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Oakton Receives Grant from the Searle Funds at The Chicago Community Trust

On June 25, Oakton’s Board of Trustees approved acceptance of a $250,000 grant from the Searle Funds at The Chicago Community Trust. Funds will be used to educate regional industrial employees about the College’s nanotechnology program.

With grant funds, Oakton will host an introductory seminar three times in its nanotech lab at Skokie’s Illinois Science + Technology Park (IS+TP) during the 2013-2014 academic year. Designed and presented by nanotechnology consultants, each will focus on the basics of this relatively new technology.

“This is a great opportunity to showcase how nanotechnology can benefit local companies,” explained Bob Sompolski, dean of mathematics and technologies. “There’s no question that nanotechnology will touch almost every industry in the near future. Our goal is to be ready to fill the need for skilled workers in this emerging field.”

Nanotechnology is the science of manipulating matter on an atomic and molecular scale. Increasingly common in the computer, energy, biotech, and transportation fields, nanotechnology can improve just about any process, tool, or piece of equipment by reducing size and increasing efficiency and by vastly increasing the amount of information stored on computer chips and other storage devices. This technology speeds up any computer-based application, can help doctors target specific cancerous cells for chemotherapy treatment, eliminating potential damage to healthy cells nearby, and is the key to more efficient and powerful batteries and solar cells. By 2015, the industry will need two million workers and approximately six million supporting positions worldwide. Oakton began offering nanotechnology classes in January 2013.

Oakton’s cutting-edge technology program is supported by the Nanotechnology Education, Employment, and Economic Development Initiative (NE³I), a partnership between the College; the Village of Skokie; Forest City Enterprises, Inc., which owns and operates the IS+TP; and the North Suburban Educational Region for Vocation Education (NSERVE), a career and technical education consortium consisting of nine high schools in Chicago’s northern suburbs.

This is the second consecutive year that the Searle Funds at The Chicago Community Trust has provided Oakton and the NE³I with funding. In 2012, the Searle Funds at The Chicago Community Trust provided the consortium with a $250,000 grant for general operating expenses for Oakton’s IS+TP lab. This past spring, the National Science Foundation (NSF), an independent federal agency responsible for enhancing the progress of science, awarded Oakton with a $374,279 grant to introduce community college and high school students throughout the state to nanotechnology and potential careers in this rising field.

“We’re deeply grateful to the Searle Funds at The Chicago Community Trust for its generous, ongoing support,” Sompolski noted. “Such a vote of confidence can only enhance our efforts as we continue to build and strengthen our nanotechnology program.”

This fall, students can get in on the ground floor of the nanotech industry at Oakton. Enroll now in the 16-week Fundamentals of Nanotechnology I (PHY 140 050) course, which meets 6 – 8:45 p.m., Mondays and Wednesdays, starting August 19, or the 16-week Fundamentals of Nanotechnology II (PHY 141 050) course, which meets 6 – 8:45 p.m., Tuesdays and Thursdays, starting August 20. Both classes meet at the College’s Skokie campus (7701 North Lincoln Avenue) and at the nanotechnology lab (8025 Lamon Avenue). For more information, call 847.376.7042, or e-mail jcarzoli@oakton.edu.

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While Merilee Waters made the transition from history teacher to lawyer on a dare, teaching will always be in her blood.

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