Schenectady County

SCCC has first nanoscale tech grad

Simon Miner is in a graduating class of one.

Simon Miner is in a graduating class of one.

He is graduating this Saturday from Schenectady County Community College as its first recipient of an associate degree in nanoscale materials technology. Miner has been working part time for SuperPower Inc. since last summer and has landed a full-time job there.

Miner said he is excited about being the first graduate in the program. “I enjoyed being a part of this cutting-edge technology and being able to use top equipment,” he said.

Nanoscale materials measure less than a billionth of a meter in thickness — about 80,000 times smaller than the width of a human hair. They are used in all kinds of practical applications, such as cellphones and iPods.

The college started the program in the fall of 2006 as part of a partnership with SuperPower Inc. and Union College. These three entities received a $5 million state grant to develop a highly skilled labor force to allow SuperPower to manufacturer second generation, high-temperature superconducting wire.

SCCC received $1 million to purchase microscopes and spectroscopic testing equipment, upgrade facilities and develop curriculum.

Miner said he wanted to be a part of the growing technology movement after hearing about it on television and reading a Time magazine article about the subject.

“I understood that this is the future,” he said. “It’s a science that’s going to cross fields from biology and physics to space exploration.”

SCCC held an event Monday to celebrate Miner’s achievement with local officials and representatives from SuperPower.

With Miner’s wife Bridget and 8-month-old daughter Layla looking on, Miner thanked college officials for the program, especially SCCC physics assistant professor Ted Mar, who told him about it. Miner added he hoped to be the first in a long line of successful graduates.

Trudy Lehner, director of marketing for SuperPower, said this whole effort started with a conversation the two colleges and SuperPower had back in 2004. The company needed to ramp up production but there was a shortage of workers.

“We were finding it quite challenging to bring in additional employees with the skill sets we needed,” she said.

SuperPower employees designed the curriculum and even served as instructors.

Ron Bucinell, a professor in the mechanical engineering department at Union College, joked that Miner will be one of the few graduates who has a job upon graduation. On a serious note, Bucinell said the partnership represents an effort to increase the number of good jobs in upstate New York.

“It’s not only benefiting SuperPower but it’s helped every other company in this community, the local region, the Capital District,” he said.

Bucinell said he is working to expand the program to other community colleges.

Schenectady County Legislature Chairwoman Susan Savage also praised the collaboration.

“We created a very good partnership that’s going to serve our community well for years to come,” she said.

Tania Cabrera, assistant professor in the mathematics, science and technology department of SCCC, said she hoped that others would follow in Miner’s footsteps.

“I always use him as an example of what you can do. Hopefully, they’re jealous of you and they’ll follow this path.”

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