Pitt’s nanoscience faculty expands to 47


Pitt has recruited a larger faculty to handle an incredibly small concept.

The University… Pitt has recruited a larger faculty to handle an incredibly small concept.

The University recently announced the addition of 13 faculty members to its Gertrude E. and John M. Petersen Institute for NanoScience Engineering. That brings the total number of researchers affiliated with the Institute to 47.

One of the new members crossed an ocean to be here.

David Earl, assistant professor of chemistry at Pitt, only arrived a few weeks ago from Oxford University. He said that one of the main draws of working at Pitt was its dedication to nanoscience and the creation of the Institute.

A nanometer is about the distance between two atoms in a solid object.

Earl’s specialties are computational and theoretical studies of complex materials — in short, developing and researching porous materials for practical use.

Some of the examples he gave of this technology were how industries separate crude oil from other materials, and how fabric softeners “catch” the heavier ions in this kind of material.

“This is kind of a way to develop new materials,” Earl said. “We can find out how we can better design the influenza vaccine.”

Alex Star, an assistant professor of chemistry, will apply physical organic chemistry to help develop carbon nanotubes for biological sensing. One example he gave was sensing if someone had asthma by sensing the amount of nitric oxide in his breath.

Someone with asthma would have higher concentrations of these molecules.

Star, who came to Pitt in September of 2005, based his decision in part on Pitt’s Institute.

“When I heard about it, it was kind of important for me to come here,” Star said.

Some of the other new arrivals to the Institute include Lillian Chong, assistant professor of chemistry, who will study how proteins bond and interact with each other.

Another is Joanne Yeh, an associate professor of structural biology, who will use X-rays to analyze molecules for medicinal purposes.

The new staff members are part of the preparation for the opening of a new nanoscale fabrication and characterization facility to be housed in Benedum Hall. According to a University press release, the facility will take up 4,000 square feet and house advanced equipment for use in nanoscale research.

It is scheduled to open Sept. 29 of this year.