Nanotechnology includes a large number of technnologies and processes for building new materials, devices, and systems from particles as small as individual atoms and molecules. It is a diverse field that incorporates many engineering and science disciplines. The United States and other countries are currently putting millions of dollars into research in the field of nanotechnology. For example, President Bush’s 2005 budget request called for a total budget of $982 million for nanotechnology research. It is also estimated that worldwide government funding has increased to about five times what it was in 1997, exceeding $2 billion in 2002. Dr. Hisham Hegab, Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering and IfM Research Associate is helping to bring a part of this up-and-coming field to Louisiana Tech.
Nanosystems engineering courses have been taught at the graduate level at Louisiana Tech since 1999 but have not previously focused much coursework on undergraduate students. Dr. Hegab was recently awarded a grant from the National Science Foundation that supports Louisiana Tech in incorporating nanotechnology into the existing integrated undergraduate engineering curricula. The grant allows Tech to do the research necessary to offer courses at the freshman and sophomore level in both the classroom and laboratory setting. This exposure would allow many lower level engineering students to be exposed to this subject early on in their college career and hopefully encourage some of them to pursue a degree in nanosystems engineering.
The grant is also helping Louisiana Tech to take the necessary steps to offer the nation's first B.S. in Nanosystems Engineering in the Fall of 2005. During a site inspection in November 2004, Louisiana Tech received positive feedback from an outside consultant. With $6M in capital outlay funds secured for a new biomedical building to be added to the campus and the existing IfM – an integrated micromanufacturing and nanomanufacturing facility – Louisiana Tech is well-equipped to offer many great opportunities in the field of nanotechnology.
Aside from exposing students to nanotechnology at the college level, the grant also provides the means for teaching high school students about this exciting, expanding field. The plan is for college students to go into high schools, starting locally then spreading throughout the state, to introduce nanotechnology to the students. This opportunity would allow those students who are interested in engineering subjects such as physics and chemistry to be aware of the fields of study available in higher education. This grant is contributing to the future of the engineering field on all levels and helping to make sure that future engineers are ready for the “next big thing.”