Nanotechnology and microsystems major announced at UW-Platteville

April 26, 2011

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PLATTEVILLE- The University of Wisconsin System Board of Regents approved the addition of a bachelor's degree in microsystems and nanotechnology engineering at UW-Platteville during its April 7-8 meetings held on campus.

The new major, unique in the UW System and one of only a handful of comparable undergraduate degree programs in the United States, will educate students and allow them to focus on basic and applied multidisciplinary research and development in microsystems and nanotechnology. Graduates of the program can apply their knowledge to cutting-edge technologies such as solar power, alternative energy graphene device coating technologies and microelectomechanical systems. The first course of the major will be offered in the spring of 2012.

"In this country, the oldest programs like this have only been around for a couple of years. One thing that is going to help us is that students come to UW-Platteville looking for an education in - to a large extent - science and technology," said Dr. Hal Evensen, program director for the new microsystems and nanotechnology engineering major. "It can be difficult to recruit high school seniors into fields like this because it's too new. They may not know much about it and their parents may not know much about it, so being able to draw from a pool of people who are passionate about science, engineering and technology gives us a good chance for people to learn about it and go from there."

Late last year, UW-Platteville received a $200,000 grant from the National Science Foundation to continue work in microsystems and nanotechnology. The grant funds are currently being used to develop the curriculum for the microsystems and nanotechnology major, which builds off of the existing minor of the same name currently offered at UW-Platteville.

"To make microsystems components, we use a lot of the same technology that would be used in nanotechnology. By incorporating microsystems and nanotechnology, we are linking together some things that might traditionally be reserved for chemistry or material science, as well as some of the current things that are definitely a part of engineering such as micromachines and microsensors," said Evensen.

"When we talked to people in industry, we brought them to campus and showed them what we had for the minor and what we were putting together for the major. Without fail, they all said that it was great that we were combining the two things because there is enough overlap in the instrumentation and skill sets that if you focus exclusively on one, you'll probably be missing something," said Evensen. "The relationship we have with local and regional industries is going to be important in the future as well because this major is unique enough that co-op and internship experiences will be very important to our students and to us; we have to make sure the education we provide remains relevant to industry."

Dr. James Hamilton, UW-Platteville professor of chemistry and engineering physics and director of the Nanotechnology Center for Collaborative Research and Development, was the principal author for the NSF grant. Hamilton said, "UW-Platteville has a world-class metrology center that includes a clean room and characterization facility with multiple electron microscopes and multiple atomic force microscopes, including one funded though a $450,000 NSF grant led by Dr. Yan Wu, the first faculty member on campus hired specifically to support this new program."

Dr. Osama Jadaan, chair of the UW-Platteville Department of General Engineering, focuses on microsystems and collaborated on the NSF grant with several colleagues. Jadaan said that microsystems, which are 1,000 times larger than the nano scale but are still too small to discern their details with the naked eye, are integrated electrical and mechanical components etched onto silicon chips. He added that they are used in many applications, from deploying air bags to motion sensors in Nintendo Wii controllers.

The grant funds will also be used to promote awareness and career options for pre-college students. In addition, UW-Platteville engineering students will be exposed to microsystems and nanotechnology through their required Introduction to Engineering and Engineering Economics courses even if they are not pursuing the new major or minor.

The committee involved in the proposal and initial steering of the new major include UW-Platteville faculty members Dr. Esther Ofulue of biology; Dr. Jeff Buboltz, Hamilton, Dr. Chanaka Mendis and Dr. Joseph Wu of chemistry; John Goomey of electrical engineering; Jadaan of general engineering; Dr. Mike Momot of mechanical engineering; and Evensen, Dr. Wei Li and Wu of engineering physics.

"We are a national leader in undergraduate nanotechnology studies in addition to our foundation in engineering and science, and this new major will be another great step for us," said Hamilton.

For more information regarding the new major, contact Evensen at (608) 342-1531 or evensenh@uwplatt.edu.

Contact: Hal Evensen, program director, UW-Platteville Microsystems and Nanotechnology Engineering, (608) 342-1531, evensenh@uwplatt.edu Written by: Ian Clark, UW-Platteville University Information and Communications, (608) 342-1194, clarki@uwplatt.edu

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