National Science Foundation Extends Funding for Nanotechnology Internship Program at UC Santa Barbara

Press Release:

For further information, please contact: Ofelia Aguirre,

The National Science Foundation (NSF) has committed $417,822 to continue funding UC Santa Barbara's innovative Internships in Nanosystems Science, Engineering and Technology (INSET) program.

The INSET program offers California community college students an eight-week paid summer internship that engages them in the work of leading nanotechnology scientists and scholars on the UCSB campus. The program is hosted by the California Nanosystems Institute (CNSI) through its Center for Science and Engineering Partnerships (CSEP), in collaboration with UCSB's NSF Center for Nanotechnology in Society (CNS-UCSB), the Materials Research Laboratory (MRL), and faculty from Santa Barbara City College.

Now in its 10th year, the 2011 INSET program includes 17 participating students from seven community colleges in Southern California who conduct original research projects under the guidance of faculty and graduate student mentors. Fourteen interns engage in cutting-edge investigations with CNSI researchers to find new ways to manipulate materials and devices at the molecular scale. Three interns examine the societal and ethical impacts of new nanotechnologies under the guidance of researchers from CNS-UCSB. In addition to honing their research skills, the students learn how to make scientific presentations and pursue professional networking opportunities.

Gino Graziano, a 2010 INSET intern, described his internship experience as "extremely interesting, and it drew on knowledge from different scientific disciplines, which I found very intriguing. I feel that the internship gave me great insight into how graduate level research is conducted, and the experience definitely contributed to my desire to attend graduate school."

Nick Arnold, professor of engineering at Santa Barbara City College and INSET co-principal investigator, partners with UC Santa Barbara staff and faculty to recruit and select interns, and helps the students adapt to their new roles as researchers. He commented that INSET provides community college students with valuable opportunities to "pursue genuine research at all different phases, from initial concepts, to gathering final data, to formulating conclusions."

Megan Valentine, UCSB assistant professor of mechanical engineering and a co-principal investigator for INSET, noted that the program benefits both interns and their mentors. "UCSB is proud to sponsor the INSET program, which has created partnerships and collaborations that have extended well beyond one summer," Valentine said. "The community college interns gain invaluable research experience and career development skills, and the graduate students learn how to effectively manage and mentor junior scientists."

In renewing funding for the program, NSF reviewers noted that INSET has an outstanding record of recruiting a diverse group of students, most of whom transfer successfully to four-year degree programs in science and engineering, and many of whom go on to further study. Of the 70 former INSET students who have completed their bachelor's degree, 31 are engaged in or have completed graduate study in universities across California and the U.S. –– all but one of them in science, engineering, mathematics, or medicine.

The 2011 INSET program started June 20 and ends Friday, August 12. Interns will present the results of their work at a poster session at Elings Hall on Thursday, August 11, 12:30-4 p.m. The public is invited to attend.


The California NanoSystems Institute (CNSI) at UC Santa Barbara is part of a multidisciplinary research partnership with UCLA established by the state legislature and California industry in 2000 as one of the first California Institutes for Science and Innovation. By exploring the power and potential of manipulating structures molecule-by-molecule, the CNSI is on its way to creating revolutionary new materials, devices, and systems that will enhance virtually every aspect of our lives – helping to drive California’s economy through innovations in medical delivery and health care, powerful new information technologies, energy efficient devices, environmental improvements, and more.

The NSF Center for Nanotechnology in Society at UCSB (CNS-UCSB) pursues an integrated portfolio of interdisciplinary societal research on the challenges to the successful, responsible development of nanotechnology in the U.S., Europe, Asia, and other regions at a time of sustained technological innovation. The Center addresses education for a new generation of social science and nanoscience professionals. CNS-UCSB researchers address a linked set of social and environmental issues related to the innovation, development, and global diffusion of nanoscale technoscience, and on public understanding of these activities.

The Center for Science and Engineering Partnerships (CSEP) builds on a record of innovative Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) programs at the California NanoSystems Institute, to create a forum for interdisciplinary collaboration. The center’s mission is to strengthen UC Santa Barbara’s capacity to play a leading role in the education and professional development of current and future scientists and engineers.

Santa Barbara City College is a comprehensive community college serving the south coast of Santa Barbara County. Established in 1909, SBCC is renowned as one of the leading two-year community college in California - and the nation. The college has a wide range of associate degree and certificate programs, as well as transfer programs that provide the first two years of study toward the baccalaureate degree. Students are attracted to SBCC by virtue of its outstanding faculty, small classes, state-of-the-art facilities and numerous student services.

The National Science Foundation (NSF) is an independent federal agency created by Congress in 1950 "to promote the progress of science; to advance the national health, prosperity, and welfare; to secure the national defense…" With an annual budget of about $6.9 billion (FY 2010), we are the funding source for approximately 20 percent of all federally supported basic research conducted by America’s colleges and universities. In many fields such as mathematics, computer science and the social sciences, NSF is the major source of federal backing.

The NSF’s Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) program supports active research participation by undergraduate students in any of the areas of research funded by the National Science Foundation. REU projects involve students in meaningful ways in ongoing research programs or in research projects specifically designed for the REU program.