University of Houston Cullen College of Engineering


Nanoengineering Minor Planned for Fall 2009 Start


Erin D. McKenzie

The University of Houston Provost’s Office is expected to approve the launch of a nanoengineering (NEMO) minor centered on preparing students for careers in the rapidly growing field of nanoscience and technology.

A relatively new field of engineering, nanoengineering is responsible for helping produce hundreds of consumer products and applications including everything from computer hardware and cosmetics to cancer treatments and environmentally friendly paints. Based in the Cullen College of Engineering, the undergraduate course offerings will introduce students to nanotechnology, which works to develop materials and devices on an extremely small scale.

Undergraduate students in their junior year of study will have the chance to enroll in the program, expected to begin this fall.

“The NEMO program is distinct from related nanotechnology minor programs now offered by several universities across the United States in that the proposed curriculum is designed as a fully integrated nanoengineering program rather than a set of electives on nanotechnology related topics,” said Dmitri Litvinov, professor of electrical and computer engineering and lead investigator on a grant funding the program’s launch. “The carefully tailored nanoengineering minor curriculum targets undergraduate students across different departments and will enable in-depth training beyond what can practically be achieved with conventional, stand-alone senior electives.”

Five faculty, across engineering disciplines at the college, are aiding Litvinov in its launch. A $200,000 grant from the National Science Foundation is expected to fund the program’s startup costs.

Four prescribed courses, totaling 15 hours of study, expand some of the existing nanotechnology courses at the college into a comprehensive nanoengineering program. Laboratory elements, providing students hands-on experience with nanotechnology instrumentation and fabrication techniques, are integrated into the courses. Design projects challenging students to build a device incorporating components of nanotechnology as well as professional development activities teaching effective technical writing and maintaining scientific records will all be part of the curriculum.

But entry into the program is competitive, with enrollment limited to 15-20 students, Litvinov said. All these individuals must be in junior standing and have successfully completed one of three prerequisites — ECE 3455, CHEE 3333 or MECE 3338.

The minor is expected to build on the strengths of UH faculty, their research and academic programs at the university.

“The NEMO program is expected to have a lasting transformative impact on the undergraduate education at the Cullen College of Engineering by providing NEMO participants the opportunities to conduct research under nationally recognized experts in the field of nanotechnology,” Litvinov said. “Our team will capitalize on the synergy between the extensive undergraduate education infrastructure and the state-of-the-art nanotechnology research programs at the college of engineering. The long-term goal is to introduce nanoscale science, engineering and technology through a variety of interdisciplinary approaches."