Sept. 26, 2008

New nanotechnology office at Weill Cornell to help <br /> 'marry nanofabrication with life sciences'

NEW YORK -- To bring Cornell's cutting-edge nanotechnology capabilities closer to medical researchers, Cornell NanoScale Science and Technology Facility (CNF) has opened a satellite office on the Weill Cornell Medical College campus.

The office serves as yet another link between the Ithaca and Manhattan campuses and provides staff support and specialized software for Weill scientists interested in using CNF to further their research.

"We are seeing an emergence of interest in medical applications of micro- and nanotechnology," said George Malliaras, the Lester B. Knight Director of CNF. "We want to be among the first to capitalize on this and let it grow."

A Sept. 24 celebration to mark the office's opening in New York included an academic symposium, attended by more than 40 people, and a research poster session in the Archbold Commons next to Weill Auditorium. All the posters involved life sciences research, in an effort to demonstrate "what is possible when you marry nanofabrication with life sciences," Malliaras said.

The new office is housed in the Weill Greenberg Center's Institute for Computational Biomedicine, where Harel Weinstein, the Maxwell M. Upson Professor of Physiology and Biophysics at Weill, has donated some of his research space.

Beth Rhoades, CNF's life sciences liaison, and Michael Skvarla, CNF program manager, will spend several days each month at the New York City field office to provide consulting and support to Weill researchers.

Computers in the new office will allow researchers to design their devices or experiments, and Skvarla and Rhoades will be on hand to help if needed. The researchers can later travel to Ithaca to create their devices or perform their experiments using the CNF equipment.

Located in Duffield Hall on the Ithaca campus, CNF is known for its state-of-the-art clean room for micro- and nanofabrication. It is considered a flagship facility of the National Nanotechnology Infrastructure Network, a national consortium of the most advanced nanotechnology centers.

Of CNF's 700-plus users, about 33 percent conduct research in the life sciences -- to some, a surprisingly large figure, given nanotechnology's origins in engineering and physical sciences, Malliaras said. Life sciences researchers are also the fastest-growing user base at CNF, he added.

Scott Blanchard, assistant professor of physiology and biophysics at Weill, said having a CNF office in New York City will likely "provide traction" for more of his medical colleagues to use CNF. Blanchard himself, along with three others in his lab, are already trained CNF users.

"Right now there's a gap between our two cultures of basic and medical science that needs to be overcome," Blanchard said. "I think this is a good first swing at it."