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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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 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
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).
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).
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).
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.
Special thanks to EvaluATE, ATE Evaluation Resource Hub, for its work in educating evaluators, and others, about evaluation best practices. Their Resource Libraryis 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.
The Goldwater Scholarship is one of the most prestigious undergraduate scholarships awarded to students who excel in the fields of mathematics, natural sciences, and engineering. This year, two MNT-CURNstudents have been awarded the scholarship: Rachael Orkin from Los Angeles Pierce College and Celina Yu from Pasadena City College (PCC).
Rachael Orkin, a biochemistry major at Pierce (as it is often called), was inspired to pursue the Goldwater Scholarship after learning about it through guest speakers in her MNT-CURN meetings. She decided to apply for the scholarship after Dr. Jared Ashcroft included her in an email about Goldwater mentors who could help her through the process. With a support system that big, Rachael felt it was worth a shot applying for the scholarship.
Rachael has been involved in undergraduate research at Pierce with many opportunities that have validated her choice to pursue pathology and structural biology. She is currently doing research with electronic noses, biomechanic software, and leprosy, with plans to engage in other areas. Rachael is interested in researching how micro- nanotechnologies intersect with medicinal chemistry, organic chemistry, and biochemistry. She hopes to be a pathologist or clinical geneticist via an MD/PhD path.
Celina Yu, a first-generation college student, was motivated to pursue the Goldwater Scholarship not only for financial reasons but also to push her academic limits. She has been involved in undergraduate research at PCC and wanted to explore what’s out there. Applying for the Goldwater Scholarship was a way for Celina to stay involved and active during her sophomore year of higher education.
Celina recently received her Associates of Arts degree in Natural Sciences at PCC and has decided to concentrate in Biology upon her transfer to a 4-year institution this fall.
Her love for science is what inspired her to pursue her degree. She wants to create or discover new ways to develop medications or push the limits with novel methods to help others thrive. After her first research experience, Celina realized that she much prefers supporting those fighting on the front lines to help patients rather than going into battle herself. She wants to be part of the development team and supply the needed materials to continue to help people.
For the scholarship, Celina focused on her research involving gold nanoparticles and their use in traditional photothermal therapy.
She collaborated with the California State University of Northridge and used a custom-built Femtosecond laser to characterize the experimental samples. The subsequent data was analyzed to study the nanoparticle’s electronic transitions, and the concept of a hybrid particle was introduced to bring forth the idea of an alternative route for cancer treatment.
Both Rachael and Celina had mentors who helped them throughout the application process and research experience.
Rachael would like to thank her campus representative, Dr. Aron Kamajaya, and her application mentors Justice Charnae Robinson and Sophia Barber, as well as her research mentors Dr. Jared Ashcroft, Dr. David Armstrong, and Dr. Brian Pierson.
Celina would like to acknowledge her mentors Dr. Jared Ashcroft, Dr. Jillian Blatti, Dr. Abdelaziz Boulesbaa, Dr. Yadong Yin, and Kristin M. McPeak for being an amazing campus representative and helping with the official paperwork.
The Goldwater Scholarship is a significant achievement for both Rachael and Celina, and it demonstrates their dedication and passion for their fields of study. Their research has the potential to make a significant impact on society, and we wish them all the best as they continue to pursue their academic and research goals.
An artistic illustration showing an ultrasensitive detection platform called SLIPSERS — slippery liquid infused porous surface-enhanced Raman scattering. An aqueous or oil droplet containing gold nanoparticles and captured analytes is allowed to evaporate on a slippery substrate, leading to the formation of a highly compact nanoparticle aggregate for surface enhanced Raman scattering detection.
Researchers at Penn State have developed a new technique that combines the ultrasensitivity of surface-enhanced Raman scattering (SERS) with a slippery surface. The technique will make it feasible to detect single molecules from a number of chemical and biological species, whether gaseous, liquid or solid. This combination of slippery surface and laser-based spectroscopy will open new applications in analytical chemistry, molecular diagnostics, environmental monitoring and national security.
The research was funded by a U.S. National Science Foundation Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) program award (grant CMMI 1351462).
Thanks to those of you who have supported and lifted up the MNT-EC site and this news section, for sharing on social media and telling your peers about us. Lots of you are spending more time on our MNT-EC LinkedIn page and that’s, well, incredibly awesome. See a couple of images from the page just below.
