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Triennial Review of the National Nanotechnology Initiative (2016)

Chapter: 5 Human Infrastructure for Nanotechnology

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Suggested Citation:"5 Human Infrastructure for Nanotechnology." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2016. Triennial Review of the National Nanotechnology Initiative. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/23603.
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5

Human Infrastructure for Nanotechnology

The third goal of the National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI) states: “Develop and sustain educational resources, a skilled workforce, and a supporting infrastructure and tools to advance nanotechnology.”1 Human capital, and the infrastructure required to produce it, constitutes an essential component of the nanotechnology ecosystem that is needed in order to realize the full value of nanotechnology advances. That ecosystem must have sufficient breath to address not only the education of nanoscale scientists and engineers involved in research, but also business and government leaders who can make informed decisions to accelerate the adoption of nano-enabled technologies, workers who are knowledgeable in the idiosyncrasies of nanomanufacturing, and a public that is sufficiently knowledgeable to make informed decisions on the benefits and risks.

To provide an education ecosystem capable of delivering on such a broad swath of goals, it will be necessary to address all the stages of education listed in Table 5.1. A National Science Foundation (NSF)-funded workshop report Nanoscale Science and Engineering Education (NSEE)—The Next Steps2 provides a suite of recommendations toward that end. This committee endorses this workshop report.

This chapter briefly reviews science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) workforce and education trends and considers the role of, and implica-

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1 For more information, see National Nanotechnology Initiative, “Goal Three Objectives,” http://www.nano.gov/goalthreeobjectives, accessed September 12, 2015.

2 J. Murday, 2014, Nanoscale Science and Engineering Education (NSEE)—The Next Steps, Workshop Report, http://nseeducation.org/2014-documents/NSEE%20The%20Next%20Steps-Final.pdf.

Suggested Citation:"5 Human Infrastructure for Nanotechnology." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2016. Triennial Review of the National Nanotechnology Initiative. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/23603.
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TABLE 5.1 Stages of Education in the United States

Grade Proficiency
Primary (K-5) Basic literacy and numeracy; establishment of foundations in science, mathematics, geography, history, and other social sciences
Secondary (6-12) Develop the skills required in an increasingly complex society, including the dependence on science and technology
Community/Technical College (13-14) Transfer education—move to a four-year institution to pursue a BS/BA degree; career education; associate degree and directly enter the workforce; developmental remedial education for high school graduates; industry training—company pays to provide specific training or courses for employees
Undergraduate (BS/BA) (13-16) Career education—decision makers in business, government, finance, etc.
Graduate (MS/MA/PhD) Research toward the discovery of new knowledge
Continuing Education Rounding out the knowledge needed for career goals; changing career paths
Informal Science Education (ISE) Complement to formal education venues

SOURCE: J. Murday, 2014, Nanoscale Science and Engineering Education (NSEE)—The Next Steps, Workshop Report, http://nseeducation.org/2014-documents/NSEE%20The%20Next%20Steps-Final.pdf.

tions for, nanoscale science and engineering education within this broader context. The committee assesses how the NNI is meeting the needs for human talent with nanotechnology skills and knowledge, and how these efforts can be strengthened. An in-depth analysis of various data related to STEM education, sponsored by U.S. News and Raytheon,3 along with data obtained directly from government reports, in particular the 2016 Science and Engineering Indicators (SEI2016) published by the National Science Board,4 provide a picture of STEM employment and education in the United States and globally.

TRENDS IN STEM EMPLOYMENT

STEM employment figures in the United States are generally positive. According to the U.S. News/Raytheon analysis,5 the number of STEM jobs increased 20 percent between 2000 and 2014. Looking ahead, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that between 2012 and 2022, employment in occupations that NSF classi-

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3 Available at U.S. News and World Report, “The 2015 U.S. News/Raytheon STEM Index,” http://www.usnews.com/news/stem-index/articles/2015/06/29/the-2015-us-news-raytheon-stem-index, accessed August 22, 2016.

4 See National Science Board (NSB), 2016, Science and Engineering Indicators 2016, NSB-2016-1, National Science Foundation, Arlington Va.

5 See A. Neuhauser and L. Cook, 2016, “2016 U.S. News/Raytheon STEM Index Shows Uptick in Hiring, Education,” U.S. News and World Report, May 17, http://www.usnews.com/news/articles/2016-05-17/the-new-stem-index-2016. Note: this online document is updated annually.

Suggested Citation:"5 Human Infrastructure for Nanotechnology." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2016. Triennial Review of the National Nanotechnology Initiative. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/23603.
×

fies as science and engineering (S&E) will increase 15 percent, although the estimate varies from ~8 percent for engineers to nearly 20 percent for computer scientists.

