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Center for Biological & Environmental Nanotechnology

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NSEC: Center for Biological and Environmental Nanotechnology  (William Marsh Rice University)

Research Focus & Anticipated Benefits

The Center for Biological & Environmental Nanotechnology (CBEN) at Rice University is a Nanoscale Science and Engineering Center (NSEC) sponsored by the National Science Foundation. NSECs address complex, interdisciplinary challenges in nanoscale science and engineering, and integrate research with education internally and through a variety of partnership activities.

The Center's research focuses on investigating and developing nanoscience at the "wet/dry" interface. Water, the most abundant solvent present on Earth, is of unique importance as the medium of life. The Center's research activities explore this interface between nanomaterials and aqueous systems at multiple length scales, including interactions with solvents, biomolecules, cells, whole-organisms, and the environment. These explorations form the basis for understanding the natural interactions that nanomaterials will experience outside the laboratory, and also serves as foundational knowledge for designing biomolecular/nanomaterial interactions, solving bioengineering problems with nanoscale materials, and constructing nanoscale materials useful in solving environmental engineering problems.

Education & Outreach

In order to transform nanoscience into a strong, vital discipline, the Center must draw new talent into the field. Educational outreach efforts develop programs to identify, recruit, and train the nanoscience workforce of the future. As a centerpiece program, 9th grade teachers in the minority-rich Houston school district are being trained to engage in the more successful but challenging discovery-based teaching style. The Center provides content lectures and tutoring to these educators and offers a meaningful experience in research laboratories. These teachers also identify students to participate in a Center science academy. New curriculum and textbook development, a summer Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) program, and research in Center-funded laboratories extend the Center's educational outreach activities to the undergraduate and graduate levels.

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