June 25, 2019 | Nanoscience and Nanotechnology at UCLA

Research and ideas from UCLA faculty and our collaborators

ACS Nano Editorial

The California NanoSystems Institute at UCLA brings together science, engineering, medicine, art, film, law, public health, public policy, and entrepreneurship with faculty, students, staff, and industrial partners. (Image credit Brad Feinknopf).

This article was originally published by ACS Nano

This year, the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) celebrates its centennial. We join in this celebration with a virtual issue of ACS Nano featuring research and ideas from UCLA faculty and our collaborators around the world. UCLA hosts one of the world’s major nano centers, the California NanoSystems Institute (CNSI), which is a partnership between UCLA, UC Santa Barbara, and the University of California (UC) system. Key to the success of interdisciplinary research, including nanoscience and nanotechnology, at UCLA is its compact-ness while UCLA is the largest of the UC campuses by any measure of population, it is also the smallest by area. Around one courtyard, the Court of Science, are all of engineering, all of science, medicine, CNSI, and the Institute of the Environment. Within one block are the School of Public Health, all of neuroscience, and the top hospital in the region. Faculty, students, and staff from science, engineering, medicine, and beyond see each other frequently, share problems and approaches, and we work together.

Another driving force for UCLA is being surrounded by and collaborating with the entertainment industry in west Los Angeles. There is tremendous creative pressure to do something extraordinary in life and in the laboratory, and we see the results in our science. We also engage with our colleagues stay tuned for an upcoming exhibition at the London Science Museum) and through the Science Entertainment Exchange,3 a collaboration with the Directors Guild of America and the National Academy of Sciences. When CNSI was established, 15 new faculty lines in nanoscience and nanotechnology were added, with the number eventually growing to 23 (so far). From the point of view of the state of California, the mission of CNSI (and its three sister institutes in other fields on other UC campuses) was to enable strong interactions with industry large and small as well as to enable global leadership in our field(s). The 180,000 square foot building opened in 2007 and continues to be renewed through new faculty, students, staff, ideas, centers, symposia, and partnerships. The Institute has served as the temporary home to many visitors from around the world, including a large number of ACS Nano authors, advisors, and editors. Over 2000 users come for the facilities at CNSI, and an incubator and support structure currently house 17 startups, with many previously “graduating” from this program. Focal points for UCLA and CNSI include biomedical capabilities enabled by nanoscience and nanotechnology, nano environmental health and safety, neuroscience and neurotechnology, microbiome studies, nano applications in energy, environmental, and sustainable issues, the future of electronics, the future of imaging, the intersection of nanoscience and art, and many more. All of the above areas are represented by one or more centers that cross academic disciplines at UCLA and elsewhere.

For example, our three editors at UCLA collaborate broadly and serve as leaders across campus and internationally. Ali Khademhosseini is a world leader in tissue engineering; he founded and directs the Center for Minimally Invasive Therapeutics, which targets medical issues with nanotechnology solutions. Andre Nel is the founding head of the Division of Nanomedicine in the David Geffen School of Medicine and is an international leader in nano environmental health and safety, serving as founder and director of the UC Center for the Environmental Implications of Nanotechnology. Paul Weiss led CNSI, a W.M. Keck Foundation Center on Leveraging Sparsity, applying ideas from mathematics to imaging of all modalities, and a center on electrogenic biofilms, and is now leading the Challenge Initiative at UCLA.

Our faculty have had leadership roles in proposing and in developing the technology roadmaps for the BRAIN Initiative and the U.S. Microbiome Initiative, both of which were published in ACS Nano. We have also had leading roles in developing new approaches to nano environmental health and safety and have led many of the discussions on how these approaches can be adopted nationally and internationally. As one of the leading universities of the world, and a public university, we see many students who are the first in their families to go to college (including about one-third of our undergraduates). Thus, we take special pleasure in introducing them and our other students to the worlds of nanoscience and nanotechnology. A fully subscribed program for elementary, middle, and high school teachers at CNSI introduces nanoscience and nanotechnology to classrooms throughout southern California. This program, together with many public science events, builds a network of teachers working together with  UCLA students, postdoctoral fellows, and faculty to improve nanoscience education. We leverage our contacts in the entertainment industry to help define nanoscience and nanotechnology and the goals of our work for the public.

Nanoscience and nanotechnology have served as cohesive forces around the world and especially at UCLA. We are looking forward to new initiatives, programs, and impact in our second century.