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Tech launches pioneering Ph.D. in Molecular Sciences and Nanotechnology

Louisiana Tech University has received approval from the Louisiana Board of Regents to offer a pioneering, interdisciplinary Ph.D. in Molecular Sciences and Nanotechnology program beginning this fall.

The program, a joint offering from Louisiana Tech’s College of Applied and Natural Sciences and College of Engineering and Science, is believed to be the nation’s first broad-based, interdisciplinary “nanotechnology” Ph.D. degree program.  It builds upon a master’s degree in molecular sciences and nanotechnology offered at Louisiana Tech, which has produced 73 graduates since its inception in the fall of 2004.

“The degree in molecular sciences and nanotechnology will provide an opportunity for students to earn the Ph.D. in an interdisciplinary environment involving the sciences and engineering,” said Dr. James Liberatos, dean of the College of Applied and Natural Sciences at Louisiana Tech.  “Our faculty will also benefit from the opportunity to work with bright, motivated graduate students as they discover answers to the many questions that abound as research at the nanoscale progresses.”

Dr. Stan Napper, dean of Louisiana Tech’s College of Engineering and Science, says, “This new degree expands Louisiana Tech’s ability to train professionals and conduct research in high impact topics that often lead to technology transfer and economic development results.  It also leverages prior state, federal, and industry investments in physical and human resources at Louisiana Tech.”

Louisiana Tech created the new Ph.D. program to train students in experimental, theoretical, and computational aspects of research in molecular biology, chemistry, and physics, particularly where these disciplines intersect.  It also enhances interdisciplinary applied research at Louisiana Tech in micromanufacturing and nanotechnology, and prepares students to become national and international academic, research and industry leaders.

Dr. Ken Rea, Louisiana Tech’s vice president for academic affairs, says the program greatly strengthens Louisiana Tech’s position in this critical field.  “The degree further enhances Tech’s reputation among its peer institutions and enables the University to attract and retain outstanding faculty and students who are interested in this emerging field,” says Rea.  “It clearly reflects the University’s commitment to high quality graduate education, drawing on the strengths of the College of Engineering and Science and the College of Applied and Natural Science.”

Louisiana Tech received strong support for the program in a report submitted to the Board of Regents by a consultant who reviewed the proposal and concluded that, “This program gives [Louisiana Tech] the advantage of being able to include a remarkably wide range of research efforts in a single program, with a coherent administration.”

“Scientists and engineers who study nanoscale systems assembled by nature and those who study nanoscale structures and devices assembled by humans will work under the same umbrella as a result of this innovative, interdisciplinary program,” said Dr. Ramu Ramachandran, associate dean for research in Louisiana Tech’s College of Engineering and Science.

Nanotechnology is used in the development of many commercial products and processes.  For example, nanomaterials can be used to manufacture strong, lightweight materials for use in such products as boat hulls, sporting equipment, automotive parts and even sunscreens and cosmetics.  Nanotechnology can also be used to produce space-saving insulators which are useful when size and weight is at a premium – for example, when insulating pipelines in remote places, or trying to reduce heat loss from an old house.

Louisiana Tech’s new Ph.D. program could produce researchers and practitioners who also further the development and refinement of new nanotechnology-based medicines.  Currently in clinical trials, these medicines may soon be available to treat patients through the delivery of anti-cancer drugs targeted directly to tumors, minimizing drug damage to other parts of the body.