This item originally appeared in the June 24, 2004, issue of The Tech Talk.
By BRIAN TYNES
Tech will become the first university in the country to offer an undergraduate degree program in nanosystems engineering, pending approval from the Louisiana Board of Regents.
Dr. Stan Napper, interim dean of the College of Engineering and Science and a professor of biomedical engineering, said he feels this degree program will continue the university's history of quality in engineering education.
"This new degree is consistent with Tech's tradition of innovation and excellence in engineering education," Napper said.
Napper said this will affect more than just engineering students.
"We expect there will be students interested in pursuing this degree that are already enrolled in other majors," Napper also said.
The university has offered master's degree programs in nanosystems and microsystems technologies for the past several years, but this will be the first bachelor's degree program.
Napper said it will not be that difficult to teach nanosystems at the undergraduate level.
"We already have the faculty and the laboratories in place," Napper said.
Lee Hamilton, a senior industrial engineering major, said another advantage of the program will be to create groundwork for students to further build on at the graduate level.
"Most of the master's level is research," Hamilton said.
Hamilton said the university will benefit under this new plan.
"It's good to have the undergraduate level program to give a research foundation," Hamilton said.
According to http://www.nano.gov, nanotechnology is research and technology development at the atomic or molecular level.
Therefore, this uses devices and systems that create novel properties and functions because of their small size and the ability to control or manipulate on the atomic scale.
Dr. Hisham Hegab, an associate professor of mechanical engineering, said that while other closely related programs are already in place around the country, the university's program is believed to be the first of its kind in the nation.
Nanotechnology has also recently turned the heads of government officials.
Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco declared June 4, 2004, as Nanotechnology Day in Louisiana in support of nanotechnology research being done in the state.
Nanotechnology has spurred the interest of government officials because of its nearly unlimited potential for economic and technological growth.
Hegab said, "Government is spending a lot of money in this area and they are looking at nanotechnology as the next big thing to revolutionize the world like computers."
Hegab also said some of the benefits of nanotechnology that are already in place around the country include stain-resistant and wrinkle-resistant clothing.
Napper said nanotechnology has the ability to impact a broad range of national industries.
"Government is interested in nanotechnology because it has the potential to impact many different industries from medical devices and chemical processing to automotive and manufacturing," Napper said.
Napper also said Louisiana has high interest in nanotechnology.
"The state is interested because of economic development potential."
Dr. Donald Haynie, an associate professor of biological engineering, said Louisiana is interested in nanotechnology because the state is worried about losing a tax base.
Haynie also said the state is hoping to attract new talent to Louisiana from around the world. The state also hopes to keep the existing talent from seeking jobs elsewhere.
According to an article in the Monroe News Star printed June 4, the university is also in position to receive a $100,000 grant to help nanosystems engineering attain important connections in the professional community.
"The grant will help us make some industrial contacts that will lead to internships and employment opportunities," Napper said. "It will support the development of the degree."
Even though the grant is related to the new program, both issues will be resolved separately.
The university's proposal to the Louisiana Board of Regents has been sent to an external consultant with expertise in nanotechnology for review.
The university is expecting a report outlining the consultant's concerns or suggestions by June 30.
Once all issues in the report have been adequately addressed, the proposal will be put on the Board's agenda.
The earliest the program can be approved is August 2004.
Hegab said he felt good about the program getting approval because proposals usually do not get this far if the Board is not willing to approve them.