UW Today

This is an archived article.

February 24, 1998

Nobel Prize-winner, acclaimed science photographer kick off UW Center for Nanotechnology

To launch a new center dedicated to research and teaching of the very small, the University of Washington has recruited two big names in science. Nobel Laureate Steven Chu of Stanford University and acclaimed science photographer Felice Frankel of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology will be keynote speakers at a March 6 seminar to formally kick off the UW Center for Nanotechnology.

The seminar, scheduled to begin at 4 p.m. in Room 102 of the UW Physics-Astronomy Building, is free and open to the public.

Chu, recipient of the 1997 Nobel Prize in physics for his research on the interplay of light and atoms, will describe the history and future potential of techniques he helped to develop for using lasers to cool and trap atomic particles. Frankel, whose striking microscopic photographs have appeared on the covers of top scientific journals and are featured in the award-winning book “On the Surface of Things,” will present and discuss images that offer an informative and potentially powerful new connection between science and the general public.

“As we at the University of Washington mark the beginning of our effort to move to the forefront of nanotechnology, we are very fortunate to hear from both Steven Chu, a true pioneer in the field, and Felice Frankel, who has a wonderful track record for communicating science and technology through photography,” says Viola Vogel, associate professor of bioengineering and director of the UW Center for Nanotechnology. “Our goal for this kick-off event is to convey the potential of this exciting new field to the general public and local industry and to engage them in the university’s efforts to create a vibrant educational hub to ensure that the state of Washington is a leader in nanotechnology.”

The UW Center for Nanotechnology was created with $1 million from the University Initiatives Fund, which reallocates resources from throughout campus to underwrite innovative, new programs strategically selected to strengthen the university and seize opportunities that otherwise would not be pursued.

Bringing together professors and students from a dozen departments in the College of Arts and Sciences, College of Engineering, School of Pharmacy and School of Medicine, the center will coordinate an interdisciplinary approach to research and education in nano-scale science and technology.

For the first time in history, scientists and engineers can see, analyze and manipulate individual atoms. This makes it possible, Vogel explains, to study and artificially mimic the very process of life as it unfolds on the molecular level. Nanotechnology breakthroughs already are leading to greater miniaturization of electronics, more biologically compatible medical implants and new ultra-strong composite materials.

Chu, the Theodore and Frances Geballe professor of physics and applied physics at Stanford, helped pioneer the field in the mid 1980s with the development of “optical tweezers” enabling scientists to use laser light to grip and manipulate atomic particles. Chu’s research team has developed techniques to study the behavior of chains of atoms and single strands of viral DNA, though these molecules are normally too small to see with an optical microscope.

Frankel, research scientist and artist-in-residence at MIT’s Edgerton Center, illustrates the wonder of this molecular world through microscopic photography and digital imaging of material surfaces. With funding from the Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts and the Graham Foundation, Frankel has trained scientists and students in the use of images to communicate their research and stimulate new paths of discovery. She and her colleagues currently are developing standards and methodologies for scientific imaging as part of a National Science Foundation project titled “Envisioning Science and Engineering.”

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For more information, contact Vogel’s office at (206) 616-9760.