As reported in SEI2016, STEM occupations are distributed across sectors. In 2013, roughly 70 percent of scientists and engineers worked in business or industry, 20 percent in education, and 10 percent in government. Of those working in business, about one-fourth are employed by companies with fewer than 100 employees. Those for whom the highest degree is a bachelor’s or master’s degree work predominantly at for-profit businesses, while those with doctorates are primarily employed by 4-year educational institutions and secondarily by for-profit business. The predominant sector of employment also varies by field, with engineers and computer scientists more likely to work in industry compared to physical, biological, or social scientists.

National innovation capacity and competitiveness may be measured in part by the number of skilled workers that conduct research. Therefore, it is worthwhile to examine how the United States compares to other nations and to establish if, as a nation, we are in a position to capitalize on emerging technologies such as nanotechnology.

Figure 5.1 shows the number of researchers over a 14-year period in selected countries.6 Although the United States has grown, the European Union and China both have larger populations of researchers.

A more valid measure of a nation’s commitment to growing its technology-based innovation is not the absolute number of researchers but the fraction of workers who are employed in research. As indicated in Figure 5.2,7 the percentage of researchers for South Korea has displayed a sharp increase since 2004, while the United States, the European Union, and China show more gradual increases. The United States has a relatively high fraction of workers employed in research (between 7 and 9 percent); however, the figure has been relatively flat, especially since 2009.

TRENDS IN U.S. UNDERGRADUATE AND GRADUATE SCIENCE AND ENGINEERING EDUCATION

Significant highlights from the SEI2016 related to higher education in the United States include the following:

  • The number of STEM bachelor’s degrees has risen steadily between 2000 and 2013, reaching a new peak of more than 615,000 in 2013, whereas the proportion of all bachelor’s degrees awarded in STEM, not including social

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6 See NSB, 2016, Science and Engineering Indicators 2016, Figure 3-39.

7 See NSB, 2016, Science and Engineering Indicators 2016, Figure 3-40.

Suggested Citation:"5 Human Infrastructure for Nanotechnology." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2016. Triennial Review of the National Nanotechnology Initiative. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/23603.
×
Image
FIGURE 5.1 Estimated numbers of researchers in selected countries or regions, 2000-2013. NOTE: EU, European Union; NA, not available. Data are not available for all regions/countries for all years. Researchers are full-time equivalents. Counts for China before 2009 are not consistent with Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development standards. Counts for South Korea before 2007 exclude social sciences and humanities researchers. SOURCE: National Science Board, 2016, Science and Engineering Indicators 2016, NSB-2016-1, National Science Foundation, Arlington Va., Figure 3-39.

    and behavioral sciences, relative to degrees in all fields has remained stable at about 17 percent during this period.

  • The number of international undergraduate students in the United States increased by more than 50 percent between fall 2008 and fall 2014. In the 2013-2014 academic year, the number of international students enrolled in undergraduate programs in U.S. academic institutions rose 9 percent from the previous year, to approximately 370,000. Although their numbers have increased rapidly, undergraduate students from overseas remain a small fraction of the approximately 20 million undergraduate students at U.S. academic institutions (up from 15.5 million in 2000).
  • Graduate enrollment in STEM fields, not including social and behavioral sciences, is up 26 percent between 2000 and 2013. However, the number of graduate students who are U.S. citizens or permanent residents in these fields is up only 14 percent, whereas the number of international students in these fields is up 54 percent.
  • There was a 13 percent increase in international graduate students from November 2013 to November 2014 enrolled at U.S. institutions in all fields;
Suggested Citation:"5 Human Infrastructure for Nanotechnology." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2016. Triennial Review of the National Nanotechnology Initiative. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/23603.
×
Image
FIGURE 5.2 Researchers as a share of total employment in selected countries or regions, 2000-2013. NOTE: EU, European Union; NA, not available. Data are not available for all regions/countries for all years. Researchers are full-time equivalents. Counts for China before 2009 are not consistent with Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development standards. Counts for South Korea before 2007 exclude social sciences and humanities researchers. SOURCE: National Science Board, 2016, Science and Engineering Indicators 2016, NSB-2016-1, National Science Foundation, Arlington Va., Figure O-06.

    approximately 60 percent of those students were enrolled in STEM fields. Between fall 2013 and fall 2014, the number of international graduate students enrolled in STEM fields increased most in computer sciences and engineering combined, which accounted for more than 75 percent of the total increase in international enrollment in this period.

  • Whereas international students received 37 percent of all STEM advanced degrees, the figures in certain fields are much higher. In 2013, international students earned 57 percent of engineering doctorates, 53 percent of computer sciences doctorates, and 44 percent of physics doctorates.

