Skip to main content

NanoEngineering Department established at Jacobs School

Carbon nanotube arrays
Carbon nanotube arrays such as these can be used as fluid flow sensors because nanotubes bend in a predictable response to a gas or other fluid flow, which can be be precisely measured by optical means. The research is being conducted jointly by professor Kenneth Vecchio, acting chair of the Jacobs School's NanoEngineering Department, materials science professor Prabhakar Bandaru, and Ph.D. candidates Christian Deck and Chinung Ni.

Jacobs School faculty members and their collaborators have for years been experimenting with tubes, wires and particles built of various materials on a Lilliputian scale of engineering, the nanoscale. At the size of 1 to 100 nanometers, many materials can have extraordinary chemical and physical properties that far surpass their tiny sizes, which partly explains why nano is big at the Jacobs School.

Seeking to capitalize on the potential of a new generation of multi-functional nanoscale devices and special materials at this tiny scale, the school has established a new Department of NanoEngineering. The department was officially established as of July 1, but NanoEngineering classes will be offered for the first time next year. Undergraduates and graduate students will learn from an interdisciplinary team of professors who are leaders in various fields of engineering, physics and chemistry and a variety of new sub-disciplines where those fields overlap.

"Many of the most exciting, cutting edge discoveries are being made at the interfaces of scientific and engineering disciplines," said UCSD chancellor Marye Anne Fox. "This new Department of NanoEngineering, one of the first such departments in the nation, continues UC San Diego's leadership role in the paradigm shift to interdisciplinary research and education in revolutionary new fields that will benefit both society and the planet."

The new department will cover a broad range of topics, but focus particularly on biomedical nanotechnology, nanotechnologies for energy conversion, computational nanotechnology, and molecular and nanomaterials.

"Nanotechnology promises to produce revolutionary advances in medical diagnostics and treatments, energy systems, electronics and materials," said Frieder Seible, dean of the Jacobs School . "Yet we are only just beginning to understand how to assemble and fabricate nanocomponents into higher order materials. Our industry partners tell us they need a new breed of engineers trained in this field to help them fulfill their future workforce needs, not just on the biotechnology side, but in many other areas."

The Department of NanoEngineering's educational program will develop in phases, with plans to reach a steady state of approximately 20 faculty members and an enrollment of 400 undergraduate students and 120 graduate students. The department will also serve as the administrative home of the existing undergraduate and graduate programs in chemical engineering.

The Department of NanoEngineering is supported by faculty in the five other departments at the Jacobs School, and the new department is seeking collaborations with faculty throughout UCSD. The leadership team that was the driving force for creating the new department is made up of engineering professors Sadik Esener (Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering), Michael Heller (Department of Bioengineering), Sungho Jin (Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering), Jan Talbot (Chemical Engineering program within the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering), and Kenneth Vecchio (Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering).

carbon nanotubes
Jacobs School materials science professor Sungho Jin has made carbon nanotubes bent at predetermined angles, a technical advance that could lead to their use as tiny springs, tips for atomic force microscopes, and in many other nanotechnology applications.

In the past five years alone, the five members of the leadership team filed 51 patent applications and licensed six inventions to private companies. Those professors and their fellow faculty members will continue to work closely with the Jacobs School's William J. von Liebig Center for Entrepreneurism and Technology Advancement and UCSD's Technology Transfer and Intellectual Property Services office to accelerate the commercialization of discoveries and prepare engineering students to contribute to the local, national, and global entrepreneurial workplace.

The new department will capitalize on a growing trend throughout public and private research-funding organizations to focus on nanoscale science and engineering approaches that have the potential to make valuable contributions to biology and medicine. For example, in recent solicitations for research proposals, the National Institutes of Health said, "A revolution has begun in science, engineering, and technology based on the ability to work on a nanoscale."

In a manifestation of that revolution, in September 2005 the National Cancer Institute implemented a $144 million initiative by forming eight Centers for Cancer Nanotechnology Excellence (CCNE) in the U.S. , including one at UCSD and its Moores Cancer Center . Esener, a Jacobs School professor and founder of several startup companies, is the principal investigator of the CCNE based at UCSD. That center, which includes scientists at the Burnham Institute for Medical Research and University of California campuses at Irvine , Riverside , and Santa Barbara , brings together the best and brightest from engineering, chemistry, physics, mathematics, biology and health sciences to use nanotechnology to help fight cancer. Esener's CCNE will work closely with the new Department of NanoEngineering.

The new department will occupy nearly half of a new 110,000-square-foot building, currently in the final stages of design that will be built by 2010.The building will house core instructional and laboratory areas and complement the existing Nano3 facility at the UCSD division of the California Institute of Telecommunications and Information Technology (Calit2).

The NanoEngineering Department will occupy nearly half of Engineering Building IV, an 110,000-square-foot structure that will be built by 2010.
The NanoEngineering Department will occupy nearly half of Engineering Building IV, an 110,000-square-foot structure that will be built by 2010.

Print Article