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A Big Event in the Science of the Very Small

Speakers at the molecular engineering workshop included, standing, from left, Joel M. Schnur, director of the Naval Research Laboratory Center for Bio/Molecular Science and Engineering, Leonard Polizzotto '70, vice president of international business development at SRI International, Richard S. Quimby, associate professor of physics at WPI, and sitting, from left, John L. LaMattina, president of Pfizer Worldwide Research, Richard A. DeMillo, vice president and chief technology officer at Hewlett-Packard, W. Grant McGimpsey, professor of chemistry and biochemistry at WPI, and Nancy Burnham, associate professor of physics.

Once the stuff of science fiction, nanotechnology, the ability to construct and control materials at the molecular level, "has already resulted in important breakthroughs that will have a direct impact on almost every aspect of life," says William Durgin, WPI's associate provost for academic affairs.

In March, corporate, government and academic leaders gathered at WPI to discuss what the next five years might bring in nanotechnology, also called molecular engineering, during WPI's second annual International Corporate/Academic Roundtable on Emerging Technologies. Topics of the more than 10 presentations included biological sensors, ethics, leveraging biomechanics, and leveraging the genome. The experts included three WPI faculty members: Grant McGimpsey, Richard Quimby and Thomas Shannon.

Durgin says the roundtable was designed to serve the diverse interests of its various audiences. "As scientists and engineers, we want to increase our understanding and improve our ability to use that new knowledge. As policy makers, we want to make sure developments are ethically and morally responsible as well as useful. As academics, we want to make sure we have the creativity and structure to teach newfound knowledge and give our students the tools and resources to expand on these fundamental developments."

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Last modified: Sep 02, 2004, 14:31 EDT
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