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Nanotechnology Engineering Program Status: Accredited

Note: This article is hosted here for archival purposes only. It does not necessarily represent the values of the Iron Warrior or Waterloo Engineering Society in the present day.

For all the Nano students who haven’t heard, here’s some news for you: the Nanotechnology Engineering Program has finally been accredited! This new development means that the Nano program joins the ranks of the engineering programs that have been accredited by the Canadian Engineering Accreditation Board (CEAB). The Nanotechnology Engineering Program has been accredited unconditionally for the next three years, starting June 2010 (just in time for the new graduates to be accredited as well). As many of you know, without this accreditation, the students currently enrolled at this time would not have received the Bachelor’s Degree of Applied Science in Nanotechnology Engineering.

As most Nanos know, the Nanotechnology Engineering program was first introduced at the University of Waterloo in September of 2005. Over the next five years, a primary goal set out by the university was to get this new program accredited in time for the first set of students to graduate. The visit by the accreditation board in 2009 evaluated the program to see if it fulfilled the necessary components that comprise a CEAB-approved engineering program. The pre-accreditation review that transpired in 2008 listed a number of concerns that had the potential to withhold the program’s accreditation.

Any accredited engineering program requires a certain number of teaching hours. The Nano program also requires those hours to be divided into the three branches that comprise the university education in engineering. These three branches include the science component, the engineering science component and the engineering design component. While the first two components were fulfilled by the Nanotechnology Engineering program, the engineering design portion was originally lacking in the course curriculum. After minor improvements following the initial review, the 2009 visit stated that this was no longer an issue.

Another issue that was listed as a point of concern by the accreditation board was the health and safety factor that needed to be added to the program’s curriculum. Since the field of nanotechnology is a relatively new area of study, very little is known about the health issues that accompany the use of nano-scale materials. Furthermore, the decreased size of the materials being handled poses a significant threat to the safety of those who work with them.  Their smaller size increases the ability of these substances to permeate through the skin and harm the body.  A total of thirty-two hours of lecture regarding this topic, spread over the five years of study, was added to the core curriculum of the program. In addition to the thirty-two hours of lectures, students are required to submit assignments and write two major tests on the material covered. As a result, all the components listed above are now requirements in the milestone that must be completed in order to graduate (with exceptions to those who have or are close to graduating as of now).

However, the most important concern highlighted during the accreditation visit was the lack of P.Eng that taught the Nanotechnology Engineering courses. The program fell short in providing the required fraction of instructors that possessed a P. Eng license as stated in the requirements for any accredited engineering program. On the other hand, a slew of instructors that teach Nano courses did have applications in progress to receive the P. Eng license. The Nanotechnology Engineering program was therefore accredited for a total of three years until June 30, 2013. During the next accreditation visit, scheduled for January of 2012, the accreditation board will pay specific attention to this shortcoming. However, the University of Waterloo is very confident that the lack of P. Eng instructors is only due to the years of engineering experience required for each applicant and the additional time needed to have the applications processed. Furthermore, the University of Waterloo has taken active steps to ensure this program remains accredited by scheduling workshops and practice professional engineering exams for the license applicants. In the case that some of the applicants have not received their licenses before the next accreditation visit, they will be issued limited licenses in the time preceding the acquisition of the full P.Eng license.

While the Nanotechnology Engineering program is relatively new, the CEAB has chosen to hold the program in the University of Waterloo as the standard for any other engineering programs of this nature. With the confidence that the university has for this promising program and the quick accreditation of the program, it looks like the Nanotechnology Engineering program at UW will be recognized, henceforth, as an exemplary model of post-secondary education in the field of nanotechnology.

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