Nanoscience and nanotechnology minor offered

In an effort to respond to students’ rapidly growing interest in nanoscale technology, a new 15-hour interdisciplinary minor in nanoscience and nanotechnology is being offered by the School of Engineering and the College of Arts and Science.

Directors are Paul E. Laibinis, professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering, and Sandra J. Rosenthal, Jack and Pamela Egan Professor of Chemistry and professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering.

“We expect the minor to serve as a catalyst for even greater interdisciplinary collaboration between Vanderbilt faculty and students in disciplines such as physics, chemistry, biology and engineering,” said Laibinis.

Nanotechnology job projections are estimated to be nearly two million workers worldwide by 2015, according to the National Nanotechnology Infrastructure Network, serving nanoscale science, engineering and technology.

Nanoscale technology is fueling a revolution in manufacturing and production, creating new materials and novel processes. The following fields are expected to undergo explosive developments: medicine, energy, environmental remediation, robotics, manufacturing and space exploration. Working at nanoscale means objects have at least one dimension (height, length, depth) that measures between 1 and 999 nanometers. A nanometer is one billionth of a meter. To illustrate, a very fine human hair is about 10,000 nanometers wide, which is the smallest dimension that can be seen with the naked eye.

The nano minor is administered by the engineering school and it was available in the 2012 fall semester.  There are 13 students in the first offering of Nano 250, a three-hour engineering course and one of the minor’s three core courses. The other two are Chemistry 240 and Physics 266. The remaining six hours are comprised of approved electives.

The minor draws on faculty and courses from the departments of chemical and biomolecular engineering, electrical, mechanical, civil, and biomedical engineering; and departments of physics, chemistry, and the interdisciplinary materials science program. It also is supported by the Vanderbilt Institute of Nanoscale Science and Engineering (VINSE) that brings together faculty from arts and science, engineering and the Vanderbilt University Medical Center.

A specialized laboratory facility maintained by VINSE provides students in the minor with capstone experiences that allow them to prepare and characterize a variety of nanostructured systems using in-house state-of-the-art instrumentation.

“This hands-on laboratory component enhances the attractiveness of students to both employers and graduate schools,” said Rosenthal.

VINSE sponsors an annual one-day Nanoscience and Nanotechnology Forum for students and faculty engaged in nano research at Vanderbilt and at Fisk University in Nashville. The 13th annual forum is Oct. 24 at Vanderbilt University.