Celebrating Two Decades of Innovation: Student Achievements Shine at National Nanotechnology Initiative

Student Success at National Nanotechnology Initiative 20th Anniversary Symposium
Far left and right: Branden Brough (NNCO Director) and Quinn Spadola (Deputy Director). Second from right: Kathleen Rubins, NASA Astronaut. Second from left: Pasadena Community College student Nayely Rolon-Gomez is majoring in laser technology and electronics technology and responsible for Poster U5, part of MNT-CURN Cohort 2, under mentor Dr. Atilla Ozgur Cakmak at Grand Valley State University (not in photo). Image Credit: National Nanotechnology Coordination Office

In a unique convergence of minds and ideas, the 20th Anniversary of the National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI) Symposium showcased the monumental strides in nanotechnology. It spotlighted student involvement with posters describing the next wave of innovations, which MNT-EC is always keen to see.

From green technology to quantum computing, the advancements we are making in nanotechnology are solving some of our Nation’s greatest challenges.

– President Joe Biden

This quote from President Biden not only highlights the importance of the innovations being celebrated at the symposium but also sets the stage for discussing the diverse community united by their work in nanotechnology, as described in the following paragraphs. (Editor’s Note: You can download the full letter from the President at the end of this post and read the extracted full text as well.)

Uniting a Diverse Community

According to the Nano.gov website announcement, “Scientists and engineers across many fields and disciplines are united by their work at the nanoscale. Their diverse efforts have helped produce everything from faster microchips to powerful mRNA vaccines. The transformative impact of this work has been spurred by the coordination and focus on U.S. nanotechnology established by the 21st Century Nanotechnology Research and Development Act in 2003. Celebrating the NNI’s broad impact and envisioning the future, this symposium brought together voices from across the emerging technology landscape. Experts spoke on the importance of nanotechnology in quantum engineering, optics, environmental health and safety (EHS), plastics, DEIA, microelectronics, medicine, education, manufacturing, and more. Attendees included hundreds of researchers, policymakers, members of industry, educators, students, and the public – both online and in person, and conversations centered on the strategic vision for the next twenty years of the NNI.”

Student Innovators at the Forefront

Central to the event, from our perspective, was the NNI Student Poster Session, a testament to the NNI’s commitment to nurturing the next generation of nanotechnologists. There were 11 undergraduate teams, with more at the graduate/PhD level. College students from across the nation presented their research, offering fresh perspectives on challenges ranging from healthcare to environmental sustainability: 

  • Teams from the University of Maryland delved into the potential of bacterial extracellular vesicles under various conditions, underscoring the intersection of microbiology and nanotechnology.
  • The George Washington University’s exploration of bio-inspired surfaces, simulating shark skin for potential applications, highlighted the innovative spirit driving student research.
  • Contributions from Pasadena City College and Mesa Community College showcased projects on solar energy conversion and carbon chain synthesis, reflecting the broad spectrum of nanotechnology’s impact.
  • Kingsborough Community College and Baruch College students presented a review of CAR-T cell designs and nanotechnology’s efficacy in cancer therapy, showcasing the critical intersection of biomedical research and nanotechnological applications.
  • Northwest Vista College students explored the significance of finding organic compounds in Martian cave systems, illustrating the interdisciplinary nature of nanotechnology with implications for space exploration and the search for extraterrestrial life.

These presentations demonstrated the students’ ingenuity and pivotal role in advancing nanotechnology’s frontiers. Full list below.

Keynote Inspirations

The symposium shared insights from luminaries such as Dr. Arati Prabhakar, Assistant to the President for Science and Technology; Chad Mirkin, and Kathleen Rubins, who have significantly contributed to nanoscience and space exploration, respectively. Their speeches underscored the transformative potential of nanotechnology and the importance of continuous innovation and collaboration.

Looking Forward

As we celebrate the past 20 years of nanotechnology under the NNI’s guidance, the symposium served as a practical (and visionary) forum for envisioning the future. The emphasis on student involvement and the cross-disciplinary dialogue highlights the NNI’s strategic vision for the next two decades: a future where nanotechnology continues to address societal challenges, powered by the fresh perspectives and relentless curiosity of student researchers. Comprehensive and inclusive efforts like the National Nanotechnology Initiative partly inspire our Micro Nanotechnology Collaborative Undergraduate Research Network (MNT-CURN).

