Recent advances in biotechnology, nanofabrication, and imaging have created a highly interdisciplinary research area: nano-bioelectronics. The goal of this research is to understand better some of the most complex molecules that can be made in the lab, and ultimately, to interface smoothly between the world of nanofabrication and the world of living cells and organisms. In this research, methods based on nanotechnology are used to study biological phenomena, and biomolecules are used to bring novel functions to nanoelectronic devices.
Nanotechnology provides novel tools that are just the right size for studying biological structures and phenomena at their natural scales. Some researchers in NDnano—such as Holly Goodson of the department of chemistry and biochemistry and Mark Alber of the department of applied mathematics—hope to understand biological behavior in order to replicate some of the capabilities of living organisms. For example, the cytoskeleton, which provides mechanical support for cells and acts as a railroad for distribution of intercellular components, is able to disassemble and reassemble dynamically, allowing cells to move, grow, and heal, and Goodson and Alber collaborate to understand and model the dynamic behavior of these structures.
Dynamic behavior is also critical for the molecules that make up cell membranes. The Schultz lab tries to understand how the organization of lipids and proteins in cellular membranes affects signal transduction.
"We utilize laser spectroscopy and nanoscale imaging techniques to identify the properties of molecules that are important in regulating signaling events," says Professor Zachary Schultz, of the department of chemistry and biochemistry.
While most biologists and biochemists must study large groups of cells or molecules, Professor Greg Timp of the department of electrical engineering and the department of biological sciences has made nanopores so tiny that only a single DNA molecule can fit through. The electrical currents that accompany DNA translocation provide a new way to sequence DNA, with potential applications in personal medicine, biology, and biochemistry. The Timp group has also used optical tweezers to assemble individual cells into artificial tissues.
Collaboration Across Disciplines
The Center for Nano Science and Technology promotes collaboration among participating faculty from the departments of Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering, Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, Civil Engineering and Geological Sciences, Computer Science and Engineering, Electrical Engineering, Chemistry and Biochemistry, and Physics, as well as industry, government and university partners.
Listed below are the individuals collaborating on Nano−Bioelectronics.
Marya Lieberman (Team Leader) − Chemistry & Biochemistry
Toni Barstis − Chemistry
Başar Bilgiçer − Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering
Paul Bohn − Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering
Greg Crawford − Physics
Holly Goodson − Chemistry & Biochemistry
Peter Kilpatrick − Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering
Lei Liu − Electrical Engineering
Zachary Schultz − Chemistry & Biochemistry
Greg Timp − Electrical Engineering
Mark Wistey − Electrical Engineering