Jun 25, 2024  
2020-2021 SDSM&T Academic Catalog 
2020-2021 SDSM&T Academic Catalog [ARCHIVED CATALOG]

Nanoscience and Nanoengineering Program

Return to {$returnto_text} Return to: Graduate Programs Listing

Contact Information

Dr. Steve Smith
Nanoscience and Nanoengineering
(605) 394-5268
E-mail: Steve.Smith@sdsmt.edu

Advisory Council

Professors Ahrenkiel, Fong, Salem and Smith (Chair); Associate Professor Zhu; Assistant Professors Anderson, Wang and Wood; Dean Price (ex-officio).


Dr. S. Phil Ahrenkiel, Professor of Nanoscience and Nanoengineering, PhD, University of Colorado Boulder, high resolution TEM microscopy and diffraction methods, energy and nanomaterials, MOCVD crytal growth, lattice mismatched epilayers for photovoltaics. Group website

Dr. Robert B. Anderson, Assistant Professor of Nanoscience and Nanoengineering, PhD South Dakota School of Mines and Technology, Optical properties of materials, nanophotonics, lattice light sheet microscopy, live cell imaging.

Dr. Hao Fong, Professor of Chemistry, PhD University of Akron, Nano-scaled polymer, ceramic and carbon/graphite fibers and their applications. Group website

Dr. Haiping Hong, Research Scientist IV, PhD Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Carbon nanotube based composites, nanofluids, and nanogrease.

Dr. Steve Smith, Professor and Director of Nanoscience and Engineering; PhD University of Michigan, Ann Arbor; Energy and time-resolved nanoscale optical spectroscopy, electronic and photonic properties of nanomaterials, nanophotonics and plasmonics, multiphoton microscopy, correlated fluorescence and atomic force microscopy, nano-bio-imaging. Group website

Dr. David Salem, Professor of Materials and Metallurgical Engineering, Chemical and Biological Engineering, Nanoscience and Nanoengineering, Director of Composites and Polymer Engineering (CAPE) Laboratory; PhD University of Manchester; Polymer processing and nanocomposites. CAPE website

Dr. Scott Wood, Assistant Professor of Nanoscience and Nanoengineering, PhD Clemson University, Nanomechanics and mechanobiology, mechanotransduction in chondrocytes and osteoarthritis. 

Dr. Congzhou Wang, Assistant Professor of Nanoscience and Nanoengineering, PhD Virginia Commonwealth; Nano-biotechnology, nano-biomechanics, nanosensors, metal-organic framework (MOF) chemistry and applications.

Dr. Zhengtao Zhu, Associate Professor of Chemistry, PhD SUNY Binghamton. Nano imprinting and lithography, organic-inorganic nano-composite electronic materials. Group website

Nanoscience and Nanoengineering

Nanoscience and Nanoengineering refer to fields of science and engineering with a focus on visualizing, manipulating and delineating the laws governing all phases of matter on the scale of one billionth of a meter, roughly one hundred thousandth the diameter of a human hair. Nanotechnology refers to the specific technologies enabled by Nanoscience and Nanoengineering. The Nanoscience and Nanoengineering (Nano SE) PhD Program at the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology is an interdisciplinary PhD program focusing on the science and engineering of nano-scale materials, nano-metrology, and nano-biotechnology. The goal of nanoscience and nanotechnology is to manipulate matter at the atomic and “nano” length scales (dimensions from a few to 100’s of atomic radii), e.g. the molecular to mesoscopic levels, where new materials and phenomena have been discovered. The ability to engineer systems at these length scales will require professionals with a broad understanding of fundamental principles and the ability to cross over into other fields. The Nano SE program provides the training to allow scientists and engineers to address these challenges, and the opportunity for students to engage in such research at the School of Mines while pursuing the PhD.

Students from traditional science and engineering backgrounds enter the program with well-defined research interests and affiliate themselves with a research group and a faculty mentor. Current program participants are affiliated with Nanoscience and Nanoengineering, Chemistry and Applied Biological Sciences, Chemical and Biological Engineering, Mechanical Engineering, and Materials and Metallurgical Engineering. Students with training in traditional engineering and science disciplines participate in cross-disciplinary research with a nano focus.

Research Areas

Three current focus areas of the program are Electronic-Photonic Materials, Nano-Bio Imaging and Nano-Biotechnology, and Nanocomposites and Applications. A synopsis of each of these areas is given below:

Nanoelectronic and Photonic Materials: Encompasses the synthesis, characterization and theory of nanostructured electronic and photonic materials and devices. Examples are nanostructured solar cells, nanophotonic or plasmonic materials, devices and structures. Faculty: Ahrenkiel, Anderson, Smith, Zhu.

