Nano science: By getting small, Hampton U. aims big

By Evan Winston

Nano science is a hot topic in the science world today. With the help of The Hampton University School of Science, that very topic has made its way on campus. Last November, the school of Science received a $2.9 million grant to establish a nano science concentration, which engages students in the world of nano science and research with international partners.

This 2013-2014 school year is the first year that the program has been implemented, and Michelle O. Claville, Ph.D., assistant dean, in the School of Science, foresees this program gaining strength in the future. “It is my hope that it (the concentration) gains strength,” she said. The presence of nanoscience at Hampton has come at an opportune time, as HU looks to become a research university. Claville also said that Hampton is primed to accomplishing that goal, but will have to build its research infrastructure.
Nanotechnology is defined as the “manipulation of matter on an atomic and molecular scale.” Nano is 10 to the 9th power, better known as 1 billionth.

How small is that? An example of things on the nano scale, are a sheet of paper being 100,000 nanometers thick, or a strand of DNA being 2.5 nanometers in diameter. The human fingernail grows a nanometer per second. On a comparative scale, if the diameter of a marble were a nanometer then the diameter of planet earth would be approximately one meter.

The origin a nano science came in 1959, when California Institute of Technology professor Richard Feynman described a process which scientists would be able to manipulate and control individual atoms and molecules in his book entitled “There’s Plenty of Room at the Bottom.”
Nano science allows us to see and manipulate the atoms. One marvel of nano science was medieval stained glass windows. The manipulation of the color scheme and design of the windows, are a prime example of nano science.

Nano science has become a great investment in the science, technology, engineering, and mathematic (STEM) field. According to the book “A Gentle Introduction to Nano science” by Mark and Daniel Ratner, it is estimated that by the year 2020, that there will be a need for 6million nano-based workers. Nano science will be used for a wide range of things from testing weaponry, and national security, to cosmetics and clothing.

Nano science is credited in making Mexico City lose its identity as a high-polluted area. Now that nation’s capital has buildings that are made to eliminate pollution.
It is findings like these that interested Claville, thus motivating her and the School of Science to push for a concentration in the field. When asked what interested her in the field, the assistant dean explained the importance of current technology. “Everything we understand about elements, atoms are elementary, now that we have proper technology to look at and understand properties that we couldn’t in the past,” said Claville.

Claville has high hopes for the program here at HU. Already students are doing research in physics and pharmacy, however they are separate programs. “My hope is that the programs will consolidate their efforts,” she said. Whether or not students choose to participate in the STEM field or not, the goal is for Hampton University to be well known for expertise in a certain area.
If that happens then graduate schools that are well known in research, should look to Hampton to recruit the brightest and best students in the field.

The writer is a student in the Scripps Howard School of Journalism and Communications.