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Nanobiotechnology Center

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STC: The Nanobiotechnology Center  (Cornell University)

Research Focus & Anticipated Benefits

The Nanobiotechnology Center (NBTC) was established in January 2000. Nanobiotechnology is an emerging area of scientific and technological opportunity that integrates nano/microfabrication and biosystems to the benefit of both. The Nanobiotechnology Center is characterized by its highly interdisciplinary nature and features a close collaboration between life scientists, physical scientists, and engineers. It has a fully integrated education and outreach effort in which all NBTC faculty participate. The Center brings together experts in their fields from Cornell University, the Wadsworth Center (New York State Health Department in Albany), Princeton University, Oregon Health & Science University, Clark Atlanta University, and Howard University. It also involves the active collaboration of K-12 educators, the Sciencenter Museum in Ithaca, NY, and representatives from industry and the government.

Nanobiotechnology is beginning to generate substantial new insights into how biological systems function, and likewise, nanobiotechnology will lead to the design of entirely new classes of micro- and nanofabricated devices and systems. The use of microfabrication as a method of miniaturizing biological and biomedical devices is just beginning to reach the biotechnology industrial community. Compared to the electronics industry, the fabrication technology now employed in biotechnology industrial development is relatively unsophisticated. This is due, in part, to the challenge of the vastly more diverse array of materials and chemical systems important to biological applications, compared to silicon-based technology in the integrated circuit industry. Thus new fabrication processes must be developed for use with biologically relevant material systems. At the same time, the ability to effectively address dimensions at the molecular scale will open a new world of understanding and methods for scientific exploration and device construction. Our program aggressively pushes the boundaries of technological capabilities and scientific understanding at the interface between the organic and inorganic systems.

Education & Outreach

The Nanobiotechnology Center (NBTC) manages a fully integrated education and outreach effort. Junior and senior level undergraduates are eligible to participate in a Summer Research Program where they learn about nanobiotechnology and join a National Science Foundation-supported effort which seeks to develop new tools and processes that link engineering and biology. Students work in a laboratory setting with faculty supervisors and become an integral part of the research effort. Summer activities complement the research efforts and result in an enriching experience in the theory and application of nanobiotechnology. Undergraduate program participants are also involved in the ongoing activities of the NBTC faculty and receive hands-on training with state-of-the-art fabrication tools.

Women and under-represented minorities are actively recruited into this special training. NBTC also supports novel education and outreach activities for K-12 students and their parents, and partnered with the Ithaca-based Sciencenter to develop a museum exhibit to teach young children and their families about nanoscience.

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  • DNA molecule
A DNA molecule containing a nucleosome is unzipped using a microsphere held in an optical trap.