ARL participates in new regional nanoeducation hub; community college students benefit

June 11, 2014

By T'Jae Gibson, ARL Public Affairs Office

A new University of Maryland Baltimore College program is teaming with Army and other area universities to offer college students in pursuit of associate degrees internships in nanotechnology paying stipends that compete with major four-year, and Ivy League schools.

This initiative took its cue, in part, from a national push to increase America's pipeline of Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) graduates, focusing on ways communities can contribute.

"There's been a lot of discussion in recent years on the importance of community colleges engaging in retraining the local workforce toward high-tech employment opportunities," said Dr. Mark Griep, bio-nanomaterials engineer at the Army Research Laboratory who helped organize this program. "This program could have a strong impact in our region."

Ten students from the Community College of Baltimore County were selected from a competitive application screening to participate in the eight-week program that starts in June. The summer sessions will be held primarily in University of Maryland Baltimore College (UMBC) laboratories to give students a ". . . very broad exposure to the field. These range from biomedical application to sensors, fabrication, and new materials," said Dr. Paul J. Smith, associate professor in UMBC's Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry.

Students will also train in Morgan State University's Physics Research Laboratory, where research involving filling the lumens of carbon nanotubes with chemical method as well as with physical method such as with magnetron sputtering. This work has resulted in several conference abstracts and publications in major journals and Army Research Lab technical reports, said Dr. Dereje Seifu, professor and interim chair of Morgan's Department of Physics.

They'll work on "Army projects" when they come to the Rodman Materials Research Laboratory at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md., said Griep. Students and professors toured ARL's APG laboratories June 3.

He said through this research experience, students will run through the synthesis, purification, characterization and application of some key nanomaterials ARL needs for its bioelectronic sensor research that explores an advanced sensor to detect the presence of synthetic cannabinoids, or fake marijuana.

"They'll be trained on key characterization instruments including UV-VIS spectroscopy, fluorospectrometry, zeta charge analysis, and dynamic light scattering in addition to standard wet chemistry tools/techniques. These are key skills that we use in our nanotechnology efforts every day, so are strong assets for these students to possess to gain future employment in a research institution," said Griep.

The Mid-Atlantic Nanoscience Education Hub at UMBC was designed to make local community college students more competitive for employment in diverse areas of nanotechnology, or encourage them to pursue four-year degrees in the physical sciences and engineering.

Earning roughly $4,000 this summer, the students will participate in an eight-week summer program, during which they will participate in laboratory training, career seminars, and other activities designed to prepare them for careers in a variety of STEM fields, with a focus on nanotechnology. A major feature of the program is a series of three two-week rotations in participating research labs, where students will gain hands-on experience, with experimental techniques that are employed in diverse areas of nanotechnology.

Students were selected from the Community College of Baltimore County this year, but Griep is hopeful that research universities and other government labs near Harford Community College and Cecil Community College – both neighbors to APG where he works - will join the program.

The program was funded with a National Science Foundation sub-grant through Pennsylvania State University. For more information on this program, contact the program director at UMBC, Dr. Paul Smith, at 410-455-2519. For information on ARL's STEM programs and its STEM Education and Outreach Center, contact Dr. Sandy K. Young via


Last Update / Reviewed: June 11, 2014