UNR students to benefit from Tesla annoucement

Tesla Nevada Infographic

By Zoe Wentzel, @ZoeWentzel

RENO, Nev. – There’s been a lot of hubbub about the recently signed Tesla legislation that will allow the five million-square-foot gigafactory to move into northern Nevada. With strong economic projections, the factory is expected to increase state employment by two percent according to the Nevada Governor’s Office of Economic Development. But what could the Tesla deal bring to the University of Nevada, Reno?

Jobs, and lots of them.

Graduates of various programs on campus could seek employment in the new gigafactory, and Tesla has promised to prioritize the employment of Nevadans in its factory. Of all the programs on campus, the UNR College of Engineering and Department of Chemistry could see their own graduates as future Tesla employees.

While the Tesla project currently allocates a $1 million grant for battery research at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, UNR isn’t choosing to step aside and let its southern rival take the lead.

Dr. Alan Fuchs, associate professor and chair of UNR’s College of Engineering, sees the Tesla deal as a vital opportunity for engineering students, specifically those focusing on chemicals and materials.

“We are currently putting together plans to create new education and research programs in batteries. We are proposing a minor and certificate in these areas,” Dr. Fuchs said. “Faculty in all of the engineering departments have done research which relates to battery technology. We are assembling groups to deal with Tesla’s needs in these areas.”

Changes in programing are also happening in the chemistry department, which had already been catering programs to prepare students for jobs in manufacturing prior to the announcement. Now, the department is a looking into potentially expanding to accommodate for Tesla specifically.

“We’ve been adding some subjects in our curricula for manufacturing,” said Sean Casey, associate professor and chair for the chemistry department. “We had a polymer chemistry class that recently underwent some revisions and that is something that, high tech polymers used in these batteries are important components, could maybe be tailored for a week or two of lecture to cover that kind of stuff.”

For both engineering and chemistry, there are hopes that Tesla will work with the university.

“Our engineering internship program is designed to provide coordination with Tesla so that our graduates and interns are well prepared to enter their battery manufacturing environment,” said Dr. Fuchs.

The Tesla gigafactory isn’t expected to be completed until 2017,  which gives ample time for students to become more prepared for such an important employment opportunity. With the economy in Nevada currently being less than favorable, this gives UNR the chance to maintain graduates in state after graduation. Not only does this bring economic benefits, but it also helps to build a stronger university presence in Northern Nevada.

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