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Board of Regents to Act on Proposed Materials Science Major at UW-Eau Claire

RELEASED: Dec. 2, 2008

EAU CLAIRE — The UW System Board of Regents is expected this week to approve the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire's new interdisciplinary materials science comprehensive major. The Regents' Education Committee will act on the proposal during its Dec. 4 meeting and its recommendation will go to the full board for its approval on Dec. 5.

The major in materials science — the study of condensed matter (solids and liquids) and how it can be applied to fabricating devices and structures — is the first new academic program resulting from the state-approved $3 million NanoSTEM initiative, said Dr. Doug Dunham, co-director of UW-Eau Claire's Materials Science Center. Nearly $2 million of the funds support materials science at UW-Eau Claire, he said, noting that funding for the initiative began in July.

Through the NanoSTEM initiative, UW-Eau Claire also has established the Institute for Advanced Nanoscience, Dunham said. IAN will promote efforts in basic and applied research, education, product and workforce development, and community outreach in the fields of nanoscience and nanotechnology, he said.

"The new academic major and the establishment of IAN are the first major projects we are putting in place as a result of the NanoSTEM initiative," Dunham said. "We'll use the major and the center as building blocks as we continue our work in these increasingly important areas."

The NanoSTEM initiative was designed to enhance economic development in the Chippewa Valley and the state, Chancellor Brian Levin-Stankevich said.

"This initiative demonstrates how higher education can be a catalyst for economic growth through targeted programs that benefit students as well as businesses," Levin-Stankevich said. "The NanoSTEM programs will help us provide current and future employers in our region and state with an educated workforce that can meet their needs now and in the years ahead."

To make the NanoSTEM initiative possible, UW-Eau Claire partnered with UW-Stout and the Chippewa Valley Technical College in the areas of nanoscience and nanotechnology, said Dr. Marc McEllistrem, co-director of UW-Eau Claire's Materials Science Center. Materials science is closely related to nanoscience, the science of matter at sizes of 100 nanometers or less, he said. Nanotechnology is the design of material on the nanoscale.

"Each institution complements the others in that UW-Eau Claire specializes in materials characterization, CVTC specializes in processing and fabrication and UW-Stout specializes in biotechnology," McEllistrem said. "The partnerships allow each school to access classes, facilities and instruments beyond its own specialization without duplication."

The new materials science major will give UW-Eau Claire graduates an edge in the workplace, and provide Wisconsin businesses with employees who are prepared to work in the newer fields of materials science and nanotechnology, said McEllistrem.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, the employment of materials scientists is expected to grow by 9 percent from 2006-16. The national trend is reflected by local need, Dunham said. Many Chippewa Valley companies have said they need employees with expertise in materials and analysis methods, he said. In addition, representatives of companies that are considering moving to the Chippewa Valley have said the availability of people with a bachelor's degree in materials science will be a factor in their decision to relocate, he said.

"Job growth will occur in professional, scientific and technical service firms as companies outsource their testing operations to specialized firms," Dunham said. "Employment of materials scientists will grow as manufacturers seek to improve quality by using new materials and manufacturing processes."

UW-Eau Claire's materials science program has grown naturally out of the university's well-established science programs, Dunham and McEllistrem said, noting that the faculty who developed the major are scientists who already are active in the area of materials science. These professors — based in physics, chemistry, geology and biology departments — have worked together on research, curriculum development and outreach initiatives for more than 10 years, they said.

The university formed the Materials Science Center in 2004 to combine expertise and instrumentation from the various departments and research programs into a center, Dunham said. The center also has helped faculty better coordinate projects with local industries, he said.

For more information about the new major, the Institute for Advanced Nanoscience or the NanoSTEM initiative, contact Materials Science Center co-directors Dr. Doug Dunham at or Dr. Marc McEllistrem at 715-836-4081 or



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