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COC's Lab Tech program embraces new technologies

Posted: June 16, 2009 11:04 a.m.
Updated: June 16, 2009 1:18 p.m.
This fall, students interested in pursuing careers in the sciences while learning more about the emerging field of nanotechnology will be able to do so through the college's recently introduced General and Emerging Technologies (GET) Lab Technician program.

The College of the Canyons GET Lab Technician program is designed to provide a basic understanding of the essential laboratory technician skills needed to prepare students seeking immediate employment in biotech, electronics, pharmaceutical and chemical industries.

Comprised of entry-level chemistry, biology and engineering technician courses, lab technician software training and laboratory/clean room safety instruction, the college's GET Lab program is committed to developing student understanding of basic science, laboratory and technical workplace skills.

Students will also have the option to complete the exploratory "Introduction to Nanotechnology" elective course - signaling the first time a nanotechnology course has been offered at College of the Canyons.

"This program is a perfect example of how community colleges work to bolster the local economy," said College of the Canyons Chancellor Dr. Dianne Van Hook. "We're providing students the skills they need to land well-paying jobs in highly-skilled technical fields and we're helping to put people back to work in the midst of an ever-changing and challenging economic environment."

Nanotechnology joins the fields of biology, physics, chemistry and engineering to study the use of matter on an atomic or molecular scale in order to develop materials within that size for various uses in a number of commercial products and devices with wide ranging applications. A nanometer-sized particle is approximately one billionth of a meter.

"Nanotechnology has not yet matured in the sense that everyday we are learning new things and making discoveries about the uses of this technology," said Kathy Flynn, chemistry professor and emerging technology project director at the college who has been instrumental in launching the new program. "Thankfully, Chancellor Dianne Van Hook and the college's instruction office share a vision to open the door and embrace nanotechnology and other emerging technologies at College of the Canyons."

The skills learned through completion of the GET Lab program will prepare students for careers in a wide range of both scientific and commercial industries which have embraced the use of advanced technology and nanotechnology - including computer science, cosmetics, dentistry, medicine and medical device manufacturing, water purification, environmental protection and other energy efficient technologies.

"The popularity of nanotechnology presents a way to get students interested in the sciences. Our students, community members and local business and industry partners all want to learn more about this technology and hopefully that will draw them to the GET lab program," said Flynn. "We've tried to make the curriculum approachable for everyone, not just science and engineering students."

To help launch the new program College of the Canyons received a two-year California Industry Driven Regional Collaborative (IDRC) grant totaling nearly $571,000 as well as a $1.38 million grant from the Department of Commerce/Economic Development Agency (DOC/EDA) Public Works and Economic Development Facilities Program.

Together those funds have allowed the college to lay the foundation for the program by developing and implementing curriculum, designing appropriate on-campus instructional and laboratory facilities, constructing a clean room area and purchasing furniture and state of the art lab tools and equipment for student use.

The GET lab program and equipment will be housed in Aliso Lab, the college's 32,000 square foot science laboratory facility. The program's clean room is scheduled for completion in summer 2009, with classes slated to start in the fall.

Included among the tools and equipment purchased for the program are a scanning electron microscope, atomic force microscope, inverted fluorescent microscope, an ellipsometer and profilometer.

"All of this equipment has been purchased with an eye toward providing our students with hands on training," Flynn said. "A lot of times equipment is so high end that it can only be accessed on the university level. But this technology has reached a point where students can be trained on it, they can understand it and they then take those skills out into the work place."

Another important goal of the program is to work closely with the college's Economic Development Division and Employee Training Institute in order to identify and form community partnerships and provide specialized skills training to local businesses and their employees.

"The college's Economic Development Division will be invaluable in helping to alert the department about trends in the industrial community and how this program and partnership might help serve their needs," Flynn said. "As local companies start to realize that we have this equipment we want to begin offering training in order to get them involved with using this technology as well."


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