For college students and professors alike, the NNI 20th Anniversary Symposium was not just a reflection on past achievements but a clarion call to contribute to a future where nanotechnology remains at the forefront of solving the world’s most pressing problems.

Full list also found on the NNI website link above, but all 11 undergraduate posters summarized here:

  • (U1) University of Maryland, College Park: Study how different storage conditions affect bacterial vesicles, with implications for healthcare and biology.
  • (U2) The George Washington University: Inspired by nature, this team created shark skin-like surfaces using Glancing Angle Deposition (GLAD) to improve material designs.
  • (U3) Kingsborough Community College and Baruch College: Review of nanotechnology’s role in enhancing CAR-T cell cancer therapies, focusing on efficacy.
  • (U4) University of Maryland, College Park: This study examines the impact of temperature on storing bacterial vesicles, which is essential for medical research.
  • (U5) Pasadena City College: Research on nano-optic surfaces for more efficient solar cells / solar panels, aiming at green energy solutions.
  • (U6) Mesa Community College: Work on producing linear carbon chains, which are fundamental for the development of new materials and electronics.
  • (U7) Saint Louis University: Development of laser-driven microrobots for precise small-scale operations, applicable in various fields.
  • (U8) University of Florida: Enhancing thermoelectric properties through ball milling for better energy devices.
  • (U9) Northwest Vista College: Searching for life-essential organic compounds in Martian caves, bridging nanotech and space exploration.
  • (U10) Mercer County Community College: Utilizing neural networks to design better mRNA cancer vaccines, combining tech with healthcare.
  • (U11) University of Maryland, College Park: Investigating how tiny bacterial particles affect biofilm formation, which is relevant to medical and environmental studies.

Download above or here.

Letter from President Biden
March 5, 2024
I send my warmest greetings to the members of the National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI)
and all those celebrating the 20th anniversary of the 21st Century Nanotechnology Research and
Development Act.

Since it was signed into law, the 21 st Century Nanotechnology Research and Development Act
has driven innovation by challenging the next generation of scientists and researchers to think
big by thinking small. From green technology to quantum computing, the advancements we are making in nanotechnology are solving some of our Nation’s greatest challenges. And by
creating a policy framework for an all of Government approach to research and development,
lowering the barrier to access advanced scientific tools, sharing diverse perspectives, supporting workforce development, and so much more, members of the NNI are helping to harness the progress we are making for good.

My Administration is building on the work of the NNI by supporting the scientific community
and promoting research and development. During my first year in office, we elevated the
Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy to a Cabinet-level position
to lead major initiatives like artificial intelligence and leverage the latest scientific advancements
to improve health outcomes for all Americans, with the help of solutions at the nanoscale. And
with support from the CHIPS and Science Act and the Inflation Reduction Act, we are investing
billions of dollars in groundbreaking research and development, including work performed by
the NNl that will help create incredible opportunities for our country and the entire world——
including the largest investment to combat climate change in history.

As we commemorate this milestone anniversary of the 21st Century Nanotechnology Research
and Development Act, may we all remain inspired by the limitless possibilities of what we can
achieve in America when we work together. I have never been more optimistic about the future
of this great Nation, in part because of the members of the NNI community who are helping to
ensure we forever remain at the forefront of scientific discovery.

Internships for High School Students

Internships, especially paid ones, are a terrific way to gain experience. Although much of our focus at MNT-EC is on college students, we also strive to update our students and families about internships for high school students.  NOTE: See link below for the MNT-EC college–specific internships and more.

Summer Internships and Beyond

Deadlines for national-level internships, open to graduating high school seniors across the USA, are rapidly approaching, with some applications due as early as March (like this week!). While most deadlines are later in the spring, it’s crucial to review each opportunity carefully this week, as eligibility varies from nationwide to state or region-specific programs. Remember, even if an internship is location-specific, guidelines may allow applicants from other states, so examine the requirements closely.

