UNCG Campus Weekly

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A Milestone, as JSNN Welcomes First Students

090810Feature1_BradMillerCongressman Brad Miller has a keen interest in the Joint School of Nanoscience and Nanoengineering, says Mike Tarrant, special assistant to the chancellor. The school opened last month, welcoming its first students.

Miller serves on the House of Representatives’ Science and Technology Committee, where he is chair of that committee’s subcommittee on investigations and oversight.

“He has a special interest in nanoscience,” Tarrant says, noting that Miller is currently co-sponsoring legislation that will provide more education and research in the area of nanotechnology.

The JSNN has welcomed its first group of students – and just before classes began, Miller met with N.C. A&T Chancellor Harold Martin, UNCG Chancellor Linda P. Brady, Dr. James Ryan, the JSNN founding dean, and John Merrill, executive director of Gateway University Research Park, at the joint school. Other NC A&T and UNCG officials as well as John Hardin, executive director of the NC Board of Science and Technology, participated.

Miller spoke with students and faculty, toured the current classroom and labs and saw the construction site at the Gateway University Research Park’s south campus. The school’s $65 million building is under construction, with completion scheduled for the fourth quarter of 2011. Construction so far is on time and on budget, Ryan said. For now, classes are being held next door in the conference room of Gateway’s USDA research building.

“The enrollment of the first cohort of students into the Joint School of Nanoscience and Nanoengineering marks the fruition of a vision that was cast years ago,” said UNCG Chancellor Linda P. Brady. “The cutting-edge disciplines of nanoscience and nanoengineering combine the strengths of the two universities, and the training these students will receive at the Joint School will be in demand and spur economic development for years to come.”

Dr. Harold L. Martin Sr., chancellor of NC A&T, also cited the singular opportunities the school represents for both students and the community. “This unique school will provide our students with remarkable education and research experiences in the rapidly developing field of nanotechnology,” Martin said. “The Joint School enables our universities to enhance the competitiveness of our community and region, and we look forward to continuing to work with our local business and government leaders to realize the school’s potential for a very real impact on our economy.”

In the most recent state budget, the two universities received $1 million in recurring funds for JSNN to hire additional faculty and staff.

Information released by the JSNN explains that it is one of fewer than 10 schools nationally to offer degree programs in nanotechnology, according to the National Nanotechnology Initiative. And JSNN, which was created by NC A&T and UNCG, is the only one created and operated collaboratively by two universities.

The school opened last month with 18 students in two degree programs – 17 are in the doctoral program in nanoscience, and one is in the professional master’s degree program in nanoscience.

That enrollment is considered remarkably strong, considering that the first degree programs were approved by the UNC Board of Governors only last January. “The original projection was 10, due to the lack of time we had to market the program to prospective students,” said Ryan.

First semester courses include Mathematical Methods in Nanoscience and Nanoengineering as well as Nanochemistry.

The students also will take two lab rotations and a professional development course. The students will have a choice of labs, including two JSNN labs temporarily located in the USDA building and nano-oriented labs at both of Gateway’s campuses.

Second-semester courses include Nanobiology and Nanophysics, two more lab rotations and another professional development course. With those first-year courses as a foundation, Ryan said, students will be prepared to focus on the specific fields of their choice in the subsequent three years of the Ph.D. program.

The doctoral program is designed to produce researchers for industry and academia. The professional master’s program is for students who want to work on the business side of the nano field. It will include management courses taught at the two universities’ schools of business as well as the first-year science courses.

In addition to the two nanoscience degrees, which are offered by UNCG, N.C. A&T will submit proposals to the UNC General Administration this fall to offer master’s and doctoral programs in nanoengineering at the JSNN.

The 100,000-plus-square-foot research facility that will house JSNN is scheduled to open in the spring of 2012.

Visual: Jim Coleman, who has begun work on his doctorate in nanoscience, speaks with Congressman Brad Miller in a lab.

By Mike Harris and staff
Photography by Chris English