Newswise — UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — The Penn State Nanotechnology Applications and Career Knowledge (NACK) Resource Center recently received a grant renewal from the National Science Foundation (NSF). This renewal will be used to support the development and sustenance of nanotechnology workforce education by further growing nano-education resources and partnerships.

In 2017, the NSF awarded two grants totaling more than $2.5 million to the Penn State Center for Nanotechnology Education and Utilization (CNEU) to develop a Nanotechnology Professional Development Partnership (NPDP). These grants provided support that allowed CNEU to offer more affordable and accessible training to a large, diverse audience that spanned across the U.S. through its NACK Network. 

“A strong micro- and nanotechnology-based industry must have a workforce skilled in synthesis, fabrication and characterization at the nano-scale,” said Osama Awadelkarim, CNEU director and professor of engineering science and mechanics at Penn State. “The hands-on training requires equipment, staff and faculty resources that are often not available at many post-secondary institutions. The resource sharing model developed at NACK is a working model for accomplishing this necessary workforce training by forming partnerships between research universities and teaching institutions.”

The recent renewal of $1.65 million will be used to enhance the dissemination of micro- and nanofabrication educational resources and provide key national infrastructure. The grant will support the growth of many online tools used to distribute and host many resources — including learning materials, workshops and webinar series — to its audience. 

“The overall impact of NACK will be a strong, broad, readily available, U.S. nanotechnology workforce education infrastructure that is sustainable and institutionalized,” Awadelkarim noted in the grant renewal proposal.

According to Awadelkarim, NACK’s approach provides the necessary expertise and facilities that can deliver the broad education needed in the fast-moving world of nanotechnology.

“Nanotechnology is constantly impacting society through large numbers of nanotechnology-based products in fields such as health care, automotive and transportation, safety and security and home and leisure,” Awadelkarim said. “On a global scale nanotechnology is set to transform and revolutionize business.”

NACK currently provides this education to community and technical colleges and baccalaureate four-year universities across the country. Penn State has been a key factor in the delivery and distribution of these wide-spread educational resources. 

“While building NACK’s infrastructure, the Department of Engineering Science and Mechanics at Penn State has committed several resources, including a shared teaching cleanroom/studio facility; a dedicated lecture room and lab space; an office suite; and allotment of faculty and administrative staff time,” Awadelkarim said. “This nano-education infrastructure and resources are currently enabling NACK to maintain leadership in delivering quality nanotechnology education and begin generating the revenue necessary for NACK sustainability.”

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