The National Norms survey administered by the Higher Education Research Institute at the University of California has conducted surveys regarding freshman choices for their career paths.8 Data for the period 2001-2014, shown in Table 5.2,

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8 K. Eagan, E.B. Stolzenberg, A.K. Bates, M.C. Aragon, M.R. Suchard, and C. Rios-Aguilar, 2015, The American Freshman: National Norms Fall 2015, Cooperative Institutional Research Program, Los Angeles, Calif., http://www.heri.ucla.edu/monographs/TheAmericanFreshman2015.pdf, p. 60.

Suggested Citation:"5 Human Infrastructure for Nanotechnology." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2016. Triennial Review of the National Nanotechnology Initiative. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/23603.
×

TABLE 5.2 National Norms Survey of Preference Toward Science and Engineering (S&E) at the Undergraduate Level (percentage of respondents)

Field and Gender 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014
All intending S&E major 33.5 33.5 32.6 33.1 30.9 32.0 31.9 34.7 36.2 38.4 40.1 39.2 41.6 44.6
Biological/agricultural sciences 7.5 7.8 7.7 8.3 8.1 8.8 9.1 9.8 10.4 11.6 11.4 12.9 14.7 13.8
Mathematics/statistics/computer sciences 5.4 3.8 3.1 2.7 2.0 2.4 2.5 2.3 2.5 2.4 2.6 3.1 3.7 4.9
Physical sciences 1.9 2.0 2.0 2.3 2.8 2.3 2.4 2.4 2.5 2.7 2.8 2.5 2.4 2.5
Social/behavioral sciences 9.6 10.4 10.5 10.2 9.6 10.5 10.4 10.9 11.1 11.4 11.3 10.4 9.6 9.6
Engineering 9.1 9.5 9.3 9.6 8.4 8.0 7.5 9.3 9.7 10.3 12.0 10.3 11.2 13.8
Male 42.2 41.2 39.6 40.8 37.0 37.9 37.3 41.1 43.4 44.1 47.0 45.8 47.4 49.0
Biological/agricultural sciences 6.5 6.6 6.7 7.4 7.2 8.1 8.2 8.8 9.7 10.0 9.9 10.8 12.4 11.4
Mathematics/statistics/computer sciences 9.5 6.8 5.6 5.1 4.0 3.9 4.4 4.0 4.1 4.0 4.3 5.2 5.9 7.8
Physical sciences 2.4 2.4 2.5 2.9 2.7 2.8 2.9 3.1 3.3 3.4 3.4 3.1 3.0 3.2
Social/behavioral sciences 7.1 7.5 7.7 7.5 7.5 8.6 8.1 8.2 8.7 8.8 8.4 8.4 7.2 7.5
Engineering 16.7 17.9 17.1 17.9 15.6 14.5 13.7 17.0 17.6 17.9 21.0 18.3 18.9 19.1
Female 26.7 26.7 26.2 26.3 27.0 27.2 27.7 29.5 30.3 33.3 34.8 33.5 36.7 37.5
Biological/agricultural sciences 8.3 8.5 8.5 9.0 8.7 9.6 9.7 10.4 11.0 12.4 12.8 14.3 16.5 15.8
Mathematics/statistics/computer sciences 2.2 1.6 1.1 1.0 1.5 1.0 1.1 1.1 1.1 1.1 1.2 1.4 1.8 2.1
Physical sciences 1.5 1.6 1.7 1.9 1.9 2.0 2.0 2.1 2.1 2.2 2.1 1.9 1.9 2.1
Social/behavioral sciences 11.7 12.0 12.0 11.5 12.3 12.1 12.3 12.8 12.8 13.6 14.5 12.0 11.7 11.7
Engineering 3.0 3.0 2.9 2.9 2.6 2.5 2.6 3.1 3.3 4.0 4.2 3.9 4.8 5.8

SOURCE: From National Science Board, Science and Engineering Indicators 2016, NSB-2016-1, National Science Foundation, Arlington Va., Appendix Table 2-16, with data for 1998-2014; data from Science and Engineering Indicators 2016 is from Higher Education Research Institute, University of California, Los Angeles, special tabulations (2015) of K. Eagan, E.B. Stolzenberg, A.K. Bates, M.C. Aragon, M.R. Suchard, and C. Rios-Aguilar, 2015, The American Freshman: National Norms Fall 2015, Cooperative Institutional Research Program, Los Angeles, Calif., http://www.heri.ucla.edu/monographs/TheAmericanFreshman2015.pdf.

Suggested Citation:"5 Human Infrastructure for Nanotechnology." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2016. Triennial Review of the National Nanotechnology Initiative. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/23603.
×

indicate that the percentage of freshman who intended to study a science or engineering subject increased nearly 15 percent, from approximately 30 percent to 45 percent, between 2005 and 2014. Among those interviewed in 2014, 14 percent indicated biological/agricultural sciences and 14 percent engineering as their choice; only 2.5 percent identified physical sciences and 5 percent mathematical sciences as the preferred course of study. The responses from male versus female students varied by subject area. Men expressed interest disproportionately in physical sciences, engineering, and math/statistics/computer science. Women were more interested in biological/agricultural sciences and social/behavioral sciences.

