Wilkes University has received $3 million in funding from the State of Pennsylvania that will allow it to revolutionize the engineering education experience for its students and provide engineering laboratory support to regional industry.
Gov. Tom Corbett announced that Wilkes will receive a $3 million Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program (RACP) grant for engineering labs in Wilkes’ College of Science and Engineering. The grant, which requires Wilkes to match the funding, will be used to make $6 million in improvements to current facilities.
Wilkes University President Patrick F. Leahy said that the grant will allow Wilkes to provide extraordinary teaching and research laboratories for its students while enhancing community partnerships.
“Wilkes thanks Gov. Corbett for his vision in supporting our programs. The governor is to be commended for funding a project that will have a long-term positive impact on the educational, business and manufacturing sectors. Our goal is to secure Wilkes University’s place as one of the nation’s finest small universities. This gift will go a long way in helping us to realize that goal for our engineering students,” Leahy said.
“The laboratories that we create from this funding will allow us to continue our goal of providing students with the facilities and opportunities of a much larger institution in the intimate setting of a liberal arts college. It also will allow us to continue our commitment to support the city of Wilkes-Barre and the region. We will do that by sharing these facilities with our industrial partners.”
The money will be used to fund renovations to the Stark Learning Center – including creation or upgrading of three new high-tech laboratories for research and development. The labs are:
The Nanotechnology Laboratory will be a multi-disciplinary, state-of-the art-facility to support teaching and research in microelectronics and nanotechnology. This laboratory, to be located on the fourth floor of Stark Learning Center, will include 7,000 square feet of work space. Nanotechnology, one of the most cutting-edge areas of research involves understanding and controlling matter at an extremely small scale., A nanometer is one billionth of a meter. For example, almost all high-performance electronic devices manufactured in the past decade use nanomaterials. Nanotechnology is used to build new transistor structures and interconnects for the fastest, most advanced computing chips. It has application in the semiconductor industry, medicine, manufacturing and a host of other fields.
The state funding will allow Wilkes to make optimum use of $500,000 in nanotechnology equipment already donated to the University by Fairchild Semiconductor of Mountaintop.
The Additive Manufacturing Laboratory will be an integral part of the Applied Manufacturing Center, which is on the lower level of Stark Learning Center. The lab will occupy 8,000 square feet. Additive manufacturing includes emerging fields like 3-D printing and developing automated processes that allow precise manufacturing at high volumes.
The Bioengineering Laboratory will provide for advanced work and research in the fields of microscopy, robotics and computational sciences. Wilkes offers a master’s degree in bioengineering.
Terese Wignot, interim dean of Wilkes University’s College of Science and Engineering, said that the grant supports Wilkes commitment to undergraduate research and faculty mentoring, adding that the interdisciplinary nature of research will allow many students to use the facilities.
“One of the hallmarks of a Wilkes education is the close mentoring relationship between faculty and students, which includes engaging students in research on the undergraduate level,” Wignot said. “It is especially appropriate that this significant investment will be made to build labs, since these facilities are used by all of our students during their undergraduate study. And, because so much of our work in the sciences is interdisciplinary, the benefits are not restricted to engineering students. Students in many scientific disciplines will have access to these facilities.”
The interdisciplinary opportunities provided in the labs was affirmed by Zachary Tomasura, a Wilkes senior mechanical and electrical engineering major from Bear Creek, Pa. “The addition of these modern laboratories ill allow students the ability to work on interdisciplinary projects across a variety of fields and majors while providing modern technology to our industrial partners,” Tomasura said.
Enrollment in engineering programs at Wilkes has grown more than 129 percent in the last decade. In the last five years, four new engineering master’s degree programs were started in electrical engineering, mechanical engineering, bioengineering, and engineering management as well as a new bachelor’s degree program in physics. A minor in engineering management was also recently established. Other new laboratories that have been created include a robotics lab, a microfluidics lab, an automated manufacturing lab as well labs for vibrations and materials analysis. Our graduate engineering students will greatly benefit from the enhancements made to the facilities through these newly acquired funds.