Nanoscience and Nanotechnology at the University of South Florida
Research and educational opportunities in nanoscience and nanotechnology and the development of new nanotechnologies account for an increasingly large share of what USF offers the world and what it produces. Nanoscience is the study of nanometer-scale materials and material properties. Nanotechnology seeks to apply knowledge of such materials or processes. Efforts to commercialize various nanotechnologies are well underway, and many more are on the horizon. It is anticipated that nanotechnology will influence diverse fields, lead to many improvements of existing applications and generate new ones, and thus come to play a major role in industrial and economic development in the 21st century. Benefits for people everywhere are likely to include powerful miniaturized electronic and optical systems, novel materials and processes in alternative energy, novel drug delivery systems, novel environmental technologies and more.
The University of South Florida ranks among America’s top research institutions. Already, the research done in nanoscience and nanotechnology at USF has had a significant impact in science at the national and international levels. USF is thus promoting the development of nanotechnology-based industry at home and abroad. The Nanotechnology Research and Education Center at USF is vital to the effort. The Center features a suite of state-of-the-art instrumentation and fabrication equipment. These devices are maintained and operated by highly skilled professionals, who also assist senior investigators in their research and provide valuable training to junior investigators. The areas of nanoscience being investigated by faculty affiliates of the Center include new materials, molecular and nano-electronics, nano-electroptics, nano-medicine and nano-biology. These research efforts are aimed at developing new transistors, computational memory elements, sensors and biosensors, renewable energy sources, water treatment methods, targeted drug delivery systems and other technologies. The results have been published in world-leading scholarly journals.
Over 60 senior researchers at USF are affiliated to the Nanotechnology Research and Education Center. Based in the Departments of Anthropology, Chemical and Biomedical Engineering, Chemistry, Civil and Environmental Engineering, Computer Science and Engineering, Electrical Engineering, Industrial and Management Systems Engineering, Mechanical Engineering, Physics and Molecular Medicine, these investigators represent a broad range of research areas. All of the noted disciplines (and others) will be influenced by nanoscience and nanotechnology, directly or indirectly. Research students from these departments have undertaken dissertation projects focused on nanoscience or nanotechnology.
Financial support for nanoscience and nanotechnology research at USF has come from National Science Foundation, Department of Energy, Air Force Office of Scientific Research, Army Research Office, National Institutes of Health and other agencies in federal and state government. Dozens of nanotechnology-related patents have been issued to USF-based investigators. USF ranked ninth among US universities for number of patents issued in 2009. A recipient of USF’s Innovator of the Year award in 2010 was for work at the intersection of nanotechnology and bioengineering. A USF investigator is an associate editor of the Elsevier journal Nanomedicine: Nanotechnology, Biology, and Medicine. An NSF-sponsored program that provides research experience in applied physics to undergraduate students involves several projects in nanotechnology. The Applied Science Academy, run by the Department of Mathematics for high school students, features research projects and lectures on nanotechnology. The Tampa Bay Technology Incubator in USF’s Research Park has hosted dozens of high-technology companies, many of them spin-outs from USF and a large proportion of them in nanotechnology. The USF environment thus provides opportunities for faculty, students and graduates to participate in entrepreneurial activities and capitalize on innovations created within the University.