CURRICULM FOR BACHELOR'S, MASTER´S AND PH.D.'S PROGRAM IN NANOSCIENCE AT iNANO, AARHUS UNIVERSITY
The educational program at iNANO
In many ways, the years of undergraduate education define our mental framework and approach to science. Experience has shown us that it is often difficult to communicate in interdisciplinary project groups where the participants share little common ground. In addition, reading up on an entirely new discipline late in one’s career can often be an exceedingly large barrier. We concluded that these observations called for an early introduction to all the core disciplines of nanoscience. The challenge was to realize this goal of disciplinary breadth, without sacrificing scientific depth. In our curriculum for nanoscience, we have accomplished this through a fixed course program, involving carefully selected elements from the core disciplines which we judge to be essential for nanoscience, in combination with elective or specialization modules completed during the final years of study.
The Bachelor’s degree program
During the first three years, students receive basic interdisciplinary training in physics, chemistry, biology, molecular biology, mathematics, and computer science. Many of the courses are followed along with students from these core disciplines. In addition, a number of courses address issues specific to the nano area. In the Introduction to Nanoscience course, the first year students are introduced to key nano-concepts such as scanning probe techniques and bottom-up/top-down synthesis of nanostructures. The course ends with a two-week project which enables students, already at the end of their first year, to make close contacts with research groups at iNANO.
In subsequent courses, more advanced experimental exercises and a bigger project involving fabrication and characterization of a solar cell are carried out. During the final year of the Bachelor’s degree program students can follow two courses – Nanocharacterization and Current Nanoscience, which introduce a number of experimental characterization techniques for nanoscience as well as important subject areas for current nanoscience research. A Theory of Science course dedicated to the nano-area places the subject in a societal context and emphasizes ethical aspects. Elective course modules in the third year of study allow fine-tuning of the course program to the particular interest of individual students. The Bachelor’s degree program is terminated by an individual Bachelor’s project typically carried out in a research laboratory and supervised by iNANO researchers.
The Master’s degree program
During their Master’s degree students are required to specialize in one of three different disciplines: nanophysics, nanochemistry or nanomolecular biology. In doing so they choose from the extensive course catalogue at the Faculty of Science and follow course programs developed through individual counselling. In the compulsory Student’s Colloquium, students gain experience in presenting a subject of their own choice to fellow students and in the Innovation and Entrepreneurship course they are introduced to concepts of commercialization. The specialization courses followed in the fourth year of study enable the students to commence their one year Master’s project.
The Doctorate’s degree program
In addition to our undergraduate programs, iNANO hosts a Doctorate school in nanoscience, iNANOschool. Here, students can be admitted with a Master’s degree in a traditional (5+3) year model, but at our Faculty, studies are more often carried out following a (4+4) year model where the students are admitted after four years of study and the Master’s project becomes an integrated part of the Doctorate which then lasts four years. A special (3+5) year program has recently been introduced where very talented students can be admitted to graduate school with a Bachelor’s degree. Teaching at our Faculty is, except for the first two years of undergraduate studies, carried out in English when required. Talented international students are highly welcome at all levels of the educational program.
Developing a new educational line also involves catering to the social needs of students. We quickly realized that it was essential to provide a platform so the students were not scattered among the different departments of our faculty. Therefore, during the first two years of study, students follow all of their courses with the same group of approximately 20 students. The group is assigned its own room with computers and internet access. This room is used for all problem classes, but is also freely available for group work, discussions, and social activities between courses. In fact, many pizzas have been consumed at this home base during late evenings or at weekends when preparing for coursework or exams. The students themselves have also set up a successful student organization, Nanorama, which hosts both educational and recreational activities and has contributed tremendously to creating a unique identity for ‘nano-students’.
With the described initiatives at iNANO, we hope to have facilitated the education of Master and Doctorate students, which will fulfill the need for a new generation of scientists trained in an interdisciplinary nanoscience environment. Our experience shows that it is utterly possible for the nano-students to follow advanced graduate courses along with students of the respective core disciplines. In fact, feedback from course lecturers indicates that the nano-students often provide new angles or ways of thinking, based on their broader background. As more students are reaching their final years of study and some are enrolling in our Doctorate program, we can see how they, to an increasing extent, are starting to become facilitators for new interdisciplinary projects at the iNANO center. A recent successful matchmaking event between the nano-students and a number of prominent Danish industrial companies confirmed our notion that the new programs in nanoscience fulfill an existing and increasing societal demand for academics with a good knowledge of nanotechnology and a broad background in the natural sciences.
Trolle Linderoth, Chair of the Teaching Commitee
Malene Plougmann, Programme coordinator
Maria Kragelund, Ph.D. Administrator
Lasse Desdorf, Student Advisor