Archive for July, 2010

Biophotonics Merge Medicine and Lasers

Friday, July 30th, 2010
Bio- photo- whatics?  Can this be the career for you?

Bio- photo- whatics? Can this be the career for you?

Last March, we wrote about LaserFest, the year-long celebration of the laser’s 50th birthday. The celebration is still going strong, and so are new applications for lasers.

So, what career opportunities are there for someone studying lasers? According to the Laserfest website , the future is indeed bright for these powerful light sources. Besides powering extremely efficient computer and communications systems and providing alternative energy sources, medical applications for lasers are widespread, and growing. Laserfest notes that within the next five to ten years, doctors may be able to improve cancer diagnoses via lasers that illuminate cellular activity. In addition, lasers are expected to aid in the early detection of Alzheimer’s disease by measuring a protein called beta amyloid (associated with the disease) with a pulsed, blue laser aimed directly at the eye.

Technically known as Biophotonics, this field that merges medicine and lasers is defined as “the study of the interaction of light with biological material — where ‘light’ includes all forms of radiant energy whose quantum unit is the photon.” Simply put, biophotonics enable doctors to noninvasively image and analyze living tissue — everything from diagnostics to surgeries (such as Laser Eye Surgery). In fact, according to The Center for Biophotonics, Science and Technology (CBST), Biophotonics is widely regarded as the key science upon which the next generation of clinical tools and biomedical research instruments will be based.

The CBST is a great place to learn more about the field. Created in 2002 as part of a National Science Foundation project and located at the University of California Davis, the CBST is building an extensive network of schools, industrial partners and Biophotonics research centers to help prepare for the field’s rapidly developing advances. Here, you can learn about specific educational programs at community colleges and four-year colleges throughout the U.S., as well as learn more about the science of Biophotonics.

What would a typical Laser and Photonics curriculum look like? Check out the program at Central Carolina Community College, which we heard about in this week’s Episode. The CCCC program, which offers a specialized Biophotonics curriculum track, is designed to use the majority of its instruction time in lab environments to help students put classroom theory into action. And what makes for a successful experience? According to the CCCC, successful Photonics students enjoy problem-solving, working with their hands, and learning how things work. An interest in math and science is also valuable.

Finally, if you’d like to listen to stories about how lasers are being used in medicine and science (told with a British accent), tune in to Naked Scientists Podcasts. There, you’ll find news and interviews about everything from laser “tweezers” being used to pick up bacteria to laser cancer treatments and a laser technique that’s speeding DNA sequencing.

ATETV Episode 43: Collaboration, Conservation and the Cutting Edge

Tuesday, July 27th, 2010

This week, we learn how companies look to graduates to meet workforce demands, learn about the latest trends in energy conservation and talk with a student who is returning to school to study laser technology.

In our first segment, we visit Springfield Technical Community College, where Computer Technology students are taking classes side-by-side with professionals from area computer companies.

Says Scott Edwards of Juniper Networks, “The collaboration between Juniper and local colleges [enables students to] access the same information [being accessed by professionals] which helps them prepare for the same types of jobs.”

And as Springfield’s Gordon Snyder notes, “What we’re doing is exposing companies to the community college…We have made good connections with these companies and they realize what great places community colleges are. [In fact, community colleges] are now probably the first place they come when want to hire somebody new.”

While industry is becoming more aware of the programs offered at Springfield Technical College, students, teachers and consumers alike are becoming more aware of the high costs of energy – and ways to conserve – as we learn in our second segment.

As Mike Traen of Certified Energy Raters explains, green building verifications and performance testing for Energy Star compliance and rating is a great movement.

“It’s a way to be environmentally responsible,” says Mike. “It amounts to not using more than you have to, not disposing of more than you have to. It’s a good thing for a home owner because you’re going to save money in the process.” Mike predicts that the field of Energy Efficiency and Compliance will expand and that the need for qualified energy technicians, too, will increase.