We’d like to tell you about our favorite email newsletters and celebrate two of our partners this month:
Greentown Labs in Massachusetts is the nation’s leading incubator/accelerator for startups solving the climate crisis through entrepreneurship and collaboration. Their newsletter is a powerful curation of what’s happening in climate tech, materials, nanotechnology, and way more. The most recent newsletter profiles that the Prince and Princess of Wales paid them a visit.
Kavli Nanoscience Institute knows how to put together a nano-packed newsletter each quarter. You definitely want to subscribe to this one. It is their cool image just below that also served as a LinkedIn post with links to a photo gallery here on Think Small. You should check out the 2022 news roundup from Kavli here.
Based at Arizona State University, NCI Southwest serves as the Southwest hub of the National Nanotechnology Coordinated Infrastructure (NNCI) and encompasses six collaborative research facilities. Their newsletter is loaded with info from the ASU NanoFab, the Eyring Materials Center, Advanced Electronics and Photonics (AEP) Core Facility, the Center for the Life Cycle of Nanomaterials (LCNano), the ¡MIRA! Center at NAU, and the User Facility for the Social and Ethical Implications of Nanotechnology.
This image from Kavli Nanoscience Institute (1,200+ views and 31 visits) and below that, one from a Hong Kong 3D printing startup captivated your attention (1,700+ views and 36 visits — glad to know we have some ocean lovers in our midst).
And here’s the Hong Kong 3D Printed Coral Reef startup image on CBS News.
Thanks for reading our monthly email update, if that’s how you found this post. If you found us by digging into our website and the Think Small news and blog section, we are so glad you found us. “Random Small” is a monthly catch-all post for the latest happenings here at the Micro Nano Technology Education Center and in our wider, bigger community of scientists of all types.
You probably noticed two distinct images — one of an astronaut (just above), and another of a website logo for Skype a Scientist.
First, in the monthly MNT Update, I mentioned how NASA technology often gets transferred outside of NASA into commercial enterprises that license it for new products. This article, Feeling Hot, Staying Cool, is a powerful example of how that works. It highlights the work of a new company, London-based Fifty One Ltd, which is “using a temperature-controlling material developed in part under an SBIR from Johnson Space Center for spacesuit gloves, Fifty One of London is making clothes to alleviate the symptoms of menopause.”
Since women make up half the world’s population, there is a lot of need and opportunity (as in billions of people) for materials scientists to work on these phase change materials to find solutions.
In fact, NASA has an entire microsite dedicated to technology transfer calledSpinoff and it includes an annual report, of sorts, that highlights the many advances that power our world.
By the way, if you are not yet subscribed to our email community, please visit this signup page. We would love to have you join us, contribute to our efforts, and connect.
Let’s jump to Skype A Scientist because it is so fun and energetic and something you can use in your classrooms or perhaps sign up to help out. From their website: “The mission of Skype a Scientist is simple, yet impactful: to make science accessible and fun through personal connections with scientists. We are an educational entity with a focus on connecting the general public with scientific disciplines in fun and meaningful ways, making science education available and engaging for everyone…”
The Skype A Scientist Instagram page is worth a follow, too. Here’s a sample YouTube videos of a wonderful talk with a brain scientist at the University of Washington. Love Sydney’s enthusiasm. Plus, we’re hoping to interview Dr. Sarah McAnulty, Squid Biologist, and Executive Director of Skype A Scientist.
There are two new scholarship opportunities for STEM-oriented students. These will be added to our Micro Nano Scholarship page later this week, but to give you the absolute latest, cutting edge, head start information we’re putting them here and on our MNT LinkedIn Page (which you seriously might want to follow, but no pressure, of course. Not much pressure…).
The DOD Historically Black Colleges and Universities & Minority-Serving Institutions (HBCU/MI) Summer Research Internship Program is an annual summer research program offered to current students and recent graduates who studied STEM disciplines at HBCU/MI.
Heading into the weekend which for some is going to turn into vacation for the holiday week — here is a great podcast for you in those quiet days pre-post holiday meals. Our MNT Center Director, Dr. Jared Ashcroft, was rather quiet/humble about being interviewed by the well-known Temple Grandin for the first season of a new podcast out of the STEM Action Center in Utah.
