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Assessing the Need for Nanotechnology Education Reform in the United States
Volume 3, Issue 4

Edward T. Foley, Northwestern University
Mark C. Hersam, Northwestern University

Historically, the U.S. has been the global leader in the development of nanotechnologies that are widely believed to be the foundation of the next industrial revolution. However, unless fundamental changes are made in the educational infrastructure in the U.S. to reverse the general erosion of science, technology, engineering, and math (“STEM”) education, and to address the specific growing need for a robust nanotechnology workforce, current trends in the global demographic of the high-technology talent pool and R&D infrastructure will lead to a shift in the global dominance in science, technology, and engineering from the U.S. to Asia. For the U.S. to reverse these trends and thus maintain its technological and economic leadership, the infrastructure for nanotechnology education needs to be significantly enhanced. In particular, this infrastructure should include educational models and curricula that will institutionalize an interdisciplinary education, thus exposing students to the connections between disciplines and their relationship to nanotechnology at all levels. The future nanotechnology workforce will also require an increased role for demographic groups that have historically been underrepresented in STEM related fields. Nanotechnology research universities are positioned to play an important role in initiating this educational reform. While programs in nanotechnology are currently being developed for the K-16 level and the general public, significantly more effort is needed to develop effective and comprehensive nanotechnology education reform.

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