Nanotechnology Ethics and Policy Education: Learning and Sharing Across Boundaries

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This case study explores an expansive adaptation of the ethics education component of the National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI). As one of its contributions to this cross-cutting federal program, the National Science Foundation established the Nanotechnology Undergraduate Education (NUE) Program “to integrate nanoscale science, engineering, and technology into the undergraduate engineering curricula.” Taking up the challenge, an interdisciplinary, 20-member faculty team (from the disciplines of African and African American Studies, Anthropology, Cultural Studies, Communications, Education, English, Geography, History, International Relations, Law, Materials Science, Philosophy, Political Science, and Sociology) at the Colorado School of Mines (CSM) created the Nano-Science, Technology, Ethics, and Policy (NanoSTEP) project to introduce boundary-crossing societal, ethical, economic, and environmental (S3E) issues at multiple levels in our humanities and social sciences core curriculum. In so doing, NanoSTEP aims to graduate more effective contributors to 21st century engineering practice in accord with an ideal proposed by the National Academy of Engineering in its reports on “The Engineer of 2020.” NanoSTEP further seeks to better understand the effectiveness and influence of ethics and policy learning in the undergraduate engineering curriculum, using nanotechnology as a context. In complement to this educational research, NanoSTEP is also examining relationships between emerging technologies and underrepresented populations, with respect to the potential for environmental and social justice deficiencies, both in access to opportunities for research and education and in regard to benefitting from nano-R&D, and reaching out to engage with colleagues at other institutions in Spain and China.


Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: December 1, 2013

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  • The Journal of Nano Education (JNE) is a peer-reviewed international journal that aims to provide the most complete and reliable source of information on current developments in nanoscale science, technology, engineering, and medical education.
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