U of G to Offer Canada's First Nanoscience Major

September 19, 2007 - News Release

The University of Guelph is thinking big about the "very small" with a pioneering undergraduate nanoscience major to begin on campus next year. It will be Canada's first full-fledged nanoscience major.

Nanoscience involves developing materials on the scale of individual atoms and molecules, typically less than about 100 nanometres in size. In such a miniature world, materials display special — even counterintuitive — electrical and chemical properties

They are being explored by companies eager to make new devices and products in such areas as computing and microelectronics, biotechnology, energy, toxicology and medicine.

“It's moved very quickly from the realm of the science lab to the very first commercial products," said chemistry professor Dan Thomas, associate dean of Guelph's B.Sc. program, who studies nano-scale properties of materials and substances.

Other universities currently offer nanoscience courses within chemistry, physics and engineering programs, but no other school offers a degree program. U of G's new interdisciplinary major will be jointly provided by the departments of chemistry and physics and will draw on research and teaching strengths in those and related departments,

Guelph is looking to establish an early lead in a rapidly growing field, said Thomas, who headed the committee that developed the program. It will accept up to 50 entering students for the four-year program starting in fall 2008, with a projected steady-state enrolment of about 175.

“This is an opportunity to be a leader,” he said.

Guelph's new program will include a mix of fundamental science courses and "nano" offerings such as synthesis and analysis of nanomaterials, thin film science, nanolithography, quantum chemistry and computing, and biological nano-materials.

Physics professor John Dutcher, holder of a Canada Research Chair in Soft Matter Physics, added that much of the growth in nanoscience has been driven by new analytical and imaging techniques and equipment that now allow researchers to “see” things at that scale.

U of G already has much of that state-of-the-art equipment, including spectrometers, special microscopes such as an atomic-force instrument that gives an atom's-eye view of surfaces, and X-ray scattering facilities for studying atomic structure.

“There are lots of interesting things happening on the nanoscale,” said Dutcher, whose own collaborative research investigating thin films and bacterial surfaces already occurs on the nanoscale. “At Guelph it goes well beyond physics and chemistry — it exists across campus.”

More information about the nanoscience major is available online.

Dan Thomas
College of Physical & Engineering Science Dean's Office
519-824-4120, Ext. 52688

For media questions, contact Communications and Public Affairs: Lori Bona Hunt, 519-824-4120, Ext. 53338, or Deirdre Healey, Ext. 56982.

University of Guelph
50 Stone Road East
Guelph, Ontario, N1G 2W1