMS and Consider SEE Implications of Nanotechnology,” hoping to prepare a new generation of educated engineers skilled in using cutting-edge nanofabrication tools and processes to build nanoscale systems and nanoscale devices. He is establishing new courses, modifying an existing course and planning to implement an undergraduate/high school mentor education program to enhance the communication skills of engineering students.
The focus for the NUE program in 2011 is on nanoscale engineering education with relevance to devices and systems and/or on the societal, ethical, economic and/or environmental issues relevant to nanotechnology. For more information about this solicitation, see the solicitation call at Solicitation 11-524. For information about other projects funded through NUE see other funded projects.