Temple and Jared discussed the role community colleges can play in supplying a steady STEM workforce, where the education system falls short, and how it can improve outcomes for students. Definitely worth a listen! Way to go, Dr. Ashcroft.
In early August, MNT-EC was a proud sponsor and supporter of the Experience STEAM event at the Mall of America. It is a powerful testimony of what happens when NSF Centers collaborate, partner, and lift up the work of national centers across the USA.
Organized by the National Center for Autonomous Technology (NCAT) and the individual contributions of over 40 organizations. The STEAM Carnival provided broad public engagement in addition to the 18 educator workshops, 14 STEAM camps and it fostered enormous potential for future collaborations.
The Goldwater Scholarship Program, one of the oldest and most prestigious national scholarships in the natural sciences, engineering, and mathematics in the United States, seeks to identify and support college sophomores and juniors who show exceptional promise of becoming this Nation’s next generation of research leaders in these fields.
According to the 2022 Scholars Press Release, from an estimated pool of over 5,000 college sophomores and juniors, 1,242 natural science, engineering and mathematics students were nominated by 433 academic institutions to compete for the 2022 Goldwater scholarships. Of students who reported, 175 of the Scholars are men, 234 are women, and virtually all intend to obtain a Ph.D. as their highest degree objective. Forty-five Scholars are mathematics and computer science majors, 308 are majoring in the natural sciences, and 64 are majoring in engineering. Many of the Scholars have published their research in leading professional journals and have presented their work at professional society conferences.
2022 Goldwater Scholars Announced
Janet Teng, Pasadena City College Student, is one of 417 college students from across the United States to be selected for this highly respected scholarship.
“My research project is based on work performed at the Environmental Molecular Sciences Laboratory (EMSL) at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL). The project specifically probes surface chemical reactivity between iron metal and oxygen gas using the novel Operando Atom Probe Tomography analytical technique. This new approach to correlating the spatial signal with reaction time reveals the surface reaction kinetics and the crystal structure relationship of a material. Thus, mapping the progression of reactive gas penetration into metal surfaces to form metal oxides (i.e. corrosion) is made possible.”
— Janet Teng, PCC Student and Undergraduate Researcher
Ms. Teng also expressed appreciation for all the support and guidance she received from her research mentors Dr. Jared Ashcroft, Dr. Tanya Faltens, Dr. Daniel Perea, Dr. Chiara Daraio, Dr. Sten Lambeets, Mr. Mark Wirth, and Dr. Yu-Chung Chang-Hou. Ms. Teng’s research and presentation is highlighted also in last fall’s Think Small post:
Rick Vaughn at Rio Salado College is encouraging Arizona residents to think small. Small as in nanotechnology size small. Smaller than you can see with the naked eye. Thanks to recent NSF (National Science Foundation) funding, the school is offering scholarships that will cover half the cost for a nanotechnology certificate.
With an above-average national median salary of $40,500, Nanotechnology and semiconductor technicians are in demand, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. If you are an Arizona resident, these scholarships are aimed at you.
If you are not an Arizona resident, visit the Nanotechnology Jobs – A Resource Guide that includes links to a variety of programs and statistics: “According to CareerExplorer.com, “there are currently an estimated 132,500 nanotechnology engineers in the United States. The nanotechnology engineer job market is expected to grow by 6.4% between 2016 and 2026.” The top states for Nanotechnology Engineer jobs are also listed in the post.
Read more about the Rio Salado College Nanotechnology Scholarships below:
“Nanotechnology embodies everything that has to do with engineering, chemistry, biology and science, and then puts them together with technology to form something that’s new and different,” said Dr. Rick Vaughn, Rio Salado College Faculty Chair for STEM initiatives.
According to the National Nanotechnology Initiative, nanotechnology touches many of us through a variety of consumer products such as eyeglasses, computer screens, cosmetics, clothes, digital storage, tires, paint, lasers and airplane coatings.
Rio Salado recently received a $300,000 grant from the National Science Foundation to train 30 students and help increase the employee pool for the nanotechnology industry. Rio Salado is offering five $780 scholarships that will cover half the cost of the 6-course nanotechnology certificate program.