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Contact: Tom Parisi, NIU Office of Public Affairs
June 27, 2007
DeKalb, Ill. — Northern Illinois University’s Department of Physics, in collaboration with the university’s Institute of Nanoscience & Engineering Technology, will now offer a specialization in nanoscience, an exciting new field that is developing materials, electronics and machines so small they approach atomic scale.
The NIU Board of Trustees approved the specialization within the Ph.D. degree program in physics at its June 21 meeting. The specialization will prepare students to make contributions to the understanding of the basic behavior of nanostructures and to potential nanoscience applications in new technologies.
“NIU has been working toward this specialization for about a decade,” said Clyde Kimball, executive director of NIU’s nanoscience institute. “We have created a technical infrastructure enabling researchers to peer into the quantum world, on the scale of 10 atoms. Creation of structures on this scale establishes a new science that is inherently interdisciplinary, integrating physics, chemistry, biology and engineering.”
Kimball said the new understanding of the quantum world holds the potential to result in numerous applications in medicine and industry, including the development of stronger corrosion-resistant materials, catalysts for hydrogen production, new modes of purifying and desalinating water and production of nano-fluids that will increase auto-fuel efficiency.
A real need exists in the scientific community for this type of specialization, added Susan Mini, physics chair.
“The field is seeing an increasing number of publications and breakthroughs, and we have about 30 NIU faculty members in physics, chemistry and engineering who specialize in nanoscience,” she said. “It’s also a good crossover to industry for NIU.”
Required coursework in the new specialization will include an introduction to nanoscience and selected courses in thermodynamics, kinetics, materials science, advanced engineering analysis, quantum theory of solids, electromagnetic theory and special topics offered by the departments of chemistry and biochemistry, mechanical engineering and physics. The Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry also plans to add the nanoscience specialization to its Ph.D. program as soon as late this year.
“These programs will strengthen NIU ties with Argonne National Laboratory and provide students with exceptional learning opportunities,” said Rathindra Bose, NIU vice president for research and dean of the Graduate School.
The Joint NIU/Argonne National Laboratory Distinguished Graduate Fellowship program provides students with access to unique, specialized and cutting-edge scientific instrumentation at the laboratory and with opportunities to work side-by-side with leading scientists in the discipline.
No new state resources are needed to implement the specialization within the physics Ph.D. program. Mini said students would be accepted to the program almost immediately.
“I expect we’ll attract more people than we can accommodate,” she added.