Here are a few great internship opportunities for high school students:

  • During the 4-week High School Discovery Program at Microsoft, Discoverers will experience the Design phase of product development, gain foundational skills, mentorship, and community building. Open to rising first-year bachelor’s degree students (graduating high school seniors) living near Redmond, WA, or Atlanta, GA, it’s an opportunity to explore tech careers. Applications open in Redmond on March 5, 2024, and in Atlanta on March 19, 2024.
  • The Kaiser Permanente Summer Youth Employment Program (SYEP) offers high school and college students, especially those underserved, underrepresented, and low-income, internship opportunities in the healthcare field through the Community Benefit fund. Interns work in various departments over the summer at KP, learning and contributing to their mission of delivering high-quality, affordable healthcare. The program includes a High School Internship among its three unique offerings. Deadlines vary slightly by location, but roughly mid-March. 

We will update this page with additional high school-focused internship opportunities as we find them or our partners send them to us. Again, for college-oriented internships and scholarships, the March 4, 2024 edition of This Week in Small has more links and details about the MNT-EC Internship Connector: 03-04-2024 Nano News, Internships, Veteran Jobs.

You can also keep up with the various ways that MNT-EC strives to serve students and families in our email newsletters: Sign up here! You can also visit the Students & Families page.

Shout-out to one of our high school educator allies, New Jersey Teacher of the Year, Christine Girtain, for always sharing cool updates, news (the AEOP for High School Internships page came from her!), and projects for high school students. Christine is also the Director of Authentic Science Research at Toms River Regional Schools. 

Engineering the Future: James Endl’s Journey in Vehicle Network Innovation

Note: MNT-EC recently teamed up with Wingspans, an exciting new career platform, to connect with more community college technician programs. Links and more info below. 

James Endl’s career as a Vehicle Network Communications Architect at GM is a testament mostly to his perseverance. Working remotely from Indian Land, SC, he combines his childhood love for cars with his expertise in electrical and electronics engineering, a skillset honed through studies at Madison Area Technical College and Milwaukee School of Engineering.

He designs the diagnostic gateway of vehicles, a digital “door” allowing communication between a car’s internal system and the external world. This gateway, residing in the Central Gateway Module (CGM), is akin to a home’s internet router, managing data flow between different vehicle components. He goes into more detail in the full post, which makes the CGM accessible to almost any level of reader (way to go, James — you should teach!). 

Despite his successful career now, James’ journey wasn’t straightforward. He initially struggled with choosing the right path, facing setbacks at MSOE. His turnaround began at Madison Area Technical College, where practical, applied learning in electrical engineering technology ignited his passion. Overcoming fears and challenges, he eventually returned to MSOE, achieving academic success and paving his way to a fulfilling career.

James Endl’s story is inspiring, showcasing how determination, passion, and a constant thirst for knowledge can lead to a successful and fulfilling career in the ever-evolving field of vehicle network communications.

Read the full post: Wingspans: James Endl

Editor’s Note: The full post on Wingspans is a must read. Click the highlighted link box above. 

More on Wingspans from their website: 

“Wingspans takes an immersive approach to career discovery just short of experiencing the job yourself. It’s an archive of authentic and heartfelt career stories—nothing scripted or sugar-coated. If you can see it, you can be it.

–Wingspans website

The site has 700+ in-depth career stories, including 40+ mini-documentaries, that are integrated into over 10,000 pages on our site.

MNT-EC Student Wins Award at SACNAS

Cal Poly student and Pasadena City College alum, Tan Nguyen, recently garnered the Best Poster Presentation Award in the General Chemistry Category at the 2023  Society for the Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans in Science (SACNAS) National Diversity in STEM Conference held in Portland, Oregon. 

MNT-CURN Chemistry Pasadena City College Alum Tan Nguyen Wins SACNAS Award with Research on Gold Nanoparticles

As a MNT-EC student, Nguyen’s award-winning presentation delved into the intricate world of gold conjugate nanoparticles, showcasing the innovative strides being made in the field.

View some photos of the conference day below. At the end of this post, you will find the full PDF poster (and a link to download it) and the text abstract. 


