June 5, 2006 — The University of Virginia's School of Engineering and Applied Science, one of six institutions that comprise the newly formed Virginia Partnership for Nanotechnology Education and Workforce Development, recently won a "Partnerships for Innovation" grant from the National Science Foundation.
The award, which totals $600,000 over two years, will enable the Partnership to offer distance-learning graduate courses and certificate programs to students across Virginia.
The Virginia Partnership for Nanotechnology and Workforce Development is a collaboration of the science and engineering programs at George Mason University, the College of William & Mary, Old Dominion University, the University of Virginia, Virginia Commonwealth University and Virginia Tech. The U.Va. School of Continuing and Professional Studies is also a participant.
The Partnership builds on the state's Commonwealth Graduate Engineering Program and Virginia Microelectronics Consortium. The Commonwealth Graduate Engineering Program was founded in 1984 to offer distance-learning engineering education at the master's level. The Virginia Microelectronics Consortium was founded in the mid 1990s to support development of the microelectronics industry in Virginia through corporate-university collaboration.
"Nanotechnology is a very broad field, and educationally it's difficult for any one institution to cover the entire spectrum," said James Groves, assistant dean for research and outreach at U.Va.'s School of Engineering and Applied Science and state chairman of the Commonwealth Graduate Engineering Program. "By connecting students and faculty statewide, allowing students to benefit from the knowledge of faculty who specialize in many of the different aspects of nanotechnology, we're creating a great, comprehensive graduate experience."
The partnership will begin sharing graduate-level engineering classes in the spring of 2007. Distance-learning courses will be organized around five educational tracks: nanomanufacturing, nanomaterials and characterization, nanomodeling and simulation, nanoelectronics and nanobiotechnology. In addition to contributing courses for use in traditional graduate degree programs, the partnership will also offer opportunities for working engineers to study a specific aspect of nanotechnology that interests them. By completing a sequence of four to five classes in a specific area of nanotechnology (e.g., nanoelectronics), engineering professionals can earn a certificate in a program that may not have been taught when they went to school.
"Engineers can now have access to courses that were not available 15, 10, even five years ago," Groves said. "We help the state's corporate residents by providing their workers with cutting-edge continuing education opportunities that might not otherwise exist." Groves said that industry-centered "short courses" are planned for corporations whose workers are interested in learning about specific aspects of the growing field. The program is also sponsoring two annual nanotechnology workshops in Virginia, with the first one this month, June 11-13, in Newport News, Va.
"The Virginia Partnership for Nanotechnology Education and Workforce Development is carefully crafted so as to provide an important service to the state's academic and corporate engineering communities," said Sara Nerlove, director of the NSF Partnerships for Innovation program. "Engineering students and professionals statewide will benefit from this collaboration, which orchestrates and leverages the expertise available in the state, not only to make available a variety of nanotechnology curricula, but also to provide deep understanding of the complex issues surrounding nanotechnology."
Corporate partners for the program include Luna Innovations Inc., Materials Modification Inc., Micron Technology Inc., NanoSonic Inc., nanoTITAN Inc., Northrop Grumman Newport News, Philip Morris USA Inc., and Qimonda AG (formerly Infineon Technologies AG).
"I am delighted that the Virginia universities have partnered with Micron Technology in this endeavor," says Terry Leslie, manager of university and academic relations at Micron Technology Virginia and member of the Virginia Research and Technology Advisory Commission. "This collaboration builds upon the global momentum surrounding nanotechnology and illustrates the state's dedication to research and development in this growing field."
About the School of Engineering and Applied Science
Founded in 1836, the University of Virginia School of Engineering and Applied Science combines research and educational opportunities at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Within the undergraduate programs, courses in engineering, ethics, mathematics, the sciences and the humanities are available to build a strong foundation for careers in engineering and other professions. Its abundant research opportunities complement the curriculum and educate young women and men to become thoughtful leaders in technology and society. At the graduate level, the Engineering School collaborates with the University's highly ranked College of Arts & Sciences and medical and business schools on interdisciplinary research projects and entrepreneurial initiatives. With a distinguished faculty and a student body of 2,000 undergraduates and 650 graduate students, the Engineering School offers an array of engineering disciplines, including cutting-edge research programs in computer and information science and engineering, bioengineering and nanotechnology. For more information, visit www.seas.virginia.edu.