Nanoscience at Northern Virginia Community College

February 24, 2015 | News Type:
Nanoscience Instruments installed a Nanoscience Classroom at Northern Virginia Community College Manassas campus to provide students hands-on experience in nanotechnology for STEM education. The Nanoscience Classroom is a modular package of instrumentation configured for nanotechnology education and includes scanning electron microscopes (SEM), atomic force microscopes (AFM) and 3D optical profilers.

Northern Virginia Community College has initiated a new program to increase the number of STEM graduates to meet the growing need in the workforce. Assistant Dean of Sciences Dr. Ia Gomez manages the implementation of the NOVA college-wide STEM initiative (NCSI), led by Manassas Campus Provost Dr. Roger Ramsammy and Interim NOVA President Dr. Melvin Schiavelli. NOVA faculty from several disciplines, including biotechnology, microbiology, chemistry, and physics, are collaborating to keep students current with this emerging science.

“The Manassas Campus has invested in state-of-the-art equipment to incorporate nanotechnology activities into the classroom so our students receive cutting-edge instruction,” said Dr. Ia Gomez. “For the Biotechnology program, we have a rigorous curriculum that includes a strong hands-on component combined with an internship to prepare our students for a STEM career path.”

The cornerstones of a Nanoscience Classroom are desktop scanning electron microscopes, atomic force microscopes, and 3D optical profilers. These instruments are all unique in their compactness, ease of use, and low maintenance.

The Phenom SEMs are state-of-the-art microscopes that magnify samples up to 100,000 times with remarkable detail. Additionally, students can investigate the elemental composition of materials as well as see them with high precision. The Phenom scanning electron microscopes are instrumental in bridging the visible world with the nanoscale world.

The Nanosurf AFMs are the eyes into the nanoscale world. The AFM has the ability to probe smaller dimensions in true 3D. AFM is required to evaluate smaller and smaller devices. AFMs allows students to visualize surface structures that are continually being created for new technologies.

The Zeta optical profiler is an industrial instrument that provides stunning 3D images in true color. Measurements are made on mechanical devices to look at holes, scratches, steps, roughness, and other important parameters. Students can evaluate micromachined parts, conduct failure analysis, inspect surface finishes, and perform many other tasks associated with 21st-century manufacturing.

This powerful collection of instrumentation allows students to see structures from millimeters to nanometers in dimension. Applications vary greatly and include pharmaceuticals, bioinformatics, physics, forensics, and more. Students will be exposed to a great number of characterization techniques that can be used immediately after high school in jobs at high technology companies, as critical training for technical college preparation, or as a primer to a higher level college career.

“As part of our STEM initiative we are promoting undergraduate research in our college and we are committed to becoming a national leader in community college research,” adds Dr. Gomez. “I believe your instrumentation has placed NOVA in a very advantageous position to accomplish this goal.”

About Northern Virginia Community College

Northern Virginia Community College is the largest institution of higher education in the Commonwealth of Virginia and one of America’s largest community colleges. NOVA enrolls more than 75,000 students at its six campuses in Alexandria, Annandale, Loudoun, Manassas, Springfield and Woodbridge, and through the Extended Learning Institute. For more information about NOVA and its programs or services, call 703-323-3000 or visit the College’s Web site,