A number of trends emerge from the statistics outlined above. The number of students enrolled in undergraduate and graduate STEM degree programs is increasing; however, the percent of enrolled students that study STEM is flat. Women are more attracted to life sciences and social sciences; men are more attracted to math, physical sciences, and engineering. The fraction of undergraduate and graduate students who are from outside the United States is rising. In engineering and computer science, more than half of doctorates are awarded to students who do not have U.S. citizenship or permanent residency and, therefore, cannot remain in the country upon graduation unless they obtain another visa. The United States has a national initiative to address improvements in STEM education.9 Hopefully, this will engender a robust supply of native-born STEM students. In the interim (it takes time for a pipeline to be filled), the United States will continue to depend on individuals from abroad.

GROWING COMPETITION TO RETAIN THE BEST AND BRIGHTEST

Based on the data above, the United States continues to attract students from around the world to study in STEM fields, as it has for the decades after World War II. Many of these students take jobs in the United States—in academia and industry—after they graduate, enriching the broad STEM innovation ecosystem. However, economic growth in many countries, along with policies aimed at recruiting their students who study abroad and ex-patriates that live and work abroad to return to their home country, provide opportunities and reasons to leave the United States. A recent study by the National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics (NCSES) of NSF shows that many foreign-born scientists who find jobs in the United States return to their home country 4 to 10 years after graduation.10

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9 See Office of Science and Technology Policy, “OSTP Initiatives: Improving Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Education,” https://www.whitehouse.gov/administration/eop/ostp/initiatives#STEM%20Education, accessed August 3, 2016.

10 NSF, 2014, “Employment Decisions of U.S. and Foreign Doctoral Graduates: A Comparative Study,” Info Brief NSF 15-302, National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics, December 4, https://www.nsf.gov/statistics/2015/nsf15302/#.

Suggested Citation:"5 Human Infrastructure for Nanotechnology." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2016. Triennial Review of the National Nanotechnology Initiative. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/23603.
×

Many factors, including perceived opportunities in the United States versus their home country, individual assimilation experience, and family expectations, contribute to an individual’s decision whether to stay or return home. A widely accepted model of the observed data is a “push-pull model.”11 Push factors compel students to study abroad and are the result of limited opportunities and financial constraints in their country of origin. Pull factors arise from family ties and the recent improvement of academic institutions at home, which induce these scientists and engineers to return. The economic benefits afforded by these highly skilled workers have not been overlooked by these countries, and programs to incentivize highly educated citizens to return have been established. An example is Brazil’s “Young Talent Program,” which funds students to study abroad with the requirement that they return home after graduating. Other countries offer tax breaks, grants, and many other incentives to persuade ex-patriates to return. Appendix D lists some of the programs intended to recover or prevent the so-called “brain drain.”

Arguments about whether the pipeline of STEM graduates is sufficient often fail to consider new demand created by emerging technologies, such as nanotechnology. New technologies that lead to new products, new businesses, and new jobs are impossible to predict or quantify. What is certain is that individuals with a STEM education base are the ones who are likely to make the discoveries and technology innovations that will create new businesses and jobs. And regardless of the number of STEM workers that are needed, it is desirable that the quality be as high as possible. Therefore, it is in the national interest to attract and retain the best brain power.

Efforts to change U.S. immigration policies to make it easier for international students who received advanced degrees from U.S. institutions to stay have not been successful. In 2015, bipartisan legislation providing for comprehensive immigration reform that included allowing many graduates with advanced degrees in STEM fields to be granted permanent residency was introduced in both the House and Senate. Concerns have been raised regarding the use of universities as gatekeepers for access to residency, among other consequences of the proposed policy changes. Moreover, such efforts are met with skepticism by some who do not believe the United States has or is facing a shortage of STEM workers, at least in some STEM fields such as life sciences. In contrast, others note that wages for STEM occupations are higher than many other professions, and job vacancies for STEM occupations are more difficult to fill. The committee strongly endorses the 2012 report Research Universities and the Future of America: Ten Breakthrough

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11 X. Han, H. Stocking, M. Gebbie, and R. Appelbaum, 2015, Will they stay or will they go? International graduate students and their decisions to stay or leave the US upon graduation, PLoS One, http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0118183.

