Rensselaer Named One of Six National Nanotechnology Centers

September 19, 2001

Rensselaer Named One of Six National Nanotechnology Centers

NSF to Provide $10 Million in Funding

Troy, N.Y. — Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, N.Y., was selected by the National Science Foundation to receive $10 million to develop one of six Nanoscale Science and Engineering Centers (NSEC), the NSF announced today.

“We are elated to be one of the six universities to be named an NSF Nanoscale Science and Engineering Center,” said Shirley Ann Jackson, president of Rensselaer. “This Center will significantly advance nanotechnology research, will serve the National Nanotechnology Initiative, and will contribute to the economic growth of the Capital Region. To be selected with Cornell and Columbia as leaders in this vital effort underscores the strength of New York universities in nanotechnology research.”

Senate Majority Leader Joseph L. Bruno said, “With this designation, Rensselaer will be at the forefront of nanotechnology research and development. The state has joined the federal government and private businesses in making a major financial commitment so Rensselaer has the best lab facilities and the best researchers. The next generation of major scientific breakthroughs and the economic development that will result from them, will take place right here.” The choice of Rensselaer followed intense competition. Twenty-four first-round finalists were selected from close to 100 applications. That number was pared down to 11 before the government chose the final six winners.

In addition to Rensselaer, two other New York state universities, Cornell and Columbia, received an NSF NSEC. The other recipients are Northwestern, Harvard, and Rice universities.

Called the Center for Directed Assembly of Nanostructures, the NSEC at Rensselaer, will be headed by Richard W. Siegel, Robert W. Hunt Professor of Materials Science and Engineering.

The Center will address fundamental scientific issues underlying the design and synthesis of new materials and structures with dramatically different and improved properties. Research in the NSF Center could lead to smart drug delivery systems, bioengineered tissues, and novel nanoscale devices for electronic, magnetic, and photonic applications, among other applications.

The NSF Center involves a partnership between Rensselaer, the University of Illinois at Urbana - Champaign, and Los Alamos National Laboratory. In addition to the NSF funding of $10 million over the next five years, Rensselaer and UIUC, New York state, and industry will each contribute $500,000 a year for the next five years, for a total of more than $17 million.

With major emphases on new materials and biotechnology, the NSF Center for Directed Assembly of Nanostructures will be incorporated as part of the overall research, education, and outreach plans of the Rensselaer Nanotechnology Center, formed this past April, also headed by Siegel.

The focus on directed assembly is what makes the NSEC at Rensselaer unique. “Lots of people can now make nanoscale building blocks. The question is how do you assemble them to create new materials and novel devices that you can control and manipulate,” said Siegel. Jonathan Dordick, Rensselaer’s Howard P. Isermann Professor of Chemical Engineering, will play a leading role in this effort. His primary focus will address directed assembly in the biosciences.

“A lot of the biocomponent of the Nanotechnology Center is to incorporate the uniqueness of nature into manmade materials,” said Dordick. These materials would be the basis for devices that could one day diagnose illness and play a central role in drug discovery. For example, the use of selective enzymes and other proteins in various nanomaterials would create a biosystem that could be introduced into cells to work as an antibody to manipulate or destroy contaminated proteins or target molecules.

Another important component of the NSF Center will be to develop educational partnerships with premier undergraduate institutions, including Morehouse, Mount Holyoke, Smith, Spelman, and Williams colleges. These partnerships will enable Rensselaer to place special emphasis on educating groups of students that have been long underrepresented in science and engineering.

In addition, the NSF Center will work to excite and educate a diverse cadre of young people in grades K-12. Linda Schadler, associate professor of materials science and engineering at Rensselaer, will lead the K-12 teaching component that will include collaborations with the Junior Museum of Troy. Schadler will take advantage of the museum’s multimedia theater and the planetarium equipped with a new Digistar® projection system, capable of projecting 3-D computer images, video, and slides.

The NSF awarded the six NSECs as part of the federal government’s $500 million National Nanotechnology Initiative, which stemmed from a worldwide study, led by Siegel, of trends in nanostructure science and technology from 1996 to 1998.

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, founded in 1824, is the nation’s oldest technological university. The Institute is a leader in research and is especially well known for its success in the transfer of technology from the laboratory to the marketplace so that new discoveries and inventions benefit human life, protect the environment, and strengthen economic development.

Contact: Patricia Azriel
Phone: (518) 276-6531
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Founded in 1824, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute is America’s first technological research university. Rensselaer encompasses five schools, over 30 research centers, more than 140 academic programs including 25 new programs, and a dynamic community made up of over 6,800 students and 104,000 living alumni. Rensselaer faculty and alumni include upwards of 155 National Academy members, six members of the National Inventors Hall of Fame, six National Medal of Technology winners, five National Medal of Science winners, and a Nobel Prize winner in Physics. With nearly 200 years of experience advancing scientific and technological knowledge, Rensselaer remains focused on addressing global challenges with a spirit of ingenuity and collaboration. To learn more, please visit