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Nanotech conference resonates with undergrad, graduate students

WEST LAFAYETTE , Ind. Nanotechnology is capturing the attention of researchers and retailers alike, with the promise many think it holds.

And Purdue University captured that focus during its Discovery Lecture Series, titled "Transforming Society Through Emerging Technologies: National Nanotechnology Initiative at Five Years," held Feb. 6-8 on the West Lafayette campus.

The event builds on October's opening of the $58 million Birck Nanotechnology Center at Discovery Park. Here, we discuss the conference's impact on two Purdue students.

Emily Hambidge, 21, of Newburgh, Ind., majoring in communication with an emphasis in journalism and minors in Spanish and English

Emily came to Purdue University in 2002 on a Lilly Endowment scholarship. In May, she will graduate with a degree in communication, with an emphasis in journalism. During her time at Purdue, she has been active in the Liberal Arts Honors Council, Purdue Student Government and has written for the Department of Communication newsletter. She also worked at the Birck Boilermaker Golf Complex. In 2005, she interned at Alday Communications, a public relations firm in Nashville, Tenn., that represents several PGA programs, among other clients. After graduation, she will move to Indianapolis to work for Theron Inc., a biomedical engineering firm in Carmel. She received an Orr Fellowship, which gave her a two-year position with Theron. In that role, she will work in the field of life sciences with a company that helps develop medical technology. Her job will be in technical writing, where she will document the process of developing new equipment. She also will handle some systems analysis and marketing.

Question: As an undergraduate student focused on communication and journalism, what did you take away from the discussions at the inaugural Discovery Lecture Series focusing on nanotechnology this semester?

Answer: It opened my eyes to a whole new part of the field. I also realized that the lines separating different fields of communication are becoming more and more blurred. Especially when it comes to journalism, it is important to understand the field of communication as a whole. At Purdue, we have many different areas of study in the undergraduate and graduate levels of the Department of Communication. As this lecture series pointed out, these different areas are not as distinct as they once were, thanks to emerging technology.

Q: How do you think the discussion and the comments from the panelists might assist you as you move into a career in communications and public relations?

A: Before the panel discussions, I wasn't aware there were so many journalism jobs specifically related to nanotechnology. The lecture series made it very clear that the job market in journalism and public relations is no longer just about breaking new and crisis management technology is bringing in a whole new wave of job opportunities. Personally, this series made me understand that I can apply for jobs in areas I never thought possible. It also gave me a lot of confidence in my future plans because I just accepted a job with a biomedical engineering company, an industry I never thought I would have an interest in. This lecture gave me a lot of enthusiasm about starting my job because it made me realize that the possibilities for a career in this area are limitless.

Mark Strus, 25, of Detroit, working on a doctoral degree in mechanical engineering

Mark arrived at Purdue's School of Mechanical Engineering in fall 2002 after receiving a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Notre Dame. In 2004, he received his master's degree and now is working toward a doctorate at Purdue, receiving funding as a research assistant and through the Arrasmith and Winkleman fellowships at Purdue. In 3 1/2 years here, Mark has researched the mechanical properties of carbon nanotubes, particularly when they are attached to atomic-force microscope tips. He plans to graduate in the summer 2007 and will subsequently seek postdoctoral positions in the field. His long-term goal is to become a full university professor.

Question: As a doctoral student focused on nanotechnology research, what did you take away from the panel discussions at the inaugural Discovery Lecture Series this semester?

Answer: As a researcher in the field of nanotechnology, I always find it difficult to try to explain not only the work that I do but the broader implications of nanotechnology to the general public. By bringing together both scientists, reporters, venture capitalists and policy-makers, the Discovery Lecture Series provided me with the vocabulary and concepts that I need to be able to explain what impact nanotechnology will have to the public's future. The greater ability to communicate complicated technological concepts will be extremely valuable to me as a future researcher, particularly in the aspects of finding future funding.

Q: How do you think the discussion and the comments from the panelists might assist you as you further your career in the field of mechanical engineering and the study of carbon nanotubes?

A: Nanotechnology is, of course, a burgeoning field that incorporates many technological fields such physics, biology, engineering and chemistry. Because the challenges of nanotechnology are so multidisciplinary, it is imperative that scientists of different backgrounds gather and share their ideas. The panelists at the Discovery Lecture Series each had their own technological challenges and research of which I would not have been aware. In fact, I was excited by the use of carbon nanotubes in electrical devices at IBM, as was so eloquently illustrated by Phaedon Avouris. The panel discussion was valuable to me because not only am I aware of the major research areas that are currently being investigated, but they also gave me ideas on where my expertise in mechanical engineering can be of use.

 



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