LOCK HAVEN - Lock Haven University has received a more than half-million dollar grant from the National Science Foundation to improve its Nanotechnology Program as part of the new Science Center at the old Lock Haven High School.
The award, in the amount of $526, 831, will provide four-year scholarships for up to 15 new students starting in the fall of 2013-2017.
The scholarships will be available to students majoring in any of the STEM disciplines with a focus in Nanoscience, a program that will move to the new Science Center, construction of which is slated to begin this spring.
The grant is under the direction of Dr. Anura Goonewardene (PI), Dr. Jacqueline Whitling (Co-PI), Dr. Michael Cullin (Co-PI), and senior personnel Dr. Marian Tzolov, Dr. Indrajith Senevirathne, and Dr. Amy Way. The project evaluator is Dr. Christine Offutt.
The STEM subjects (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) are considered strategically important for the U.S. to remain competitive in the global environment. LHU's nanotechnology program is a cross-disciplinary program preparing students to employ nanotechnology in a variety of science fields.
With the newest grant, funding for the LHU Nanoscience program from the NSF totals $1.3 million since 2008. With other funding from the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development, total funding for the Nanoscience program since 2004 is $2.1 million.
The university's Nanoscience Scholars are part of a supportive science learning community. They take part in activities designed to help them assimilate into the program. These include a Nanoscience freshman orientation program, a field trip and an annual Nano Picnic.
The Nano Club is one of the most active and prestigious organizations on campus. In the past year, it organized 15 presentations that covered various topics. Fifty percent of these were presented by senior students while the balance was presented by alumni of the Nano program, along with a few more by visitors from industry and academia. The Nano Club helped to organize six outreach events to high school students both in neighboring schools districts and three major city school districts over 100 miles away (Allentown/Bethlehem area and Harrisburg.).
These events reached nearly 500 diverse high school student participants. LHU nano students sponsored a booth at the Pennsylvania Science Teachers Association state meeting in Hershey, Pa., where they explained to high school science teachers how Nanotechnology is embedded in all STEM fields at Lock Haven University and how it can offer greater opportunities for STEM students.
Dr. Goonewardene, director of the LHU Nanotechnology Program, commented on LHU's interdisciplinary approach to Nanoscience.
"The fact that the NSF has continuously funded the Nano Program (2008, 2009, 2011, 2012) shows strong support for LHU's interdisciplinary approach to recruit students to STEM programs" he said. "Our use of Nanotechnology to recruit, retain, and excite students to do science and increase the number of STEM students is establishing a model for recruitment for science programs nationally."
LHU's interdisciplinary Nanotechnology faculty offer research projects for undergraduates in diverse research areas such as material synthesis, device fabrication, submicron imaging, and electrical and optical characterization. Students are trained to use LHU's advanced equipment and critically analyze the experimental results. Some topics have included dye-sensitized solar cells, nanoparticle platforms for drug delivery systems, polymer light-emitting diodes, scanning probe studies of graphite surfaces, gold nanoparticles as sensors and DNA self-assembled monolayers.
LHU has developed five Nanotechnology labs, where students gain hands-on experience in fabrication techniques, device development and analytical tools including the scanning probe laboratory. Students learn to fabricate structures from the microscale to the nanoscale that can be visualized using the university's Optical, Fluorescent, Atomic Force, Scanning Tunneling, and Scanning Electron microscopes. Other equipment includes a sculptured thin film deposition system, a sputter coater, an evaporator, a sonicator, a furnace, a profilometer, a 4-point probe and DC/AC electrical characterization equipment.
All nanotechnology faculty have their doctoral degrees. Students learn in small classes and labs, taught by professors, not graduate assistants.
LHU Nano students have made numerous national presentations of their STEM undergraduate research projects using tools of Nanotechnology at the American Physical Society and the American Chemical Society meeting. These scholarly activities helped spread the word about LHU's success in growing STEM programs using an interdisciplinary platform, in our case Nanotechnology. All these activities were partly funded by the NSF project.
The LHU Nanoscience program has had excellent success in placing students in REU and SURF programs at universities across the country. In addition, LHU Nanoscience graduates are highly successful in acceptance to Ph.D., M.D. and M.S. graduate programs. Many have received multiple fully-funded graduate school offers from schools such as Penn State University, Drexel University, Georgia Tech University, University of Southern California, and SUNY at Albany.
Last fall, the Nano program was selected by the Chancellor of the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education to present to Pennsylvania Senate Appropriations Committee on the impact that the Nano programs has on the STEM disciplines and the need for more funding for public higher education.