Tan Nguyễn Chemistry

Tan Nguyen wins the best chemistry poster award at SACNAS

Understanding Electronic Properties of Gold Nanoparticles and Antibody-Conjugated Gold Nanoparticles For Use in Photothermal Cancer Medicine Abstract:

“Gold (Au) nanoparticles have been known as excellent nanomaterial candidates in multiple biomedical applications and cancer treatments including drug delivery, biomedical imaging and photothermal therapy due to their unique properties and non-cytotoxic effects on human bodies. Streptavidin is a protein isolated from the bacterium Streptomyces Avidinii that can covalently bind to the surface of Au nanoparticles to facilitate the delivery of Au nanoparticles to cancer cells for treatment. However, the electronic properties of the Streptavidin-conjugated Au nanoparticles on a molecular level are not well understood. In this study, we examine how the conjugation with Streptavidin antibody alters the electron energy profile of the Au nanoparticles through electron excitation in order to shed light on the molecular and chemical characteristics of Streptavidin-conjugated Au nanoparticles. We synthesized Au nanoparticles at Yin lab at UC Riverside and measured the absorbance values of Au nanoparticles and Streptavidin-conjugated Au nanoparticles from 400 to 650nm. We then conducted the Ultrafast Femtosecond Laser technique to capture the electron kinetics of Au and Streptavidin-conjugated Au nanoparticles after 1,2,3,4, and 5 picosecond of excitation. We found that there was a little discrepancy between the peaks of Au and Streptavidin-conjugated Au nanoparticles in terms of absorbance, and electrons in the Streptavidin-conjugated Au nanoparticles were excited and returned to the ground state faster than the non-conjugated Au nanoparticles. These results suggested that the conjugation with Streptavidin proteins affects the electronic properties of Au nanoparticles, which can allow scientists to further optimize these conjugated molecules to support photothermal medicine for cancer treatments.”


The Society for the Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans in Science (SACNAS) awarded over one hundred graduate and undergraduate students from historically excluded communities for their research and presentation skills at their premier event, the National Diversity in STEM Conference held in Portland from October 26 through October 28, 2023. Student research presentations help equip young researchers with the skills and mentoring they need to be successful on their STEM journey. This experience helps them refine presentation skills, receive one-on-one mentoring and feedback on research, and connect with a supportive community of peers, mentors, and role models. 

You can read about all of the presentations and posters in the SACNAS Abstract Book

The Nanoscale World of Matt Feyerheisen and the Power of SEM Technology

Note: MNT-EC recently teamed up with Wingspans, an exciting new career platform, to connect with more community college technician programs. Links and more info below. 

Embark on a microscopic journey with Matt Feyerheisen, a Field Engineer at Nanoscience Instruments, where the unseen becomes seen through the lens of Scanning Electron Microscopes (SEMs). 

With a background spanning from visual communication to microelectronics, Matt’s role is pivotal in examining the elemental composition of materials down to the electron level. SEMs, capable of magnifying objects a million times, are instrumental in industries from pharmaceuticals to aerospace, ensuring the integrity of products that shape our daily lives.

Matt highlights the diversity of applications: “You can’t really see the details of what I do because they’re so small… a human hair is 70 microns wide… One micron is a millionth of a meter.” His work ensures that the gap between contacts in computers is sufficient to prevent short circuits, a critical aspect of our digital world.

The job isn’t just about magnification; it’s about precision and problem-solving. Matt shares an anecdote: “There was one client where we had to take their machine in because there was a problem… it looked like a piano wire was wound around some type of pedestal.” It’s this meticulous attention to detail that ensures the reliability of equipment used in critical research and development across various sectors.

For potential students and enthusiasts, Matt’s journey is a testament to the ever-evolving field of nanotechnology, where learning never ceases, and every tiny detail can lead to a giant leap in innovation. His story is a compelling invitation to explore a world where the smallest elements make the biggest impact.

Matt earned a certificate through Rio Salado, an MNT-EC Partner, and his full profile is highlighted on the Wingspans website for any of our community to read or listen to the audio MP3 file on site (click through just below Matt’s photo “Listen to Profile” on the Wingspans site). 