Nano-biotechnology and Nano-imaging: Development of nanotechnologies and methods to influence and or characterize living systems. Examples are live cell, super-resolution imaging, electron tomography, cell level and sub-cell level nano-biotechnologies. Faculty: Ahrenkiel, Anderson, Smith, Wang, Wood, Zhu.

Nanocomposites and Applications: Development of multi-component materials with properties exceeding the performance of matrix and nano-phased fillers. Examples are structural, thermal-insulating and optoelectronic organic/inorganic nanofiber composites. Faculty: Fong, Hong, Salem, Wood, Zhu.

Nanoelectronics and Nanophotonics: Transmission Electron Microscopy images of quantum nanowires grown on lattice mismatched virtual substrate by MOCVD (Ahrenkiel Lab). Nano-imaging and Bio-nanotechnology: Correlated fluorescence / Atomic Force Microscopy of skin melanoma cell membrane, clathrin endocytes in blue (Smith lab). Nanocomposites: Schematic mock-up of space habitat with multiple potential applications of nanocomposites highlighted (Salem lab).

Examples of recent research projects are epitaxial crystal growth of semiconductor nanowires and structural, optical characterization of related nanomaterials for solar energy; superresolution optical imaging methods and nonlinear optics applied to the imaging of nano-scale bio-materials and systems for bio-fuels, immunotherapies, and improved agriculture; and synthesis and characterization of nano-composite materials for structural thermally insulating materials for space habitats.

Degree Options

The primary focus of the Nano SE program is the PhD in Nanoscience and Nanoengineering. However, an MS in Nanoscience and Nanoengineering (non-thesis) is also available and can be earned en route to the PhD.


  1. Students demonstrate advanced knowledge of the physics, chemistry and engineering at the nanoscale.
  2. Students demonstrate specific knowledge as pertaining to their area of specialization.
  3. Students will utilize contemporary methods, tools, and theory to perform research in their area of specialization.
  4. Students are cognizant of the scientific literature in their area of specialization, and understand contemporary issues and frontiers.
  5. Students will develop a technically sound research plan to address a research problem.
  6. Students will communicate effectively in written and oral presentations.
  7. Students demonstrate intellectual honesty when working with data and ideas.
  8. Students have made an original contribution to nanoscience or nanoengineering.

Financial support

A limited number of fellowships and assistantships are available to qualified students. All applicants are automatically considered for assistantships. Nano SE PhD students are generally supported as graduate research assistants (GRAs), support is determined at the time of admission and is contingent on available funding on an ongoing basis. Students are encouraged to seek extramurally funded fellowships, such as the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship.

Background requirements

A student whose bachelor’s degree is in any science or engineering field is eligible for admission to this program. However, the following courses are regarded as minimum pre-requisites to this program.

Chemistry: one year, general
Math: one year calculus, ordinary differential equations, matrix algebra
Computer Science: proficiency in a computer programming language
Physics: one year, calculus based

Students with an MS degree in science or engineering are eligible for admission to the PhD program. However, students with only a BS degree will also be considered for admission when the student has proven to possess exceptional qualifications.

Admission requirements

The Nano SE MS and PhD programs require GRE (Graduate Record Examination) scores for all applicants. Most successful applicants score above the 50th percentile verbal, and 80th percentile quantitative, but there are no cut-offs for admission. Three letters of recommendation, official transcripts of all degrees and a statement of purpose are required. A GPA of 3.00 or better are required of all applicants for the PhD program. The TOEFL exam is required for students whose native language is not English. All other graduate school requirements apply. Any student who is found weak in communications, as evidenced by written reports and/or seminar presentations, may be required to take additional English or speech coursework.

Transfer credits

Students entering the program with an MS degree in a traditional engineering or science discipline may apply up to 24 approved coursework credits toward the PhD.

Policies for transferring credits from outside institutions can be found in the requirements and policies applied to all graduate degrees  by the Council of Graduate Education. All transfers are subject to approval by the student’s advisor or advisory committee.

Additional information

The Nano SE PhD program builds on traditional science and engineering disciplines and offers a “core” curriculum which introduces students from varying science and engineering backgrounds to contemporary topics in nanoscience and nanoengineering. More information about the Nano SE MS and PhD are available in the Nano SE PhD Program Handbook.




Return to {$returnto_text} Return to: Graduate Programs Listing