Regions Southern Virginia

College to begin nanotechnology program

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Danville’s effort to become a magnet for companies specializing in cutting-edge technologies will take another step forward this fall when Danville Community College (DCC) begins offering nanotechnology technician training.

Nanotechnology in-volves the engineering of functional systems at a molecular or atomic level. The technology is touted as having the potential to create materials and devices for a number of industries, including health care, manufacturing and energy.

The college developed the new nanotechnology track, an associate’s degree program in technical services, with a three-year, $638,000 National Science Foundation (NSF) grant. It will provide students with instruction on creation of nanomaterials, nanotechnology processes, and techniques and equipment used in nanotechnology research. Students will also take coursework in physics, chemistry, biology and mathematics.

The NSF grant will enable the college to offer several full scholarships to students entering the program. “The hands-on component of our program will be very strong, so that students that get this degree will be able to go into a company and immediately take over some of the routine lab work that is now being done by much higher-level personnel,” explains Beverly Clark III, the newly named director of nanotechnology education at DCC.
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Clark, who will receive his doctorate in physics from North Carolina State University this summer, has extensive experience in applied research in nanotechnology. He notes that students with a strong interest in science and aptitude for mathematics will do well in the nanotechnology curriculum. The program can also be used as a foundation for undergraduate and graduate study in engineering, applied sciences and mathematics.

Danville is home to the Luna nanoWorks. The company is using carbon nanomaterials to identify and develop pharmaceutical products to improve the diagnosis, management and treatment of disease. The company, which opened in 2005, is likely to eventually provide internships and employment opportunity for program graduates. It also played a role in developing the new curriculum, along with faculty from Virginia Tech and the University of Virginia. 

The nanotechnology program should strengthen Danville’s hand in attracting a wide range of companies, says Jeff Arnold, interim vice president of work-force services at DCC. “We’re seeing more and more recognition of the application of nanotechnology across the business spectrum, including traditional manufacturing, microelectronics, plastics, biomedical, energy. There aren’t nano jobs out there per se, but what you’ve got are jobs in traditional areas that now require and are using and applying these new nano tools and knowledge.”

In fact, NSF officials estimate that by 2015, there will be 1 million jobs in the United States related to nanotechnology.


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