This past week’s nanotech lecture was very informative and clarified many of the confusions I had about nanotechnology. Because nanotechnology is a cutting-edge field, its scope and definition remains volatile and continues to evolve with research advances. I did not realize that nanotech enocompasses all research related to particles at the nano-scale; I also did not know the wide and diverse applications of nanotechnologies in material sciences, medicine, and biomedical research.
Personally I have exposure to nanotech research from my own experience in Professor Mischel’s lab; my graduate student mentor has been working on the microfluidic chip project to enable swift and accurate cancer diagnostics at the single-cell level. In conjunction with the information from the nanotech lecture, his project also focuses on miniaturization and minimization of sample sizes required for diagnostics- biopsy tumor samples can be plated on the microfluidic chips within hours, and staining for molecular markers can quickly provide information regarding the grade of the tumor and the profile of the sample with respect to its potential response to cancer treatment.
One particular research project covered in the nanotech lecture that drew my attention was the nano-size heart sensor that can detect stress markers and predict the possibility of a heart attack. In addition, I can clearly see the parallel between the trend and objective of nanotechnology with that of developing the computer chip - make everything smaller and smaller. Miniaturization could be a potentially controversial issue - while scaling down can tremendously expand the use of the technologies, it may also be accompanied by unforeseen consequences and effects due to the difficulty of studying such small-scale objects. Like any other technology, nanotech research should proceed with caution.