NanoInk (Skokie, Ill.), a manufacturer of nanofabrication technology, has put in motion a curriculum-led nanotechnology project entitled the NanoProfessor Project. “Recent statements from the National Science Foundation indicate that upwards of two million trained nanotechnologists will be needed globally by the year 2015,” says Dean Hart, executive vice president of Commercial Operations, NanoInk. Today, there is little hands-on nanotechnology training at the high school, or even college, levels. With many of the trained nanotechnologist being at a PhD level, and even beyond, a future resource gap exists. Due to this resource gap “a strong need for a nanoscience education initiative that combines hands-on experience in nanotechnology with and experimental-based curriculum” was, according to Hart, the driving force behind the NanoProfessor NanoScience Education Program.
The NanoProfessor Project was established to educate students in small two- and four-year colleges. The program has already been implemented at Dakota County Technical College (Rosemount, Minn.) under the leadership of Deb Newberry, who, according to Hart, is “a pioneer committed to nanoscience education.” Newberry is director of the Nanoscience Program at Dakota County Technical College and director of a newly funded NSF Regional Center for Nanotechnology Education called Nano-Link.
Through this project, students will have the opportunity to gain hands-on nanoscience experience in the fields of biology, chemistry, and physics. Hart explains, “At the heart of the NanoProfessor NanoScience Education Program is NanoInk’s NLP 2000 Desktop NanoFabrication System (NLP 2000).” This tool is a desktop nanofabrication tool that allows users to build custom-engineered, nano-scale structures using NanoInk’s Dip Pen Nanolithography (DPN) and other materials from metal nanoparticles to biomolecules.
The program was essentially built on the success of the NLP 2000. According to Hart, “Until the launch of the NLP 2000, hands-on experience in actually building nanoscale features was often relegated to only a few fortunate individuals who had access to costly and time-intensive equipment, such as e-beam lithographers, to make such structures.” With the NLP 2000 tool, students or workers can have the needed cost effective, hands-on experience that could patch the current gap in resources.
So, why does nanotechnology have such an impact on our world today? “From the carbon black in tires that aid in automobile braking to avoid accidents, to titanium dioxide in sun screen that helps protect our bodies from the sun’s harmful UV rays, nanotechnology is present in all walks of life,” says Hart. Nanotechnology is helping to create a “green” environment for the world. Besides the manufacturing industry, nanotechnology also makes a strong appearance in life sciences in the fields of drug discovery and development, as well as other scientific disciplines (physics, chemistry, biology, materials science, and engineering). With nanotechnology having such an impact on the world and in science, the NanoProfessor NanoScience Education Program is intended to close the education gap for nanotechnologists and provide cost effective, hands-on experience.