Future of nanoscale science will be explored with new Kavli Institute at Cornell University

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Robert Richardson

A $7.5 million grant to Cornell University from Fred Kavli and the Kavli Foundation of Oxnard, Calif., will endow the newly established Kavli Institute for Nanoscale Science, foundation and university officials announced today (March 10, 2004) in New York City.

The institute will be based on the Cornell campus in Ithaca, N.Y., where there is a nationally recognized concentration of nanoscale-related research. The Kavli think tank will aim to address the major challenges and opportunities for science at the atomic and molecular scale: to bring together the world's seminal thinkers in nanoscale science; to foster a collaborative, multidisciplinary research community at Cornell; and to define a path for progress in creating significant new science.

"When you're working at the forefronts of science - as our faculty, researchers and students are in the Cornell Center for Materials Research, the Nanobiotechnology Center, the Center for Nanoscale Systems and the Cornell Nanoscale Facility - there's not always time to step back and look to the future," says Robert C. Richardson, university vice provost for research, who will serve as founding director for the new Kavli Institute at Cornell. "This institute will give us the opportunity to engage multidisciplinary groups in exploration of emerging themes in nanoscale science and technology - at this institution as well as nationally and globally. It is a testament to the wisdom and foresight of Fred Kavli and the Kavli Foundation that they chose to focus significant resources in this important scientific field."

molecule spanning a 2 nanometer gap
Nanoscale Facility
One example of nanotechnology devices developed at Cornell, a transistor composed of a single molecule spanning a 2 nanometer gap.

The foundation was created in December 2000 by Fred Kavli to advance science for the benefit of humanity and to promote increased public understanding and support for scientists and their work. Kavli is the founder and former chairman and CEO of Kavlico Corp., a major supplier of sensors for aeronautics, automotive and industrial applications. After selling the company four years ago, Kavli established two philanthropic entities, the Kavli Foundation and the Kavli Operating Institute. The foundation focuses its activities in three areas: brain science, nanoscience and cosmology. An international program of prizes, symposia, research institutes and endowed professorships is being established to address some of the most fundamental unanswered scientific questions of our time.

The new institute at Cornell joins eight other Kavli research institutes at leading universities worldwide. These include research institutes in neuroscience at Columbia, Yale and the University of California, San Diego; in nanoscience at the California Institute of Technology and Technical University of Delft in the Netherlands; in cosmology at Stanford University and the University of Chicago; and in theoretical physics at the University of California, Santa Barbara.

At Cornell, the new institute will work to define directions and scope of the fields of nanoscale science by sponsoring seminars, symposia and related activities, according to Richardson. He notes: "We aim to provide leadership to the scientific community regarding current and future directions of research in nanoscience." He says the institute will develop a flexible mix of programs, based on an annual research theme, to explore fertile research avenues in nanoscale science. Examples of study themes might include: signal communication of cells, membranes and proteins with deliberately fabricated microstructures; or the spectroscopy of electric and magnetic signals obtained from single atoms or molecular clusters embedded in an electrical circuit.

In addition, the institute intends to encourage increased interaction among nanotechnology researchers at Cornell, and to bring to the university scientists from leading institutions worldwide to work and study with research groups. An executive council, consisting of the director and up to 12 members, will be responsible for implementing institute programs at Cornell.