Nanoscience program brings big opportunities to students at DCTC

5:10 PM, Feb 14, 2013   |    comments
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ROSEMOUNT, Minn. -- "Where is it?" said Deb Newberry, who was trying to focus a dip pen lithography machine on a silicon chip.

The machine is a piece of sophisticated technology used in Newberry's nanoscience technologist program at Dakota County Technical College in Rosemount.

Newberry is looking for something she created on the chip using dip pen lithography.  Something so small, the human eye could never find it, nor could most microscopes.

It's measured in nanometers, "A very, very small level," explained Newberry.  "Atoms and molecules is what we deal with."

Newberry not only directs the program, she built it with the idea of giving students a two year option to pursue a career with a bright future in Minnesota.

"We're very blessed in this region to have companies that are very strong in electronics," said Newberry.  "Companies that are very strong in biotechnology, companies that are very strong in materials science."

"This is the most advanced science I've ever seen," said Jon Duff, a recent Rosemount High School graduate.  He's intent on finding a job when he completes the program.

So is Ryan Coleman, who found his career in construction foundering in the recession.

"Primarily I was looking for something that I knew would be be marketable," said Coleman.  He travels 57 miles from his home to attend this program, which is unique in its breadth.

"There's no other program in the U.S. that has the multi-disciplinary aspect that we do," said Newberry.

That's the appeal of nanotechnology.  "Everything in this world, the properties of it, whether it's your hair or the chair I'm sitting on, the properties are dependent on how those atoms and molecules are arranged," said Newberry.

Understanding those properties leads to new discoveries about how things work, which can lead to breakthroughs in manufacturing, medicine and technology.

Newberry says nearly one hundred percent of her students who choose to work after they complete the two year program find jobs right away.  About forty percent of her students continue on for a four year degree, which is why Dakota County Technical College has a partnership in this program with the University of Minnesota.

Newberry is looking to extend the reach of nanoscience to high schools.  She's been working with a company called NanoInk to develop a program and tools that can be used at community colleges or high schools called NanoProfessor.

Her aim is to hook students who many not have considered a career in science and technology.  "Once that enthusiasm starts bubbling up in them they go, 'shoot, if I can do this, I'm going to go to the U of M and do chemical engineering.'"

 

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