WTC Microfab Lab Partners with NSCC to Launch State’s First Nanotech Degree Program

North Seattle Community College (NSCC) has received approval from the state board to become the first college in the state to offer an Associate of Applied Science-Transfer (AAS-T) degree in Nanotechnology, an emerging multi-disciplinary field that is expected to impact hundreds of thousands of jobs in the economy over the next 15 years. The program makes its debut September 26 with NANO101. WTC’s Microfabrication Laboratory plays a key role by providing students with “hands-on experience” through access to the lab’s clean room environment for laboratory sessions.

The new nanotech degree program was spurred by the increased interest and activity surrounding the breakthrough capabilities enabled by imaging, fabrication and engineering at the molecular scale. The Washington Technology Center launched the Washington Nanotechnology Initiative last year to help assure that Washington’s economy is prepared and nano-ready to be a competitive player in research and commercialization as these technologies start to find solid business applications.

Numerous companies are currently developing incredible new applications for nanotechnology. There is no doubt there will be a need for a manufacturing workforce skilled in nano in the very new future. WTC has helped support many nano companies through its research facilities, and hopes to play a key role in connecting the industrial community with the NSCC program through internships and providing access to the WTC facility for students.

NSCC’s 90-credit degree will prepare graduates for entry-level technician positions in the nano/micro-fabrication industry and related manufacturing industries. Cross-disciplinary in nature, the program will combine elements of materials science, chemistry, biology and physics, electronics and engineering. Through WTC’s Microfabrication Laboratory, students will be exposed to clean room procedures including an understanding of process fundamentals and maintenance principles of nano/micro fabrication and characterization equipment. The multidisciplinary design of this program will provide graduates with the skills to enter a wide range of materials-based industries, such as aerospace, electronics, life sciences, transportation, and pharmaceuticals. Another key partner is the University of Washington Center for Nanotechnology, which is providing resources for faculty professional development.

As Washington companies adopt nano-and micro-scale production techniques, tools, equipment, and concepts, they will need workers who are adaptable, savvy and up-to-date on this technology. WTC has published a Business Directory showing already at least 20 firms in Washington actively working with nanomaterials or advanced micro-mechanical systems (MEMS). This collaborative program between WTC, North Seattle Community College, and other partners is a critical first step in developing this nano-ready workforce.

WTC, UW and NSCC are working to establish nanotechnology education from K-12 through bachelor and graduate degrees. This is one of the key agendas under the Washington Nanotechnology Initiative. This coalition of educational institutions would include University of Washington, Washington State University, Eastern Washington University, 18 community and technical colleges, and Seattle Public Schools.

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