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Grant will fund regional nanotech program

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Dakota County Technical College received a $3 million grant to develop the Midwest Center for Nanotechnology Education from the National Science Foundation. The college learned in early September it had received the grant.

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The center, which will also be called Nano-Link, will create qualified graduates to work in nanoscale science and technology.

"The things that will happen are going to be phenomenal," said Deb Newberry, director of DCTC's nanoscience technology program.

Nano-Link is an expansion of DCTC's current nanoscience program, which it started in cooperation with the University of Minnesota. Due to the growing need for nanotechnicians DCTC established its two year program with a grant from the NSF. The college started the program in 2004. So far, Newberry said, the program has graduated about 30 students.

Companies such as L'Oreal, Intel and Boston Scientific have started using the technology in products and are seeking people with knowledge in the field. Newberry said more than 80,000 people will be needed to fill positions related to nanotechnology in the next few years.

According to a press release from DCTC in the United States more than $3 billion is spent annually on nano research and technology.

Nano-Link will provide resources and support to six two-year colleges and two regional universities throughout a five-state region including North Dakota, Wisconsin, Illinois and Michigan. The center also will partner with companies throughout those states to create employment and educational opportunities.

"We are pleased that DCTC has been asked to take on a critical role in the future and expansion of nanotechnology training throughout the U.S.," said DCTC president Ron Thomas.

While other schools have programs related to nanoscience, Newberry said the DCTC program is the most comprehensive covering electronics, materials and biotechnology. Through the regional center the college will share its curriculum with the other schools in the region.

The NSF grant is a big deal for DCTC as it puts the school on the scientific map. Newberry said the NSF funds very few regional centers

"(The grant) establishes DCTC as a national leader in nanotechnology," said Newberry. "It's really exciting."

As nanoscience research continues and the field expands into different industries Newberry said it will have a bigger impact on science and the economy. The National Science Foundation reports the market for products integrating nanoscience will reach $1 trillion by 2012.

"The potential for growth is exponential," said Newberry.

For more information on DCTC's nanoscience program visit www.dctc.edu.

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