Engineering and science majors at West Virginia University may now choose to complete a nine credit hour emphasis of study in nanosystems, thanks to a recent $180,000 National Science Foundation grant.

The emphasis will start in spring 2008 through WVNano, an interdisciplinary program aimed at advancing nanoscience, engineering and education at WVU .

WVU was one of only 10 universities that received the grant from 75 that applied nationally. This years awards targeted undergraduate engineering education.

Nanotechnology involves the observation and manipulation of material smaller in size than a wavelength of light. Researchers in many disciplines are studying these tiny bits of matter intensely because nano-sized materials have properties that are valuable for real-world applications, including consumer products, health care, energy and security.

WVNano involves students and faculty across the physical and health sciences and engineering disciplines at WVU .

The new nanosystems emphasis, designed to be compatible with majors in science and engineering, began as a pilot program in 2007 withIntroduction to Nanotechnology Design,a freshman course. An interdisciplinary group of faculty taught the course to freshmen from a variety of science and engineering majors.

Beginning this spring, the program will expand to an emphasis area that students can incorporate into the requirements of their major in science or engineering through interdisciplinary seminars and research. WVNano is especially focused on recruiting women, minorities, students with disabilities and other underrepresented groups.

Dimitris Korakakis, assistant professor in the Lane Department of Computer Science and Electrical Engineering is the lead faculty member on the project.

Nanoscale science and engineering is advancing rapidly in all sectors of our society,Korakakis said.It is inherently interdisciplinary. The nanosystems emphasis will provide undergraduates with the unique opportunity to gain depth in their own discipline, to better understand and appreciate other disciplines and to participate in interdisciplinary research in nanosystems.

Students who gain this kind of experience early will have a decided advantage in graduate study or in the professional world,he noted.

Other faculty members involved in the project are Robin Hensel, coordinator of freshman engineering; Kasi Jackson, assistant professor of womens studies; Boyd Edwards, professor of physics; Phyllis Barnhart, associate director for education and outreach of WV Nano; and, Larry Hornak, professor of electrical engineering and co-director of WV Nano.

In addition, faculty members in biology, chemistry, physics, health sciences and engineering will supervise the research of emphasis-area students in their laboratories.