And, it’s a similar message in our third segment, which takes us to Central Carolina Community College’s Laser and Photonics Program, where student and former truck driver Andy Dawson is making a change, and embarking on an exciting, fast-paced career.

“I’m loving every minute of the program so far,” says Andy. “I mean any time I get something in my hands and I’m having to do the work on it and being able to break that laser down [and figure out what’s wrong with it and how to best fix it] to get it working correctly [I get excited]” he adds. “For just two years’ investment, you can’t go wrong in a community college program, “ he notes.

Let the Games Begin!

Saturday, July 24th, 2010
Useful Tools for Employment?

Useful Tools for Employment?

This week, we heard from Wake Technical Community College student Steve Hardister, who is enrolled in the college’s Simulation and Game Development curriculum. Steve told us that one career area he’d like to pursue after graduation is producing computer simulations for educational purposes.

It turns out that simulation development and “gaming” are not just for amusement anymore. Far from it. Today, video games and “virtual worlds” are being used in fields from medicine and health care to the automobile and aerospace industries. Computer simulation is widely applied throughout academia and computer modeling is used to help safeguard our country against terrorism.

Last year, Bill Waite, chairman of AEgis Technologies Group (a Huntsville, Alabama company that creates simulations for both military and civilian applications) told the New York Times, “It almost doesn’t matter what kind of world you care about; you can use simulations. If you’re a defense agency, you want to create a simulation that will allow a missile……to detonate. [These] same tools and same set of skills are used in the pharmaceutical industry to figure out how the little beads in [an aspirin] are going to get from your stomach to your brain.”

What it boils down to is that designers of computer simulations are sought in a wide variety of fields to help understand complex, multifaceted ideas that are too expensive or dangerous to study in real life. In fact, US News & World Report predicts that job opportunities for Simulation Developers will continue to grow with the wide availability of broadband and ever faster mobile Internet access.

It also turns out that gaming skills are now highly valued by employers in general as the new book, Total Engagement describes.

Now, you may ask, how can a video game like World of Warcraft make you more marketable in the workplace?

Well, just ask Stephen Gillet, a gamer who became Chief Information Officer of Starbucks while he was still in his 20s. According to an article this week on Forbes.com by playing World of Warcraft, Gillet developed the ability to influence and persuade people through leadership rather than trying to order them around. Other important job skills that video games can help you develop: Dealing with unexpected challenges and new situations; managing and organizing information; entrepreneurship; and, of course, mastering competition.

Let the games begin!

ATETV Episode 42- Community Colleges: A Launching Pad for New Careers

Monday, July 19th, 2010

This week, we look at some of the ways that community colleges can provide students with a career boost – whether they are just starting out in high school or getting a fresh start with a mid-career job transition.

In our first segment, we talk with Dennis Trenger of Stark State Community College, where the college’s Dual Enrollment Program provides students with the opportunity to take college-level classes and pursue an Associate’s degree while still in high school.

“[Stark State] is working a lot more with high school superintendants and curriculum directors,” Dennis explains. “[This way we ensure that] what they’re teaching in high school is in alignment with what students will need for college.”

Student Michael Bucklew took advantage of the Early College Program at Timken High School and recently graduated from Stark State with a degree in Electromechanical Engineering – while still in high school. “The Early College Program is designed so that…the inner city kid can go to college,” Michael explains. And with this educational boost, he adds, students can be well on their way to rewarding careers at an early age.

“[Our] collaborations with middle schools, high schools and colleges are extremely important,” explains Dennis Trenger. “[We provide building blocks] so that students can progress….they don’t have to start all over again [when they’ve finished high school.]

Similarly, as we learn in our second segment, community colleges can help individuals who are looking to make a career change. Steve Hardister is studying Simulation and Game Development at Wake Technical College with the aim of making a job transition from the printing industry to a career in 3D graphics.

“I’d reached a salary cap [working in the printing industry] so I decided to make a transition,” explains Steve. “The advantage of taking courses here at Wake Tech is that you are immersed in the actual modeling and hands-on gaming experience….you do learn some theory, but you also get involved in [hands-on] modeling and animation very quickly.”

