Institute to study nanotechnologies

By Lana Groves, Asst. News Editor

With more U researchers specializing in nanotechnology, the U is opening a Nano Institute that will help researchers across campus work together to develop new insights into small-scale technologies.

Marc Porter, co-director of the institute and a professor of chemistry and chemical engineering, said by discussing different topics and ways to implement research, faculty would be working to develop research that is tomorrow’s cutting-edge technology.

“It will help us with new ways to approach ideas and new projects,” Porter said. “You never know when you’re going to find that diamond in the rough.”

Although the U has had researchers working on nanotechnology projects for the past five years, it wasn’t until the Utah Science Technology and Research Initiative began bringing key nanoscience researchers to the U that the institute could develop.

USTAR, developed by the Utah State Legislature more than two years ago to stimulate the economy through research-oriented business brought nanoscience researchers Porter and Hamid Ghandehari to the U last year to work on cutting-edge technology.

Ghandehari, institute co-director and professor of pharmaceutical chemistry and bioengineering, has been working on developing nano-size polymers for the past few years that could track tumors and help slow the rate of cancer.

Part of the Nano Institute could be discussions considering the practical uses of nanotechnology, including possible medicinal use.

“With the discoveries, devices and techniques offered by nanomedicine, the hope for targeted cancer therapies, localized drug delivery, tissue engineering and gene therapy can become everyday realities,” Ghandehari said in a press release.

U Vice President of Research Thomas Parks said the nanotechnology researchers have an excellent nanofabrication facility on campus for use, and will have a more updated facility after the first USTAR building is built on campus in about three years.

Parks said construction crews are expected to break ground on the state-funded building within the next year.

In the meantime, Porter and Ghandehari will spread the word about the new institute and garner interest from the academic community.

“We’re going to have some meetings and show people the possibilities of the institute,” Porter said.

Although the institute will be internally funded through research grants, it is also receiving an undetermined amount of additional start-up funding from USTAR and the U.

Parks said they hope the possibility of a Nano Institute at the U will help it apply for other research grants that might originally have been impossible to win.

The institute could also help researchers and professors train students in nanoscience and other related fields of study.

“The students have to be able to get training in the latest development in nanotechnology,” Parks said. “We need top nanoscientists and engineers and top facilities (to train them).”

Porter and Ghandehari held a conference Thursday and Friday to announce the institute to the public.

“(These will be) the fundamental science breakthroughs (that) lead to tomorrow’s technology,” Porter said.

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