Suggested Citation:"5 Human Infrastructure for Nanotechnology." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2016. Triennial Review of the National Nanotechnology Initiative. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/23603.
×

Actions Vital to Our Nation’s Prosperity and Security. Recommendation 10 of the report states the following:

The United States should consider taking the strong step of granting residency (a green card) to each non-U.S. citizen who earns a doctorate in an area of national need from an accredited research university.12

STEM EDUCATION AT THE NANOSCALE: GRADUATE AND UNDERGRADUATE

The principal means by which the pipeline of STEM educated researchers is filled is through federal funding of S&E research. A large fraction of those funds support students who perform much of the research as part of their graduate education. On the positive side, the United States invests substantial resources in university research.13 In 2013, universities received approximately $65 billion in research and development funding, of which about 60 percent (nearly $40 billion) came from federal sources. Other sources of support include state and local governments, universities, foundations, and industry.

While research budgets continue to be supported, trends in the STEM higher education landscape are cause for concern. First, more STEM students, especially graduate students in certain fields but also undergraduate students, are from outside the United States. Second, other countries are actively seeking to attract scientists and engineers who are studying and/or living abroad to return home. The long-term implications of these trends on U.S. leadership in technology innovation is unclear. One impact that already is being felt is the decreasing pool of talent available to some employers, in particular federal and national laboratories and the defense industry. These entities perform research in areas that are essential to national security. However, many jobs in these organizations require a level of security clearance that mandates the employee be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident. One committee member with Department of Defense laboratory experience related finding only non-U.S. citizens qualified for a position that required nanotechnology expertise and, as a result, postponing a hiring action. To meet these needs, the education system must focus on growing the indigenous STEM student population—at the undergraduate, community college, and high school levels.

Many programs have the goals to attract top students to study STEM subjects and to provide research experiences that help them succeed in graduate school

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12 National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, 2012, Research Universities and the Future of America: Ten Breakthrough Actions Vital to Our Nation’s Prosperity and Security, The National Academies Press, Washington, D.C.

13 See NSF, “Higher Education Research and Development (HERD),” http://www.nsf.gov/statistics/herd/, accessed August 22, 2016.

Suggested Citation:"5 Human Infrastructure for Nanotechnology." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2016. Triennial Review of the National Nanotechnology Initiative. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/23603.
×

or in the workplace. Examples of federally funded programs that target undergraduate STEM students include the NSF Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) program, the National Institute of Standards and Technology Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship, Department of Energy and NASA internships, and the Department of Defense (DOD) Science, Mathematics and Research for Transformation (SMART) program. In addition, the Federal Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) Education 5-Year Strategy released in May 201314 outlined a number of initiatives. These programs are managed in a variety of ways, some as a separate program, some providing supplemental funds to other programs.

One of the largest programs supporting undergraduate research is the NSF REU program, which grants approximately $70 million annually. NSF-funded researchers may request supplemental funding to support an additional undergraduate student on the project. Similarly, the Research Experience for Teachers (RET) program provides supplemental funds to support a K-12 teacher to spend time working on an NSF-funded research project. In order for the NNI to boost the use of REU and RET program funds for nanotechnology-related research, it is necessary for NSF to identify the awards that it considers part of the NNI and then encourage the investigators on those awards to apply for an REU or RET grant.

The NNI website lists some education programs that are available, for example, for support at the undergraduate and graduate level.15 The list identifies a few of the broader STEM education programs; however, many of the largest programs, such as the NSF REU program (other than the nano-specific National Nanotechnology Infrastructure Network REU) and the DOD SMART program, are not included.

Finding 5.1: There are existing programs at many of the NNI-participating agencies that support STEM undergraduate students. The NNI could take better advantage of these programs toward achieving the NNI Goal 3, thereby augmenting nanoscale S&E education.

Recommendation 5.1: The Nanoscale Science, Engineering and Technology Subcommittee, working with the National Nanotechnology Coordination Office, should gather from the NNI participating agencies information about their programs that support science, technology, engineering, and mathematics undergraduate students, identify opportunities for increasing the fraction of such program funds going to students engaged in nanotechnology-related activities, and publicize those programs on the NNI website.

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14 Committee on STEM Education, 2013, Federal Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Education: 5-Year Strategic Plan, Washington, D.C., https://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/microsites/ostp/stem_stratplan_2013.pdf.

15 See NNI, “Education,” http://www.nano.gov/education-training, accessed September 1, 2016.

Suggested Citation:"5 Human Infrastructure for Nanotechnology." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2016. Triennial Review of the National Nanotechnology Initiative. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/23603.
×

A traditional STEM university degree may not be enough. Many disruptive technological advances will find their way into practical application via a small company or startup. University education can play an important role toward enabling this pathway to commercialization. Entrepreneurially inclined students benefit not only from traditional STEM education, but also from education in skills that are essential to success in business. Universities have begun to recognize this need and are establishing various programs aimed at providing such skills, including co-op programs, on-campus startup competitions, and courses on entrepreneurship, sometimes in collaboration with schools of engineering and business and technology transfer offices. Given the projected growth in nano-enabled products shown in Figure 1.2, and the larger European Union and Asia product output also shown in that figure, entrepreneurial skill sets for U.S. students will be important for the United States to be competitive in the commercialization of nanotechnology.

