While Washington DC was gripped by two blizzards this past week, Congressman David Wu of the State of Oregon announced his introduction of new legislation called the Nanotechnology Education Act (HR 4502 IH), which is intended to improve the capabilities of US educational institutions to provide training in nanotechnology.
I have to confess I am nonplussed when I see announcements of nanotechnology degrees, almost as much as when I see the term “nanotechnology industry”. Now there is even a “nanotechnology education” page on Wikipedia that lists all the different institutions around the world offering these types of degrees.
I suppose these curriculums offer something different than training in say physics, chemistry or biology. Maybe they differentiate themselves by the amount of time a student spends with an Atomic Force Microscope. Hard to say.
In any case, why it may be more exciting from a public relations standpoint and politically more beneficial to support “nanotechnology” than say “education”, it would seem that improving our math and science curriculums throughout the educational system in the US would likely do more to improve our competitiveness than a so-called “Nanotechnology Education Act”.
Dexter Johnson is a contributing editor at IEEE Spectrum, with a focus on nanotechnology.