An eight-week pilot program is providing a unique learning experience for 10 students on the Community College of Baltimore County's Catonsville campus — and paying them for it.
The Mid-Atlantic Nanoscience Education Hub internship program includes rotations in labs at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County; Aberdeen Proving Grounds; Morgan State University; and the Fab Lab on CCBC's South Rolling Road campus in which the students learn about the different aspects of nanotechnology. The program is funded by a National Science Foundation sub-grant through Penn State University.
According to Nano.gov, nanoscience and nanotechnology are "the study and application of extremely small things and can be used across all the other science fields, such as chemistry, biology, physics, materials science and engineering."
"To me, nanoscience is about the manipulation of really small things and using the characteristics that are apparent in those small things to your advantage," said Joel Tyson, 37, of Catonsville, one of the students selected from a group of 30 to participate in the program.
The nanoscale is smaller than the wavelength of light, Tyson explained.
"The whole program is pretty challenging — the concepts are rough to understand, because ... you're never going to see the nanoscale," said Tyson, a biomedical engineering major at CCBC who will attend UMBC in the fall.
Last week, Oella resident Zachary Johnson, 23, was testing a lithium cobalt borate battery to see how well it conducted electricity in a lab at UMBC.
"They're trying to use biological approaches to making new types of batteries," said Paul Smith, associate professor of chemistry at UMBC and coordinator of the program.
Electricity is one of the many areas of science where nanotechnology applies, Smith explained.
"It's definitely an area of science that is expanding," he said.
Smith said the program hopes to attract students from a variety of majors.
"When they collaborate on a project, you're going to come out with something better than if everyone had the same background," Smith said, adding, "It's another example of why diversity is good."
The group has nine majors from a variety of fields in engineering and one math major, who were selected from a group of 30 students to participate in the program.
"The strength of the candidates was impressive," said Laura LeMire, acting head of the engineering department on CCBC's Catonsville campus. "They were all really solid students."
In addition to Tyson and Johnson, the students chosen were Arbutus area resident Hinesh Padhiar, Jennifer Betley, Shane Folk, Rita Itemere, Shaakirah Lee, Jei Nandy, Brandon Newman, Simona Tsvetkova.
LeMire, 54, who lives in Catonsville, said GPA's of the students chosen were 3.25 and above. Students went through a selective application process and 21 were interviewed by a panel of judges at UMBC to determine the 10 to take part in the internship program.
Students work 40 hours a week and are paid a stipend for their participation. The program began June 2 and will end Friday, July 25.
"My [department] chair [man] joked and said, 'It's science summer camp and we're paying you,' " Smith said, with a smile as he sat in his office.
LeMire said the program offers students a number of advantages including exposure to a four-year institution, working with experts in the field of nanotechnology, conducting research, getting field work experience as well as improving their résumés for future employment opportunities.
"Part of our mission as a state institution is to promote education and to provide opportunities for students for better employment — both us and CCBC," said Smith. "Certainly we also have an obligation as a Maryland state institution to do anything we can to help improve the economy if we can."
Nanotechnology is attracting attention from a number of government agencies, ranging from the National Institutes of Health to the Department of Defense, Smith said.
And it can be applied to a number of scientific fields from energy to medicine to electricity, Smith said.
"I hope they see an expanded range of possibilities for themselves in the future as a result of the program," he said.
Johnson said he hopes the internship will better prepare him for a future military career.
"I joined it because I wanted to get more practical and hands-on experience in the STEM [Science, Technology, Engineering and Math] fields," said Johnson, a CCBC mathematics major who will attend UMBC in the fall on a scholarship.