Read the full post: Wingspans: Matt Feyerheisen

More on Wingspans from their website: 

“Wingspans takes an immersive approach to career discovery just short of experiencing the job yourself. It’s an archive of authentic and heartfelt career stories—nothing scripted or sugar-coated. If you can see it, you can be it.

–Wingspans website

The site has 700+ in-depth career stories, including 40+ mini-documentaries, that are integrated into over 10,000 pages on our site.

This is an early look at one of the community college posts via our brief summary, but we hope you go visit the public Wingspans page for the full and energizing story about Matt Feyerheisen here.

Inspiring students with nanotechnology

One of our partners, Dr. Matthias W. Pleil, Principal Investigator – SCME, Research Professor and Lecturer, University of New Mexico was recently interviewed for the National Nanotechnology Initiative podcast. 

Listen to the full episode here: Inspiring curiosity, creativity, and action in students with nanotechnology

Unleashing the Potential of Community Colleges: A Collaborative Path Forward

>>Article by Dr. Jared Ashcroft<<

Update: ASEE TV video at end with Dr. Ashcroft and students exploring fields of micro, nano, and science.

We find ourselves at a unique crossroads in the realm of higher education. A labor shortage stares us in the face, opening up a dangerous chasm between education and workforce requirements. We need to rewrite the training rules for manufacturing technicians and beyond to stop this shortage.

Jared Ashcroft

The Looming Labor Gap and the Unsung Heroes

The CHIPS and Science Act predicts a 100,000-worker shortage soon. With this labor challenge in front of us, community colleges, long the unsung heroes of higher education, stand poised to play a pivotal role in molding the future workforce. I suggest a path based on the current work the National Institute of Standards and Technology at the Department of Commerce is doing nationally.

NIST recently laid out a 30-page Vision and Strategy for regional National Semiconductor Technology Centers to support and extend U.S. leadership in semiconductor research, which includes guidance on technician opportunities. Thanks to numerous experts from industry, higher education, and others, this vision document presents the framework we need.

As government agencies, industry leaders, and educational institutions unite, we must build a genuine working alliance that includes community colleges and schools that historically have specialized in training technician-oriented specialties, such as semiconductor technicians.

Community colleges offer an early range of technical education, from associate degrees to shorter-term certificate programs. We want to seriously consider the educational foundation that will most benefit the student and the companies that hire them so that they are able and ready to continue developing skills, durable skills also known as “soft skills,” if and when they continue additional degree programs. By the way, most companies have cited on-the-job training and short-term certificates as essentials. At the same time, executives lament that students need those durable soft skills crucial to collaboration and leadership growth.

My suggestion is this: As part of creating the National Semiconductor Technology Center and its regional locations, we also build a national community college consortium to handle the incentives and funding to get more students into technician education. Various semiconductor and advanced manufacturing programs can often exist across state or regional lines, limiting the necessary training a future technician might need.

For example, a student may need to intern in a clean room outside of their state or region, which would jeopardize their scholarship/internship funding rather than having community colleges under eight areas. Just put the incentives program at a national scope level, enabling them to get student funding for technician education. Community colleges can still work with the regional NSTC. Still, they have access to a national group helping to direct and guide a national CC Incentives Consortium (and not have to go to each Regional to get incentives funding).

A National Approach: Bridging Education with Industry

To that end, a paradigm shift is necessary. The status quo of XYZ-generic programs often leans towards producing a labor pool, sometimes ignoring the importance of a holistic educational experience. We need student-focused programs that blend general education with industry-specific boot camps – a balanced education that ensures a firm grounding while nurturing specialized skills. Mind you, we are not suggesting super-short training programs that leave the student in a precarious position, although some of these have successfully built an educational foundation they can depend upon and build out.

A student-focused, national perspective is of the essence. Regional programs have their merits, no doubt. However, it is time to move past geographical constraints and provide opportunities to students from varied backgrounds. Equal access to top-tier education and career opportunities can only happen if we widen our lens – and with a new approach of providing direct funding via scholarships and grants to thousands of students who can become the future semiconductor workforce.

