Santa Clara University

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Banking on the future of small things

Thanks to what Dean Daniel Pitt describes as "a gift with vision," SCU’s School of Engineering is launching a Center for Nanostructures, designed to help industry close the gap between current university-level education and the burgeoning nanoscience and nanotechnology fields. The new center will focus on interdisciplinary research in selected areas of nanoscale science and technology and will develop pioneering curricula that integrate learning with research.

Nanotechnology and nanoscience are fast-growing and impactful disciplines.

John Ocampo ’79 and his wife, Susan, have made a $1.3 million pledge to provide start-up funding for the new center. John Ocampo is a co-founder and chairman of Sirenza Microdevices and was formerly its CEO. He is a member of the School of Engineering’s Industry Advisory Board. Susan Ocampo is a co-founder of the company and is its treasurer. When the couple’s gift, which is part of Santa Clara’s current fund-raising campaign, was publicly announced early in May, John Ocampo said, "I am excited to be a part of Santa Clara’s new role in nanoscience research. The potential benefits of this technology are far reaching and match up with the University’s values, which I am proud to support."

Cary Yang, an associate dean of engineering and a long-time nanostructures researcher who came to SCU in 1983 from the NASA Ames research program, will head the center.

Small scale, huge impact

Nanotechnology and nanoscience are fast-growing research and industry disciplines, Yang notes. "Physical, chemical, electrical, mechanical, magnetic, optical, and other properties change in many cases as nanoscale is approached. Nanotechnology takes advantage of what happens to these materials at extremely small scale, where they produce novel phenomena and properties."

Dean Pitt and John Ocampo
Engineering Dean Daniel Pitt, left, with John Ocampo ’79, who recently pledged $1.3 million to provide start-up funding for SCU’s Center for Nanostructures.

Yang notes that these new and unusual properties ultimately will have a huge impact on society through computing, communication, information storage, health care, energy, and a wide range of other areas.

"Nanotechnology is potentially as enabling as railroads, automobiles, and computers were," he says.

Yang, who says he has been "looking at small things" professionally since 1976, is engaged in research on the interfaces between nanostructures—the wires on computer chips being one example. Those tiny—and getting smaller-—wires are becoming the dominant factor in on-chip performance as well as reliability, Yang says. His work at Santa Clara has brought in gifts and grants for research from the National Science Foundation, NASA, and various companies.

"The center," he says, "will allow us to combine a Santa Clara University education with research. We are also doing outreach to schools and community colleges to give more individuals exposure to the field. It’s really important that educators are involved in knowledge generation, and this is a big part of the rationale for the center." High school teachers and outstanding pre-college students will join the center in summer months. SCU faculty from engineering, science, business, law, and education will develop interdisciplinary courses for the University’s undergraduates. Graduate students will work with faculty on original nano research.

Partners in research

One important element of the center, Yang says, will be industry partnerships. Three interdisciplinary themes will engage external partners with the center, according to the written plan:

  • Nanoelectronics, a natural extension of the nanoelectronics (formerly microelectronics) lab, which has been operating for 16 years, with a research agenda including interconnect and gate modeling for integrated circuits containing nanoscale features (opportunities for expanded collaboration with industry and NASA Ames’ own Center for Nanotechnology)
  • Nanomagnetics, work on the characterization of magnetic spin transistors (expanding the existing collaborative work between SCU’s nanoelectronics and information storage technology labs and the San Jose Research Center of Hitachi Global Storage Technologies)
  • Nanobiotechnology, the goal to develop successful electrical probing of living cells (a collaborative effort among the nanoelectronics lab, SCU’s biology, chemistry, and physics departments, NASA, and University of California, Santa Cruz)

Another partner is Stanford’s Nanofabrication Facility, through the National Nanotechnology Infrastructure Network.

"This will be a top-of-the-line, state-of-the-art laboratory," Yang says, and he emphasizes SCU’s gratitude to the Ocampos for recognizing the opportunities the new program will make possible.

For more information, see

Grant to fund Lifelong Learning Institute on campus

In May, Santa Clara University received a $100,000 grant from the Bernard Osher Foundation in San Francisco to establish a new Osher Lifelong Learning Institute on campus.

The SCU institute will offer new non-credit courses aimed at people over 50 with the twin goals of expanding the University’s academic resources to members of the surrounding community, and of adding age diversity to the campus student population.

The Osher Foundation grant adds to the Campaign for Santa Clara University fundraising total, bringing the University closer to the $350 million goal for scholarships, endowed faculty chairs, program support, and new facilities.

Fees for each course are likely to be less than $100, with scholarships available. In addition to the new adult enrichment courses each academic term, a menu of campus events will be announced this summer that will be open to "community learners," University neighbors who are 50 years and older, focusing on their specific academic, spiritual, and enrichment interests, including lectures, theater, and movies.

SCU is one of only 41 colleges and universities throughout the United States to receive the prestigious grant. The SCU program will start with the fall quarter in September.

Patti Simone, associate professor of psychology specializing in gerontology, will direct the institute. She says participants will be able to pay a small membership fee, which will entitle them to attend the new daytime classes, and have access to the library and recreational facilities on campus. She adds that participants will likely include alumni and parents of SCU students.

For more information, e-mail or call 408-554-2382.

For more information about making a gift to Santa Clara University, see or call the Development Office at 408-554-4400.

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