STEM EDUCATION AT THE NANOSCALE: K-12

Development of the human capital with appropriate nanotechnology skills and knowledge is needed in many areas. For example, researchers are needed to push forward the frontiers of science, and technologies are needed to implement results in products and services, while teachers are needed to impart knowledge to the youngest students. With its focus on world-class research, the NNI has built a substantial academic research ecosystem that is educating future Ph.D.-level researchers for industry and academia. Nanotechnology education at levels below the university level is less widely available. As nanotechnology becomes part of more jobs, it needs to be introduced to students at younger ages. It will be essential for the NNI, the National Nanotechnology Coordination Office (NNCO), and the nanotechnology stakeholders across the education ecosystem to collaborate to make that happen.

The state of K-12 education is the subject of many reports. Various federal, state, and local programs aim to improve K-12 STEM education. The president’s 2017 budget called for more than $3 billion in discretionary and $4 billion in mandatory spending in programs across the federal government on STEM education.16 The question addressed by this panel is, What should the NNI do at the K-12 level to ensure a robust pipeline of workers prepared for nanotechnology-related jobs emerging from all levels of education with the knowledge and skills needed?

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16 Executive Office of the President, 2016, “STEM for All: Ensuring High-Quality STEM Education Opportunities for All Students,” Fact Sheet, February, https://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/microsites/ostp/stem_fact_sheet_2017_budget_final.pdf.

Suggested Citation:"5 Human Infrastructure for Nanotechnology." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2016. Triennial Review of the National Nanotechnology Initiative. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/23603.
×

While Goal 3 of the NNI strategic plan includes the development and sustainment of educational resources to advance nanotechnology, most of the participating agencies have only a modest commitment, if any, to pre-college education. The NNI efforts in support of K-12 nanoscale S&E (NSE) education have been primarily funded by NSF, including the National Center for Learning and Teaching in Nanoscale Science and Engineering that ended in 2011. At present, few programs appear to be focused on K-12 education; rather, such activities are ad hoc or minor components of larger centers or research projects. That is not to diminish the impact of such activities, but their sustainability and their likelihood of being scaled up is questionable.

With the substantial investment in nanotechnology research and research infrastructure at universities and government laboratories, it is time for a renewed effort to transition NSE into K-12 education. Developing nanotechnology education materials, facilities, and affordable instruments for K-12 schools will (1) prepare young students for nanotechnology before they reach college, (2) create demand for nanotechnology programs and facilities at universities, (3) leverage the “wow factor” of nanotechnology to help stimulate interest in STEM in general, and (4) support the “starter nano niche” where the youngest students have an opportunity to gain exposure to nanotechnology.

In business marketing terms, the nanotechnology community needs to focus more attention on the “introductory” or “starter” segment of the nanotechnology education market, namely K-12. If more resources are directed now to K-12, those students will be attracted to programs at the university level, driving further post-secondary education and research and use of infrastructures, which in turn will help address the anticipated need for nanotechnology workers. The report Nanoscale Science and Engineering Education (NSEE)—The Next Steps17 summarizes the discussions compiled from a workshop that brought together several segments of the nanotechnology community. The importance of education to the development of nanoscale science and technology was widely recognized. Contributors to the workshop report produced a list of the main challenges in K-12 NSE that can be summarized as follows:

  1. Scale-up and sustainability. In many cases local NSEE efforts are linked to NSF-funded centers and even individual investigator awards. Curricular and financial issues often restrict larger scale implementation.
  2. Changing technologies used to support the learning process compel continual attention.
  3. Transfer of knowledge about nanotechnology from higher levels of education into K-12.

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17 J. Murday, 2014, Nanoscale Science and Engineering Education (NSEE)—The Next Steps.

Suggested Citation:"5 Human Infrastructure for Nanotechnology." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2016. Triennial Review of the National Nanotechnology Initiative. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/23603.
×
  1. Introducing NSE to current curricula without removing other important components.

Workshop participants felt NSE nurtures creativity, innovation, and the skills needed for the 21st century. The interdisciplinary nature of NSEE can impact positively future career paths considered by young students and make them aware of more choices and options.

At the international level, K-12 NSEE initiatives have been implemented by several countries.