There’s only one path to adding 100,000 workers, funding those potential workers to get adequately trained and options for a brighter future through educational opportunities.

Revolutionizing Community College Education: Collaboration is Key

Organizations like the Micro- Nanotechnology Education Center (MNT-EC) can provide invaluable support in these efforts, serving as connection points to facilitate collaboration between community colleges, research universities, government bodies, and industry heavyweights. By pooling our wisdom and resources, we can revolutionize community college education.

This national approach will also require comprehensive internship programs seamlessly integrated with community college curricula. Sufficient and secure funding from a centralized source will guarantee the effectiveness and accessibility of these programs while also subjecting them to rigorous evaluation. To be blunt, interns need enough income to make an opportunity less of a stepping stone out of a company and more of a launching pad within a company that has granted the internships in the first place. It is in the best interest of industry leaders to provide financial support and actively engage with potential future employees from an early stage.

Honest data collection and evaluation for better tracking/measurement, carried out by independent educational research entities, are non-negotiable. Transparency in outcomes is crucial, as is using data to make informed decisions and refine our community college, training, and internship programs.

Challenges abound regarding collaboration between government agencies, industry leaders, and educational institutions. Competing interests and lack of coordination often obstruct progress. It’s time we identify our strengths, share resources and expertise, and strive to collaborate effectively rather than duplicate efforts.

Community colleges need support systems from a central source that can remove administrative support and infrastructure obstacles when running grants and partnerships. By bolstering these support systems, we can enable community colleges to emerge as powerhouses of educational transformation.

Community colleges should also morph into targeted recruitment sources, linking students with industry opportunities. Again, a central repository and match-making type source could be essential to this recruiting component. By forging strong partnerships with industry, we can ensure students gain relevant hands-on experience, aligning their education with their career goals.

Keeping track of student outcomes for ongoing improvement is paramount. Better data collection and analysis systems are needed. We can harness platforms like LinkedIn to track results and highlight areas that need enhancement.

As we stand at an exciting new frontier of a new era in community college education, we must embrace a collaborative approach that puts students at the center. We can revolutionize community college education by fostering industry-driven, student-focused programs, leveraging collaboration for practical impact, ensuring sustainable funding and stipend support, and prioritizing transparency, evaluation, and research.

This transformation will equip students with the skills they need for the workforce and empower them to thrive in an ever-changing economic landscape. It is a call to action for government agencies, industry leaders, and educational institutions to come together and shape a brighter future for community college students, unlocking their full potential and driving societal progress.

We have a chance to build a future where every student, regardless of background, can access high-quality education and set off on a successful career path. We can tap into the immense transformative power of community colleges and prepare our students for the future’s industries.

Let’s seize this opportunity together.

Many different disciplines are needed in nanotechnology specialties — optics (laser), materials science, semiconductor manufacturing, nanobiology (vaccines), to name a few. This video explores various industry opportunities for students to consider. This video was produced during the ASEE 2022 conference for the Micro Nanotechnology Education Center (MNT-EC) at Pasadena City College.

We shared this video on LinkedIn (more than once) today and if you are interested you can follow our latest news and updates on jobs, internships, scholarships, and other useful info from the #nano and #micro community.

The Making of an Intel Chip

Check out this captivating virtual journey deep into Intel’s cutting-edge semiconductor manufacturing facilities, where the technological engines driving our digital world are brought to life.

In this immersive experience, you can move around in a full 360 degrees (for most of the video it is worth moving your mouse around — high speed access and 4K is recommended, but not necessary). The video unveils the astonishing intricacies hidden within clean rooms that are 1,000 times cleaner than the most sterile hospital operating environments. Get an up-close view of the state-of-the-art, multimillion-dollar machinery that is essential for crafting the microchips powering our modern era. And for the truly adventurous, take a virtual spin along the automated superhighways that whisk silicon wafers through this sprawling technological labyrinth. [Remember – you can drag your mouse left, right, up, down.]

Intel Newsroom Video via YouTube 2023

What makes this tour even more fascinating is Intel’s pivotal role in addressing the surging global demand for semiconductors. As our world continues to depend on technology, the demand for these microprocessors skyrockets. Intel, with its history and advanced manufacturing prowess, is positioned to meet the need for chips. 