While Steve hopes to transition into a career that will enable him to develop simulations for educational purposes or do 3D modeling and animation for the entertainment industry, the skills provided with a degree in Simulation and Game Development can also be applied to such diverse industries as the automotive industry or even NASA.

Finally, in the third segment, we visit Kirkwood Community College, where the Precision Agriculture program is getting a lot of support from industry in today’s rapidly growing marketplace.

“For many years, Precision Agriculture kind of plateaued and farmers didn’t really see the value of this technology,” explains Kirkwood’s Terry Brase. “But with the newest technologies, such as guidance systems, a lot of farmers are excited and it seems like we cannot graduate enough students to meet the field’s demands.”

Kirkwood graduate Dan Bosman agrees. “As technology progresses, there’s going to be a larger need for people with [Precision Agriculture] skills. You could find a job working for a cooperative chemical company, for seed dealers….anybody who uses or is involved in agriculture and uses technology [will need employees with these skills, which go well beyond traditional farming.]”

From Blueprint to Building: The Role of an Architectural Technologist

Friday, July 16th, 2010

Architect

Have you ever admired a building and stopped to think about how it came to be? There are many, many steps along the way, and one of the critical roles is played by Architectural Technologists, who work behind the scenes as a vital link between architects and construction crews. In fact, Architectural Technologists provide much of the nuts-and-bolts infrastructure necessary to transform a blueprint into an actual building.

Here are a few of the responsibilities that are typically handled by Architectural Technologists:

*Analysis of technical documents and reports used in construction planning, including building codes and by-laws, and space and site requirements

*Making initial determinations as to which materials will be needed for a building project.

*Determining site specifications and cost estimates, as well as preparing contracts and bidding documents for the construction work.

*Drafting and sketching. The core responsibility of the architectural technologist is usually drafting, which is the creation of the technical drawings that will be used by the construction company. Often using Computer Aided Design and Drafting (CADD) systems, Architectural Technologists can create and store electronic versions of the drawing and quickly make edits to existing designs. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, drafters held over 250,000 jobs in 2006, with about half of all drafting jobs coming from architectural, engineering and construction service firms that design projects for other industries.

Technologists who have completed a technical degree program and possess CADD skills have enhanced desirability as job candidates. Many community colleges offer Associates degree programs in Architectural Technology, like Boston’s Benjamin Franklin Institute of Technology, featured in this week’s ATETV Episode. Here are a few more community college programs to check out:

St. Louis Community College. The college’s Digital Arts and Technology Alliance (DATA) was created to integrate technology resources with the demand for training in digital arts, including in the field of architectural design. The Center for Visual Technology, a DATA component features state-of-the-art computer graphics equipment and software and offers specialized workshops for established professionals to upgrade their skills.

Bluegrass Community and Technical College has been in existence more than 30 years, offering Kentucky’s only Architectural Technology program. The school’s student chapters of the American Institute of Architects and the Building Official and Code Administrators (BOCA) offer students opportunities to network with professionals.

And, the Associate’s degree program in Architectural Technology at Capital Community College in Hartford, Connecticut, not only provides students with job opportunities as draftsmen for architectural and engineering programs, but can also serve as a stepping-stone into a Construction Technology program or a degree program to become a licensed architect. You can view a slideshow of works by CCC students at their website.

A final note: Collegeboard.com, suggests that if you’re considering a major in Architectural Technology, you should be ready to a) Interpret blueprints; b) Submit your plans for critique; c) Become an expert in building materials; d) Prepare mock cost estimates; e) Log time in the computer lab; and f) Be precise and accurate — details are everything in this line of work.

ATETV Episode 41: Passionate About Their Careers

Tuesday, July 13th, 2010

This week, we look at three technological careers that enable students to also draw on their artistic and creative sides — and fulfill some of their life’s passions.

