Materials scientists are looking deep into the tiniest cells to understand how nature has created living molecular machines. Physicians are looking for new materials to help them peer into the hidden places of the body, to deliver drugs, and to regenerate bone and tissue. Chemists, biologists, and physicists ponder the underlying properties at the borderline of organic and inorganic materials.
“The greatest advances will come at the boundaries of these fields,” Penn State University President Graham Spanier predicted in his opening remarks at Crossover 2005, a meeting of Penn State scientists from each of these disciplines held at the University Park campus in October.
To promote the collaboration between materials research and life sciences, Penn State is embarking on the largest project in its history, a $120 million construction project to be located adjacent to the current Life Sciences building at the center of the University Park campus.
A new materials research building connected to a second life sciences building will provide faculty with a physical as well as an intellectual interface, says Carlo Pantano, director of the Materials Research Institute. The materials and life sciences buildings will provide a locus for collaboration in the emerging field of bionanomaterials, those small machines and man-made materials, often based on biological processes, used for biosensing, diagnosis and repair of the body.
Penn State is the nation’s leading materials research university, both in R&D expenditures and number of highly cited researchers. This area of strength, focused in the Materials Research Institute, complements the nationally known Hershey Medical Center and Penn State College of Medicine, and the new Huck Institutes of the Life Sciences, a consortium representing faculty from seven colleges within the University involved in the life sciences.
“These are very exciting areas here at Penn State,” President Spanier told the Crossover audience, which numbered representatives of more than 40 companies, including some of the world’s largest pharmaceutical manufacturers, plus officials from the National Institute of Health and the National Science Foundation, and Penn State scientists and students who came to hear and see their colleagues’ latest research on biosensors, cancer, neuroscience and regenerative medicine. “We want to keep the walls low here and open the doors of collaboration,” he said.
Thirty-two talks and 70 poster presentations conveyed the breadth of research being conducted across the Penn State campuses in areas as wide ranging as polymers for bone and tissue engineering to the use of moth antennae in biosensors for detection of chemical weapons and land mines.
Penn State Materials Research Institute is the gateway to materials research at the University with over 200 materials faculty, 500 graduate students and 200 post docs and visiting scientists representing 15 departments and five colleges across the University.
Crossover 2005 was sponsored by Life Sciences Greenhouse of Central Pennsylvania, Lampire Biological Laboratories, Materials Research Institute, Huck Institutes of the Life Sciences, and Milton S. Hershey Medical Center, College of Medicine.
For more information see http://www.mri.psu.edu/