Grants to Fairfield University's School of Engineering to address job market needs


Evangelos Hadjimichael, Ph.D., dean of Fairfield University's School of Engineering, has received a grant from the Department of Higher Education and from the Connecticut Center for Advanced Technologies (CCAT) to lead a team of educators from universities throughout Connecticut for the purpose of organizing a curriculum platform for nanotechnology studies. Nanotechnology is a burgeoning field with many industrial applications that hold a wealth of career opportunities for engineering and science students.

The School of Engineering was awarded another grant from CCAT that will establish the Center for Simulation, Modeling and Analysis in Automation for educating students in manufacturing, an industry increasingly in need of skilled professionals. The East Hartford-based CCAT partners with colleges and universities to support the study of science, technology, engineering and math while promoting the training of students in emerging industries.

A $53,000 grant from the Connecticut Department of Higher Education (DHE) and CCAT was awarded to Dr. Hadjimichael to work with a consortium of universities and colleges convened by the state Department of Higher Education to establish the curricula for a minor program in nanotechnology studies. The program will become available for adoption by all post-secondary schools in Connecticut.

Nanotechnology is basically the science of creating and controlling matter. Consumer Reports calls nanotechnology 'a scientific revolution,' noting manufacturers are bringing nano-engineered products to market at a breakneck pace. BASF, the chemical company, calls nanotechnology, 'The most important emerging technology worldwide.'

Almost all fields of engineering and science, most notably mechanical and electrical engineering, chemistry, biology and physics, are contributing to the research and development of numerous nanotechnology products.

For example, thanks to nanotechnology, drugs are being developed that act like Trojan horses to deposit cancer-fighting medicine to attack tumors; sunscreen can now better deflect UV rays; cars will be lighter and more fuel efficient; and tennis balls have better bounce. Billions are being spent by industries to develop nano-engineered products. The federal government has created the National Nanotechnology Initiative to advance the education, research and development in this truly first 21st century technology.

Dr. Hadjimichael's charge as chair of a statewide committee of the nanotechnology consortium is to develop the 'Connecticut Nanotechnology Minor,' and the certificate for completing the minor will be awarded by the Board of Governors, Connecticut Department of Higher Education, rather than by individual institutions. The minor will consist of four or five courses, along with experiential learning in fabrication and characterization of nano-materials, and there will be a standard curriculum for all participating Connecticut colleges and universities. The nanotechnology minor will be available to all students with suitable background, no matter what their major.

Dr. Hadjimichael said, "We have been working on this project since April of this year, and will be done by the end of October. We will receive input from industries with interests in nanotechnology before we fine-tune the curricula. In view of the nature of nano-materials, a key element in the curricula will be risk assessment in taking advantage of the new technology."

The Connecticut Nanotechnology Consortium consists of educators from Fairfield University; Yale University, University of Connecticut, Central Connecticut State University; The College of Technology/Community College System; Southern Connecticut State University; University of Hartford, and the University of New Haven.

Another grant from CCAT, worth $40,000, has been awarded to the School of Engineering to create the Center for Simulation, Modeling and Analysis in Automation. In recent years, Connecticut has experienced a growth in jobs in manufacturing but companies are in need of workers with specialized skills in this area.

The grant will cover the cost of obtaining and implementing the software package Delmia V Automation which will provide a new dimension to the School's manufacturing laboratory learning activities. Ultimately, Delmia V, in conjunction with other resources in the manufacturing lab, will be a training tool for students who study automated manufacturing.

Dr. Hadjimichael said, "We will update our automation laboratory activities to integrate the DELMIA V5 Automation software, a 3-D simulation code. This resource will enable us to provide solutions to industry-sponsored projects dealing with the automation life cycle management. This work will commence with simulation studies of interest to the aerospace industry."

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Media Contact: Meg McCaffrey, (203) 254-4000, ext. 2726, mmccaffrey@fairfield.edu

Posted on August 8, 2007

Vol. 40, No. 18