In our first segment, we talk with Andrew Godek, an Architectural Technology student at the Benjamin Franklin Institute of Technology in Boston. Currently studying Architectural Design Studio, a free-hand drawing class in which students design their own houses, Andrew is pleased to have had the opportunity to express his creativity. His advice for future students? “If someone is thinking of going into the Architectural Technology field, I recommend [being in] the city, where there are always great job opportunities.” His second piece of advice: “Definitely have the passion for drawing and be good in math. That’s all I can say.”

And while Andrew is looking forward to influencing the landscape of the city, our second segment introduces us to Chris Eckert, a student who is influencing the design of new products through the Rapid Prototype Technologies program at Saddleback Community College.

“I kind of grew up in hardware store so….the idea of taking things apart and putting them back together [is natural]” explains Chris. “I’m a real mechanical person and seeing a product come out of nothing is pretty amazing to me.”

Technicians skilled in rapid prototying are in tremendous demand in today’s manufacturing marketplace. This type of modeling enables companies to test functionality on a low-cost model before going into actual production — saving time and money. And for students like Chris, the field is also a chance to create his own inventions. “[Inventing] – that’s where my passion is,” he tells us.

Finally, in our third segment, we visit Central Piedmont Community College, where the Geospatial Technology Program is helping students move directly into the workforce as soon as they finish their degrees.

“Every one of our students [from the past two years] is employed in the Geospatial Technology field,” says Central Piedmont’s Chris Paynter. “They’re working for county government, city government and private engineering firms.” And they, too, are being creative, whether out in the field mapping and conducting GPS data collection, or working in an ofice on quality control and quality assurance.

Community college programs like these are helping students set out on the paths that are right for them. You might say they’re literal roadmaps to the future.

What Employers Look for in Job Candidates — And Employees

Friday, July 9th, 2010
Do you have what they want?

Do you have what they want?

This week, we revisited employers at EMC, one of the country’s leading providers of data storage and a pioneer in the field of Information Technology. All three of the people interviewed stressed the importance of developing a strong math and science background for a future in the IT field, but they also shared numerous other pieces of advice for today’s students to think about while they are still in school. We’ve compiled their thoughts into a “Top Ten” list of qualifications and characteristics that IT employers might look for in both job candidates and employees.

1. Time management skills. EMC’s Todd Matthews notes that besides straightforward technical aptitude, he looks at a candidate’s ability to wisely manage his or her time. “Being able to juggle and prioritize…shows us the sort of mindset that [a candidate] might have out in the field …it’s a telltale sign to employers that you’ve got your act together.”

2. Customer service skills. “There’s a number of different traits you would look for [in a candidate applying for a position involving customer relations]” notes EMC’s Todd Casta. “You want people who can speak well and convey confidence in their abilities. Being able to speak on the phone or in group meeting settings is also important. Presentation skills are big.”

3. Troubleshooting skills. Here’s where analytical ability comes in, adds Todd Casta. “The ability to troubleshoot, to really commit to a problem until it’s resolved, is important. It’s also a great sense of accomplishment once you have it figured out.”

4. Knowledge of industry trends. Staying on top of changes — and they are almost constant in the IT world — is also important. Todd Casta suggests you keep an eye on industry periodicals and websites to familiarize yourself with IT trends, be they storage or programming or any of the other IT specialty areas. It can provide an advantage when you are interviewing — and when you get hired.

5. Pursuit of certifications. All three EMC employers interviewed by ATETV — Kim Yohannan, Todd Matthews and Todd Casta — emphasized that pursuing IT certifications demonstrates to future employers not only your qualifications, but also your commitment. “I think the earlier you can get into a certification program — even in high school — you are setting yourself on the right path to become a better IT professional,” notes Casta.

6. Knowledge of the marketplace. “Why not be in an industry where you know you’ll be needed?” asks Todd Matthews. And, he says, data storage is shaping up to be one of the most critical areas of IT in today’s marketplace. “If you look at just pure supply and demand, almost everything today is stored digitally, and that isn’t going to go away.” He emphasizes that there is much more to IT than just computer programming. “There’s room for the folks that love infrastructure…PCs, servers, networking components. If you look at security, if you look at storage, and at infrastructure, those are probably the three fastest growing areas of IT.”