  • Taiwan established a national activity in NSE education in 2004, which is funded by allocation of 2.5 percent of its total nanotechnology funding (~2-3 million U.S. dollars per year to NSEE). The country has been working to include NSE in the K-12 curricula and provides teacher training at summer workshops. Textbooks have been revised to cover the area of nanoscience.18 Taiwanese teachers are responsible for incorporating various aspects of nanotechnology into their teaching material.
  • Korea is developing a NSEE curriculum and an e-learning program called NanoSchool.
  • In Thailand, the National Nanotechnology Center has established a Nanotechnology Learning Center (NanoPlus Learning Center), which has produced 250,000 trainees since 2008. Many new teaching tools have been developed; however, the tests have only covered a small student population, and the effectiveness of such teaching aids has yet to be determined.
  • In September 2014 LEGO2NANO took place, the third in a series of China-U.K. summer schools between Tsinghua University, Peking University, and the University College London. Undergraduate and graduate students worked together for 5 days to design and build a low-cost atomic force microscope suitable for use in Chinese high schools.19
  • Europe has an EduNano effort as part of its Tempus Programme, the European Union cooperation scheme for higher education.

These examples show how other nations consider investment in K-12 education a priority.

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18 D.J. Yao, Nanotechnology Education and Training Project, National Program on Nanotechnology, NSC, Taiwan, 2014, poster presented at the Nanoscale Science and Engineering Education—The Next Steps Workshop, Arlington, Va.

19 London Center for Nanotechnology, “Latest News,” http://www.london-nano.com/news-andevents/news, accessed August 22, 2016.

Suggested Citation:"5 Human Infrastructure for Nanotechnology." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2016. Triennial Review of the National Nanotechnology Initiative. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/23603.
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There are only two states—Virginia and Colorado—known to have explicitly inserted the requirement for some form of nanoscale science/engineering content into the state K-12 standards of learning; there is no reference to NSE in the Next Generation K-12 Science Standards.20 Teachers pay particular attention to standards in developing their course content; therefore, it makes sense to focus on those two states to identify models and approaches for addressing the NSE K-12 pipeline. Whereas Colorado has NSE in its standard of learning, there is no known effort at the state level to pursue this requirement. Conversely, in 2010 Virginia launched a series of actions to incorporate nanotechnology into its Science Standards of Learning (implemented in the 2012-2013 school year). Nanoscience appears in “current applications of science” throughout K-12 and explicitly in grade 5, physical science, chemistry, and physics with topics such as size and scale, structure of matter, forces and interactions, quantum effects, size-dependent properties, and models and simulations. The Virginia Math Science and Innovation Center (MSiC) provides teacher training and runs summer camps and teacher forums. See Box 5.1 on Grade 6-12 Nano Education in Virginia. This is a model from which other states could learn. The 2016 NNI annual report21 states that the NNCO is assisting the Virginia Department of Education and that educational resources and lessons learned will be made available to other states.22

Finding 5.2: A variety of approaches to incorporate nanoscale S&E in the K-12 education pipeline are being developed and implemented by entities both inside and outside the NNI. Educators and government education policymakers can learn from these programs and scale-up the more successful ones.

Recommendation 5.2a: The National Nanotechnology Coordination Office, working with the Department of Education and the National Science Foundation, should engage with states that have incorporated nanotechnology into the K-12 curriculum to develop a document outlining the approaches

___________________

20 See the Next Generation Science website at http://www.nextgenscience.org for reference, accessed August 22, 2016.

21 All budget supplements are able to be found on the NNI webpage “NNI Budget Supplements and Strategic Plans” at http://www.nano.gov/node/1071.

22 In addition to the Virginia material, the NNCO has access to other K-12 teaching aides such as the Nano-Infusion modules from the NanoLink Advanced Technology Education Center, the Materials World Modules from the National Center for Learning and Teaching, NanoTeach from the Mid-Continent Research for Education and Learning; Nano4me from the Nanotechnology Applications and Career Knowledge Network ATE Center and resources from the National Nanotechnology Infrastructure Network Education efforts. See NNI, “For K-13 Teachers,” http://www.nano.gov/education-training/teacher-resources (accessed February 2, 2016) for more detail.

Suggested Citation:"5 Human Infrastructure for Nanotechnology." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2016. Triennial Review of the National Nanotechnology Initiative. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/23603.
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taken and make it widely available, including to individuals or groups seeking to improve K-12 science education in other states.

Recommendation 5.2b: The National Science Foundation and the Department of Education should work with states that have incorporated nanotechnology into the K-12 curriculum to identify metrics and track the outcomes of the approach taken by those states to include nanotechnology in the K-12 curriculum.

