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The newspaper of The Johns Hopkins University April 23, 2007 | Vol. 36 No. 31
Nano-Bio Symposium Debuts Friday

Gathering marks end of first year of institute's operation

By Phil Sneiderman

The Institute for NanoBioTechnology, an ambitious research effort drawing on diverse researchers from four Johns Hopkins divisions, will host its first Nano-Bio Spring Symposium on Friday, April 27.

The event, which is open to the entire university community, will feature presentations by eight prominent speakers from outside institutions, plus a large poster session calling attention to current nanobiotechnology research taking place at Hopkins.

The talks will be presented from 9 a.m. to 1:15 p.m. in 1 Remsen on the Homewood campus. After a lunch break, the event will reconvene from 2 to 4 p.m. in the Mattin Center SDS Room with a poster session featuring research from 50 to 75 groups.

The symposium occurs as the multidisciplinary institute wraps up its first year of operation, a year marked by growing faculty participation and the awarding of the institute's first seed grants to faculty researchers and its first summer internships to undergraduates.

"We've had a very successful first year, leading up to what promises to be the first in an annual series of symposiums during which we can share important information about what's happening in the field of nanobiotechnology," said Peter Searson, a professor of materials science and engineering, who serves as director of the institute.

The speakers at Friday's event will include Michael P. Sheetz, a professor of biological sciences at Columbia University; David J. Mooney, a professor of bioengineering at Harvard University; Gunter Oberdorster, a professor of environmental medicine at the University of Rochester; and Dennis Discher, a professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering at the University of Pennsylvania.

(A complete lineup of the speakers, the times of their presentations and their topics can be viewed online at

The institute was launched last May to focus efforts at Johns Hopkins toward achieving major advances in medicine by developing new diagnostic tools and treatments based on interdisciplinary research conducted at the atomic or molecular level. The center started with just over 75 faculty members from the Whiting School of Engineering, the School of Medicine, the Krieger School of Arts and Sciences and the Bloomberg School of Public Health. It currently has 140 affiliated faculty from these divisions.

The field of nanobiotechnology is barely a decade old, but the institute's organizers asserted that Johns Hopkins was an ideal site for a major research center in this field because it can bring together world-class expertise in the many disciplines needed to study and test biological components smaller than a human cell and to fabricate materials and devices that can operate at this scale.

The scale of this research is astonishingly small. A nanometer is one-billionth of a meter. By comparison, a single strand of human hair is roughly 50,000 to 80,000 nanometers wide. Some of the projects envisioned by institute researchers involve manipulation of a single molecule or a fragment of protein.

Institute members have been focusing on four key research areas: diagnostics, therapeutics, cellular and molecular dynamics, and health and environment. Over the past year, the institute has awarded 12 seed grants to Johns Hopkins research teams in three of these four research areas; the diagnostic research seed grants are expected to be awarded in the fall.

Seed grants allow multidisciplinary teams to do preliminary research as they apply for expanded funding from outside sources. The initial grants involve researchers from all four of the participating divisions.

This summer, 10 Johns Hopkins undergraduates will be supported by the institute's first 10-week internships, allowing them to work on nanobiotechnology research projects under the supervision of participating faculty members.


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