UCF's nanotechnology master's degree 1st in Florida
It was announced in late May that UCF would be Florida's first and only university to offer a master's degree in nanotechnology.
Through a Master of Science in Nanotechnology program, students with an interest in nanoscience are now able to use new technologies for research.
"The two-year nanoscience master's program, which will launch in the upcoming fall 2015 semester, is geared toward students interested in a career in research, as well as those who want to ultimately earn a doctoral degree. Participants will write and defend a thesis while earning their master's degree," UCF spokesman Mark Schlueb said in a press release.
Qun Huo, an associate professor with the Nanoscience Technology Center, said nanotechnology has a very significant impact in every field of science, engineering and technology.
"We feel it's time to bring this nanotechnology into education," she said. "We think this is a good opportunity to provide additional training and a new degree program for students who are interested in pursuing a nanotechnology-focused area."
Huo explained that the purpose of the new degree is to train students with particular interdisciplinary researching skills.
The NSTC on Research Park consists of faculty and staff with very broad backgrounds in subjects such as physics, chemistry and biology to extend education in nanotechnology to students across various fields.
Students with varying majors will be considered for the new program, which is currently in the process of accepting applications for the fall semester — the deadline to send applications is July 15.
Rosheyla Saint-Hioaire, a senior biomedical sciences major, is interested in the applications of nanotechnology in medicine, and works in the NSTC to acquire research experience.
"Doing research as an undergraduate in the nanotechnology center has helped me learn how to apply concepts to real life. It has given me hands-on experience that will benefit me as a physician," she said.
The new program will allow students to further their education, and Saint-Hioaire said it will attract more students to the school.
Although her major is primarily focused on biology, she said she has conducted research in the NSTC to learn about a field outside of her major and incorporate nanotechnology concepts into the field of biology.
For about a year and a half, junior Aerospace engineering major Brandon Carpenter has also been working at the NSTC, focusing on several projects involving organic solar cells and developing processes to manufacture nanostructures made of plastic and Zinc Oxide.
"Working in the lab is absolutely helping me reach my goals," Carpenter said. "It is giving me more appreciation and drive to focus in my classes because I can see the 'real world' applications of what I'm learning."
Although Carpenter is dedicated and excited to be working in the lab, he said he would have never considered nanotechnology as a potential degree before his hands-on experience.
"I've come to realize that I am passionate about nanotechnology and am strongly considering pursuing the nanotechnology master's degree once I graduate with my Aerospace degree," he said.
Through the NSTC, Carpenter developed a nano-imprinting process that UCF has patented and is intending to license to industry.
Students and researchers are often recognized and awarded for their discoveries.
From June 14 to June 17, the research and innovation that has been developed by the NSTC researchers will be recognized at the 2015 TechConnect World Innovation Conference in Washington, D.C.
"The University of Central Florida discoveries are among the top 20 percent of submittals selected to receive TechConnect Inovation Awards," according to a press release from Schlueb.
Of the three groundbreaking technologies being presented, one will be Huo's method of using gold nanoparticles to screen for prostate and other types of cancer, as well as autoimmune diseases.
Jayan Thomas, an assistant professor with the NSTC, the College of Optics and Photonics and the College of Engineering and Computer Science, will also speak at the conference. He was a previous finalist for his research on cables that can store and transmit energy.
"I am surprised that no other institutions offer a research-focused degree like this, yet I am glad that UCF is starting this program," Carpenter said. "Nanotechnology has a wide variety of applications across many different science-related fields, so I think that students studying nanotechnology have an advantage over other students due to this experience."
Also a junior Aerospace engineering major, Julian Moore has noticed the increasing demand of renewable resources such as wind and solar power, which requires the development of new technologies to store the energy harnessed by these crucial new power-generated methods.
"My role at NSTC is to develop and test never-before-seen energy-storage devices," Moore said. "As opposed to batteries that provide small amounts of energy over a long period of time, my work focuses mainly on supercapacitors that have the ability to charge and discharge very quickly, releasing powerful bursts of energy."
Interested in space science and exploration, he has used nanotechnology to manipulate materials at the tiniest, most fundamental level. He said it is his goal to develop novel nanosystems to make space exploration more affordable and scientifically rewarding for everyone.
Moore said he feels like the new degree is a great opportunity for anyone interested in the field of nanotechnology or entrepreneurship.
"I think this program will provide interested students with the ability to probe deeper than they ever have before, and see the world from a totally new perspective," he said.
Josie Lorenzo, a junior photonics, sciences and engineering major, works with solar cells and photorefractive materials in the NSTC, striving to make more efficient organic solar cells and photo refractives used for holograms.
With an interest in designing new technology with the use of optics, Lorenzo said many scientists are trying to reduce the size of optical components in the field of optics, in order to create faster and smaller devices.
"The industry is already moving its focus to nanotechnology, and has been for years," she said. "Introducing this as a major will give people the benefit of truly understanding the subject and becoming experts."
The NSTC has given students like Lorenzo an inside look on how research is conducted.
"No matter what type of science or engineering you study, materials and nanotechnology will always be involved," she said. "For all of the people out there with creative minds, an urge to build and a thirst for knowledge, engineering is meant for you.
"Nanoscience is the future, and we need more brilliant people in order to help it flourish."
Rachel Stuart is the News Editor for the Central Florida Future. Follow her on Twitter at @RachSage or email her at RachelS@CentralFloridaFuture.com.