As most MNT-EC Think Small readers know, the importance of ensuring a robust, sustainable, and secure semiconductor supply chain is paramount. To achieve this, in tandem with Intel and many other semiconductor manufacturers, we’re seeking to keep you updated on micro- nanotechnology programs across the USA with our community college partners (and we’re here to help them as they build new programs and need curriculum guidance and materials — if you are an educator or an administrator, you can learn more about our recent Intro to Nano Canvas course here). 

Intrigued by the latest in technology and its transformative potential? You can peruse our MNT site, of course. You can also visit the Intel Newsroom which shares groundbreaking technology news  covering developments in client computing, artificial intelligence, cybersecurity, data centers, and international news. 

MNT-EC Evaluators Recognized Nationally

The Micro Nano Technology Education Center (MNT-EC) recently celebrated a significant achievement, with three of its evaluators being recognized nationally for their exceptional work. Terryll Bailey, Dr. Jalil Bishop, and Dr. Antar Tichavakunda have been instrumental in shaping the MNT-EC program, providing invaluable insights and recommendations that have helped the center excel in its mission.

Terryll Bailey, the founder and president of The Allison Group, brings over 20 years of experience in workforce development research and evaluation. Her firm specializes in external evaluation for numerous National Science Foundation projects and centers, including the MNT-EC. Bailey’s collaborative approach to evaluation has been crucial in integrating evaluative thinking into the project, focusing on evidence of impact on individuals and organizations.

Dr. Jalil Bishop, a critical qualitative scholar, has expertise in college affordability, student debt, anti-racist policymaking, and the racialized geography of life opportunity. His work on developmental evaluations has been instrumental in shaping the MNT-EC’s approach to equity and inclusion. As the principal investigator of the first national study on Black student debt, Dr. Bishop brings a unique perspective to the evaluation team.

Dr. Antar Tichavakunda, an Assistant Professor of Race and Higher Education at the University of California Santa Barbara, brings a wealth of knowledge in urban education policy. His research on college readiness, Black students’ experiences at predominantly White institutions, and the sociology of race and higher education has been invaluable in shaping the MNT-EC’s approach to diversity and inclusion.

The evaluators’ work has been lauded for its clarity, readability, effective use of visuals, and commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion. Their conclusions and actionable recommendations, well-supported by evidence, have been “essential in informing this program and determining best practices to provide internships that most benefit underrepresented students,” Jared Ashcroft, Principal Investigator, said. 

Jared Ashcroft, PI of MNT-EC, acknowledged the value of the evaluation data, stating, “The MNT-EC evaluation data was essential in informing this program and determining best practices to provide internships that most benefit underrepresented students.” 

The evaluators worked closely with the project team, meeting regularly to discuss evaluation matters. This collaboration likely contributed to the thoroughness and accuracy of the report. They adhered to standards developed by the Joint Committee on Educational Standards and Evaluation, ensuring the ethical collection and analysis of data.

“The external evaluators have collected quantitative and qualitative data to bring numbers, context, and color to our Center’s dissemination efforts.” 

⸺ Peter Kazarinoff, Co-PI of MNT-EC

The value of this comprehensive evaluation to a national center like MNT-EC cannot be overstated. It provides a roadmap for the center, highlighting areas of success and identifying opportunities for improvement. “The way the MNT-EC evaluation report was approached, aligned all activities and results within the framework of the evaluation and its design” according to Mel Cossette, Co-PI of MNT-EC. This feedback is crucial for the center to continue evolving and improving its programs. At a foundational level, this means that the center can better serve its students and the community, ensuring that its programs are effective, inclusive, and impactful.

The MNT-EC is deeply grateful for the evaluators’ contributions, which have not only helped shape the center’s program but also enhanced its ongoing work. Their collaborative efforts across different disciplines and outreach programs have been pivotal in increasing the effectiveness of the program. The MNT-EC is proud to acknowledge the exceptional work of these three evaluators and looks forward to continuing its mission of improving technical education at community colleges.

