$11.4 Million to Open Center to Explore the Boundaries between Nanotechnology and Biology
The University of Pennsylvania is one of six institutions to receive funding from the National Science Foundation for a new Nanoscale Science and Engineering Center (NSEC). As part of the NSEC program, Penn's new Nano/Bio Interface Center will bring together researchers from across campus to study the intersection of technology and biology at the nanoscale—or molecular—level.
The Penn center will receive $11.4 million during the next five years. The funding is renewable for a second term, for a total of approximately $23 million from the NSF program, along with several million dollars in additional grants from NSF and other government sources.
"As electronics and machines are driven ever smaller, they will inevitably be integrated with biological systems, which will have dramatic technological, biomedical and social implications," said Dr. Dawn Bonnell, Trustee Term Professor of Materials Science and Engineering and director of the new center. "The new center will bring together Penn's renowned strengths in nanotechnology and the life sciences, as well as lead the national discussion on the ethical considerations surrounding nanoscale science and its potential impact on humanity."
The center's research program is structured around two major themes: biomolecular function and molecular motion. In addition, the center will explore two cross-cutting initiatives: the creation of probes to analyze individual molecules and the ethics of nanotechnology. A NanoProperty Lab will serve as a national resource for single molecule analysis.
"The center will unite investigators from 10 departments in SEAS, Medicine and SAS to provide the two-way flow of information essential to fully realize the combined benefits of biology and nanotechnology," Dr. Bonnell said. "The center will contribute to our understanding of basic physiology as well as lead to new commercial applications, such as manufacturing nanoscale devices and delivering therapeutic drugs."
The Nano/Bio Interface Center will administer Penn's new Undergraduate Minor and Ph.D. Certificate Program in Nanotechnology. The center will actively work with the School District of Philadelphia to introduce nanotechnology to students in order to increase scientific literacy and inspire the next generation of nanoengineers.
In addition to its cross-campus partnerships, the Nano/Bio Interface Center will actively collaborate with other nanotechnology initiatives nationally and internationally. These partners include Drexel University, the Center for Integrated Nanostructures at Sandia and Los Alamos National Laboratories, the Nanotechnology Institute, the Technical University of Dresden, Germany, and Cambridge University and the University of Birmingham in the U.K.