Senator: FM putting students on right track

JOHNSTOWN – U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand on Friday told students aspiring to earn a degree in Fulton-Montgomery Community College’s nanotechnology program they will be joining a growing industry.

“I just want to congratulate you,” Gillibrand, D-N.Y., told a class of students in the program during her tour of the college’s Center for Engineering and Technology. “You all selected a career path in one of the fastest-growing industries we have in upstate New York. It is going to be the future of our economy and the key to long-term economic growth. In New York, we really are becoming the next Silicone Valley.”

After the announcement in October of plans for a $1.5 billion “Nano Utica” at the SUNYIT campus in Marcy, Fulton and Montgomery counties now will be positioned between two nanotechnology centers, the other being the SUNY College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering. The counties also are near the GlobalFoundries chip plant in Malta.

Gillibrand said today more small transistors are being built than grains of rice are being grown across the world.

Nanoscience is the driving force behind the advancement of computer chip technology.

The Nano Utica project is expected to create more than 1,000 high-tech jobs.

FMCC?President Dustin Swanger said the area is prepared to train a nanotechnology workforce.

Swanger said there are about 90 to 100 students in the nanotechnology program, and the program graduated about 25 students last year. He said the focus of the program is job preparation, but some students transfer to the


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nanotechnology programs at UAlbany or SUNYIT.

“We are able to expand the labs when that time comes,” Swanger said about the future of the program.

He said despite the growing interest, there is still space available in the program for more students interested in the growing technology field.

Some of the past and current students in the program told Gillibrand about their experience and the value of what FMCC has to offer in this expanding field.

“This program really gave me the foundation for my career path and what I wanted to do,” said FMCC graduate Aaron White, who is now taking classes at SUNYIT. “Without going here, I would not have this wonderful experience and I would just like to say this is a really great college.”

Johnstown resident and current student Liza Uhlinger told the senator what it’s like to be one of the few females in a male-driven field.

“It was a little intimidating-I have to admit – at first, but I fully anticipated that,” Uhlinger said.

She asked what the senator is doing to promote more women in the growing field.

Gillibrand said she and others at the federal level are looking for ways to promote more minority and female students in the growing technology field.

“All we need to tell the girls is if you become a mathematician, you could cure cancer and help your grandma live longer or if you decide you can be an engineer, you can figure out how to have cleaner air or water so your brother doesn’t get an asthma attack. If you explain that along the way, that they can change and help the world through math, science, engineering and technology, you are going to have more young girls interested because it just never occurs to them,” Gillibrand said.

FM’s Center for Engineering and Technology has a clean room, which Gillibrand toured.

Richard Prestopnik, a professor of electrical technology at the college, was instrumental in securing a $435,000 grant with the help of U.S. Rep. Paul Tonko, D-Amsterdam, to construct the clean room.

Gillibrand said the advanced manufacturing field is what will bring manufacturing back to the United States.

“We just build it better here,” Gillibrand said. “When our companies are competing worldwide in the global economy, they want the quality of work we provide.”