Specific Highlights from the 2022 Annual Evaluation Report 

  1. Website and Social Media Impact: The MNT-EC’s website and social media platforms have been successful in reaching a broad audience. The website’s traffic compares favorably to two mature national centers, averaging 3,738 users and 15,937 page views in its first year. The LinkedIn posts have also improved significantly, leading to increased impressions and interactions (Page 34).
  2. Center Team and Management: The MNT-EC Center Team, including the PI, Co-PIs, working group leads, and experts from partner institutions, meets monthly to establish their annual goals aligned with the center goal. The Executive Team meets weekly, and the center has made significant progress toward its goals this year, identifying gaps and improving productivity (Page 19).
  3. Advocacy for Systemic Change: PI Ashcroft advocates for systemic changes in technical education, emphasizing the need for more impactful start for students, more funded apprenticeships and internships, and long-term coordinated actions toward solutions. The MNT-EC Center is engaging in this advocacy and inviting other organizations to join in this endeavor (Page 36-37).
  4. Focus on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion: The MNT-EC has made a transformational approach to recruiting underrepresented minorities by working with existing student organizations that support underrepresented minorities and bringing the program into their existing framework. Over 90% of the students in the URE program are from underrepresented groups, representing eight community college campuses in five states (Page 37-38). The Talking Technician podcast receives special mention in here on Page 38.

Additional Evaluation Technical Details, from the report narrative, for those who want to know:

Their investigative approaches included objective orientation, teaching/learning process orientation, customer orientation, faculty and institutional support, business and industry support, and management. These approaches provided a complete review of the project, ensuring a comprehensive analysis of the project’s implementation, audience reach, user perceptions, resource usage, and systemic change.

The evaluators used evidence-based data to measure outcomes, employing both quantitative and qualitative data analysis methods. This approach allowed for a more nuanced understanding of the project’s performance. Their commitment to continuous improvement was evident in their plans to evolve assessment practices and understand the effectiveness of the program better.

Download: MNT-EC Evaluation Report 2021-2022

Special thanks to EvaluATE, ATE Evaluation Resource Hub, for its work in educating evaluators, and others, about evaluation best practices. Their Resource Library is filled with webinars, newsletters, blogs, and information about the ATE annual survey. These materials are open-access. EvaluATE is supported by the National Science Foundation under grant number 1841783. This blog post builds partly from their post, linked above on their evaluation award page. 

Semiconductor Jobs – Knowledge Skills and Abilities

What Are KSAs and Why Are They Important for Your Future Career?

As you start exploring different career paths and preparing for your future, you may come across the term “KSAs.” But what exactly are KSAs, and why are they important?

MNT-EC, working with Industry Partners, including the SEMI Foundation and NIIT, created a document to help you navigate the Microsystems Process Technician career pathway.

In this blog post, we’ll break it down for you in simple terms.

What Are KSAs? 

KSA stands for Knowledge, Skills, and Abilities, but are also known as competencies. Companies and schools often create KSAs to help clarify what specific job requirements are, what you will need for a specific role, and ways you can pick the courses to help you develop skills for that career path. Some companies will ask the job candidate to create or answer questions around their knowledge, skills, and abilities.

In a nutshell, these are the attributes and qualities you need for successfully performing a job. They are typically demonstrated through relevant experience, education, or training. Let’s take a closer look at each one, pulling in the definitions from the PDF directly:

  • Knowledge is a body of information applied directly to the performance of a function: How well does a student understand a concept theoretically?

  • Skills are observable competencies needed to perform learned psychomotor acts: How well can a student execute a specific activity?

  • Abilities are competencies to perform an observable behavior or behaviors that results in an observable product: Does the student meet expectations outside of strictly technical expertise?

By combining knowledge, skills, and abilities, you can showcase a well-rounded profile to employers. Building knowledge through learning, acquiring skills through practice, and leveraging your innate abilities create a strong foundation for career growth and success. Assessing and developing your KSAs can help you align with the requirements of your desired field and enhance your potential for professional advancement.

You can review the new MNT-EC KSA document below in the PDF reader, or click the download button to save it to your computer (below the embedded PDF, keep scrolling…).