7. Understanding of the big picture. Whether a student wants to be a network administrator, a database administrator, an application developer or a storage administrator, he or she should have an understanding of the infrastructure as a whole, notes Kim Yohannan. “All of these components work together, so knowledge of what the other person is doing, at least a basic understanding of [their function] is important.”

8. Adaptability. Recognize that in the real world, things don’t always go as planned. “You don’t know what type of situation you’re going to walk into,” explains Todd Matthews. “New products are coming out the door all the time and [you have to be ready for it]” he says. Being flexible and adaptable can help lead to success.

9. Demonstrating initiative. “I think this goes for a variety of careers, but especially in IT,” says Matthews, who recommends that when you get into the marketplace, demonstrating that you’re ready to take the next step and looking ahead to the future is extremely valuable. “Taking the initiative to let people know what you want to do and why you see the benefit to a company is huge.”

10. And yes — Knowing Your Math. Being able to figure out equations, calculating power, thinking empirically and logically — they’re all part of the IT profession and they’re all rooted in math. So if you don’t think that learning algebra and calculus applies to the real world, the employers of EMC suggest you think again — math is where it all begins.

Help Wanted: Cyber Security Specialists

Friday, July 2nd, 2010

Cybersecurity

Wanted: Approximately 10,000 – 20,000 young Americans with the Information Technology skills necessary to safeguard America’s massive digital computer infrastructure. Openings available for Cybersecurity Practitioners, Researchers and General “Cyber Warriors.” Positions require elite “hacking” skills, strong ability to “think outside the box,”and a keen understanding of the nation’s security systems and their vulnerabilities. Excellent starting salaries.

Okay, it’s true, we just made up that description, but it’s a fact that the need for IT specialists to defend the Internet and our nation’s communications infrastructure has never been greater, with President Obama identifying Cybersecurity as one of the most serious economic and national security challenges faced by our nation. It’s also true that the job market for Cybersecurity experts is wide open – by one estimate, the U.S. needs at least 20,000 such cyber-specialists, and currently has but 1,000 positions filled.

So, what exactly is a Cybersecurity Specialist? A recent article in USA Today describes the job as “a new class of tech professional specifically trained to battle data thieves, online scammers and cyberspies.”

The demand for these “cyber crime fighters” is so great that not only are schools and businesses intently focused on “cyber” training programs, but the federal government, in collaboration with education officials, military contractors and businesses have even begun sponsoring “American Idol”-like competitions, such as the U.S. Cyber Challenge, which aims to find and recruit 10,000 talented young “security warriors” through intricate “hacking” contests and other tests of security mettle.

ATE programs are at the forefront of this “cyber movement,” with specialty programs including:

CyberWatch, a consortium of Mid-Atlantic colleges focused on cybersecurity training which has grown by nearly 66 percent in each of the last two years, according to the program’s co-director, Casey O’Brien, noting, “People are starting to get that the success of these programs is absolutely critical to the future of our country.”

The Cyber Security Education Consortium (CSEC), which comprises five educational institutions throughout Oklahoma and major population centers in neighboring states to develop strategies to help secure cyberspace.

The Center for Systems Security and Information Assurance Cyber Defense Training Center (CSSIA), founded in 2003 partners with industry and academia to help students develop cyber-security skills.

Think about this for a minute: The vast majority of our day-to-day lives are steeped in computer data, and much of our country’s infrastructure – from banking and financial systems to energy grids to medical records to telecommunications – is reliant on computer systems. In fact, in this week’s ATETV Episode, Todd Matthews of EMC Corporation – one of the world’s largest data storage companies – commented that “More digital data will be created in the next two years than was produced in the last ten.”

Wouldn’t you want to know that all this information was safe in the hands of tomorrow’s cyber-security experts?