Colloquium: Dr. Anura GoonewardeneDepartment of Geology and Physics Lock Haven University of Pennsylvania Lock Haven, PA
Impact of an Interdisciplinary Program at a Small Undergraduate University: A Case Study in Nanotechnology
Lock Haven University (LHU) a small public university uses a novel interdisciplinary platform— nanotechnology —to recruit students into STEM disciplines and offers extensive opportunities for research with faculty mentors to engage undergraduates and prepare them for graduate school and industry. Developed under the leadership of Physics, the program now includes biology, chemistry, geology, health science, computer science, and neuropsychology students who learn to apply the tools and techniques of nanotechnology within their respective disciplines. The program offers multiple pathways for students to incorporate nanotechnology into their own discipline, including an Applied Physics (Nanotechnology) track, an AAS degree in Nanotechnology, a Minor in Nanotechnology, a Nanoscience Concentration in BS Chemistry, and a new Neuropsychology/Nanotechnology Concentration in BS Psychology. Students acquire technical skills during an 18-credit summer intensive at Penn State's Nanotechnology and Career Knowledge (NACK) Center following their sophomore year and apply those skills with faculty mentors in their own departments during their junior and senior years. This approach capitalizes on the growing convergence of engineering and physical sciences with the life sciences; the ability to see and manipulate matter at the atomic, molecular, and cellular level blurs distinctions between traditional disciplines and fosters collaboration across disciplines. This strategy benefits students (half of our 45 program graduates have gone on to PhD, MD, and MS programs and our first 2 alumni earned PhDs in Engineering Sciences and Neuroscience from Penn State University); the Physics Department (physics graduates increased from 3 to 8 per year, making ours one of the largest programs in our state system; our goal is 10 graduates per year, as only 52 physics programs at undergraduate universities have 10 or more graduates) and the University as a whole (our nanotechnology program has attracted nearly $1.3 million in federal grants, including multiple awards from the National Science Foundation for student scholarships and research equipment).
NSF Awards; #1058829 (2011-2016), #0923047 (2009), and #0806660 (2008-2013)