RESOURCES AVAILABLE TO ENHANCE NANOSCALE SCIENCE AND ENGINEERING EDUCATION

The NNI website hosts information targeted at students and teachers from K-12 to graduate school, supporting classroom teaching as well as extracurricular activities and communities. It provides links to online resources hosted by NNI-funded centers. The education-related webpages on nano.gov list nano-specific

Suggested Citation:"5 Human Infrastructure for Nanotechnology." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2016. Triennial Review of the National Nanotechnology Initiative. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/23603.
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programs and materials, as well as more general STEM programs, fellowships, and so on. The NNCO has posed several competitions, such as the Generation Nano competition, that educators can use to teach, challenge, and excite students about nanotechnology. The competitions also can help entice teachers and students to the website where they can see the other information as well.

The following are examples of additional nanotechnology programs intended to enhance education at various levels.

  • Center for Nanotechnology Education Nano-Link, a program led by Dakota County Technical College, comprising 15 educational institutions throughout the United States. The program is designed to supply NSE competent technicians for industry through 2-year A.A.S. degree programs, deliver modularized educational content for grades K-14, and organize hands-on educator workshops. These programs stress multidisciplinary angles of nanotechnology with major attention being given to nanoelectronics, nanobiotechnology, and nanomaterial science. Nano-Link operates with its affiliates to identity the needs of their local industries and the available education infrastructure resources to determine how they match up in that particular region.
  • Nanotechnology Applications and Career Knowledge Network is directed by Pennsylvania State University. The goal of this center is to form partnerships in nanotechnology education among various research universities, 2-year community colleges and technical colleges, and 4-year colleges. These institutions share resources, including courses, programs, laboratory facilities, and staff. The center also gives an opportunity for the student (K-16) to remotely access and control microscopes in order to examine materials at the nanoscale level from classrooms and/or home computers.
  • National Informal Science Education Network is a national group of researchers and informal science educators dedicated to fostering public awareness, engagement, and understanding of nanoscale science, engineering, and technology.
  • Joint School of Nanoscience and Nano Engineering is a venture set up between North Carolina A&T State University and the University of North Carolina, Greensboro. Its objective is to train students from various disciplinary backgrounds to perform fundamental and advanced research in nanoscience and nano engineering in industrial, governmental, or academic settings. It offers a master of science in nanoengineering and a professional master of science in nanoscience.
  • Colleges of Nanoscale Science and Engineering. The State University of New York Polytechnic Institute’s (SUNY Poly’s) College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering (CNSE) is a global education, research, de-
Suggested Citation:"5 Human Infrastructure for Nanotechnology." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2016. Triennial Review of the National Nanotechnology Initiative. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/23603.
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  • velopment, and technology deployment resource aimed at nurturing future scientists and researchers in nanotechnology. It is the world’s first college to develop comprehensive baccalaureate programs in nanoscale engineering and nanoscale science. SUNY Poly CNSE’s cross-disciplinary Ph.D. and M.S. curricula build on the fundamental principles of physics, chemistry, computer science, biology, mathematics, and engineering with the cross-cutting fields of nanoscience, nanoengineering, nanotechnology, and nanoeconomics.

  • Network for Computational Nanotechnology (nanoHUB) is becoming an increasingly widely used platform for the dissemination of programs and tools for nanoscale computer modeling and simulation. The site also is organized to permit sharing of various educational resources, mostly at the post-secondary level today, but also with materials targeted at K-12 students and teachers. nanoHUB offers online presentations, courses, learning modules, podcasts, animations, videos, and other teaching materials.

Finding 5.3: The NNI has funded the development of a diversity of formal and informal educational materials suitable for various levels and ages. Nanotechnology-focused educational programs at universities around the country, some of which have received substantial state funding, also are developing materials for K-12 students and teachers.

Recommendation 5.3: NNI-funded researchers and others who have developed educational materials should be required to deposit the information content on the nanoHUB.org website and to explore affordable commercial availability for laboratory and classroom demonstration materials.

Suggested Citation:"5 Human Infrastructure for Nanotechnology." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2016. Triennial Review of the National Nanotechnology Initiative. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/23603.
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Triennial Review of the National Nanotechnology Initiative Get This Book
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Nanoscale science, engineering, and technology, often referred to simply as “nanotechnology,” is the understanding, characterization, and control of matter at the scale of nanometers, the dimension of atoms and molecules. Advances in nanotechnology promise new materials and structures that are the basis of solutions, for example, for improving human health, optimizing available energy and water resources, supporting a vibrant economy, raising the standard of living, and increasing national security.

Established in 2001, the National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI) is a coordinated, multiagency effort with the mission to expedite the discovery, development, and deployment of nanoscale science and technology to serve the public good. This report is the latest triennial review of the NNI called for by the 21st Century Nanotechnology Research and Development Act of 2003. It examines and comments on the mechanisms in use by the NNI to advance focused areas of nanotechnology towards advanced development and commercialization and on the physical and human infrastructure needs for successful realization in the United States of the benefits of nanotechnology development.

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