From Soldier to Scientist: The CSN’s Role in a Veteran’s Return to Civilian Life

With Operations Iraqi Freedom/New Dawn having ended and Enduring Freedom drawing to a close a new push is underway to retrain our returning veterans. The wars have produced 2.5 million veterans and the Center for Sustainable Nanotechnology (CSN) is part of the push to help veterans retool their skillsets for civilian life through participating in the Research Experiences for Veterans program. This is my story of how the CSN is helping me transition to my post-military life.

Baghdad, Iraq ‘Victory Over America Palace’ roof, 2010; Northwestern University Physiology Lab, 2015

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Publication Summary: How Many Molecules Can Fit On the Surface of a Round Nanoparticle?

This post is part of our ongoing series of public-friendly summaries describing research articles that have been published by members of the Center for Sustainable Nanotechnology. Marco Torelli, a doctoral student at the University of Wisconsin – Madison, was the first author on this paper and collaborated on the study with CSN researchers at the University of Illinois. 

The article was first published online in December 2014 in the journal ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces1


This study describes a better method for figuring out how many molecules will stick to the surface of a round nanoparticle depending on its diameter. image reprinted with permission from Torelli et al. 20151

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Nano in the Movies

Science and engineering topics appear in many movies – think of the gadgets in the James Bond series. Star Trek, Star Wars, and other long-standing science fiction series, of course, are full of futuristic transportation, infrastructure, devices and weapons.


Mmmm… replicated martini.   image from Star Trek: The Next Generation (1988)

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Publication Summary: Negatively-Charged Nanoparticles Stick to a Negatively-Charged Surface

This post is part of our ongoing series of public-friendly summaries describing research articles that have been published by members of the Center for Sustainable Nanotechnology. Julianne Troiano, a doctoral student at Northwestern University, was the first author on this paper. She says, “In this post I discuss one experimental hurdle we had to overcome that I think is important to note since we benefited immensely from tackling this problem as a collaborative Center rather than just one group alone.”

The article was first published online in December 2014 in The Journal of Physical Chemistry.1


Cartoon representation of the system studied highlighting all of the techniques used to tackle this system.    image reprinted with permission from Troiano et al, 2014 1

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The Science Behind Deflate-Gate

The football community is abuzz about the latest scandal to hit football – deflate-gate! The New England Patriots are accused of intentionally using footballs with pressure lower than that allowed by the NFL in the Championship game last week. Finger-pointers argue that the Patriots intentionally cheated, because a ball with lower pressure is more “squishable” – easier to grab, easier to throw and to catch. The Patriots argue that the balls were filled within regulation pressure before the game, and that the decrease in pressure must have been due to the difference in temperature between when they were filled and when the game took place.

Is this a reasonable explanation? Let’s do the science.


What can science tell us about “deflate-gate”?     image source

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Mimicking Nature’s Nanotechnology: From a butterfly wing to anti-counterfeit technologies

Have you ever wondered where the inspiration behind new technologies comes from? We don’t have to go too far to find out; it is enough to just look out the window!

Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better.
-Albert Einstein

Yes, nature is out there, standing as a giant laboratory of science and engineering!1 For centuries now, we have been trying to understand nature’s strategies and apply what we learn from them to solve our modern problems. One of our previous posts, “Nature’s nanotechnology, bio-mimicry, and making the superpowers of your dreams a reality,” discusses various nature-inspired solutions to these daily problems. It is really fascinating to realize that scientists are inspired by shark skin, flower leaves or butterfly wings! In this post, we’re going to dig a little deeper into the science behind one of these: let’s explore the science behind the striking colors of butterfly wings and how imitating them has helped us to develop anti-counterfeit technologies.


A blue morpho butterfly.          image source

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A Science Journalist Ventures Into the Lab

Guest Post by Zachary Vasile

It can be difficult to record exactly how a writer thinks. This is not to mystify the brain of a writer, but to say that we often reason in incredibly convoluted and abstract ways, leaping from one thing to another, working in undisciplined bursts when the spirit takes us.

And herein lies the problem with science writing. Scholarly scientific articles should be, by all logical reckoning, the exact opposite of the artistic, writerly sensibility. Writing about science for non-scientists — unless it is going to be an unbearably dense and indecipherably technical tome — should be a paradox in terms. How can the deductive and detective rigidities of the scientific code be ordered in the shambled, distracted brain of the work-a-day wordsmith?

The solution to this problem — at least as far as I can see — is in a double dose of discomfort. For one, the scientists and academics of this world must be able to scale back their experience and remove the “blinders” that their immense knowledge has given them. They might not realize that the terms and processes they are familiar with are largely unknown to the world outside of their labs. They need to recognize that the average American knows no more of science than the most basic of terms and formulas, if that. The second dose of discomfort is to be swallowed by the writers: we need to do our homework. It is, quite simply, immature and lazy for reporters and writers, no matter their stripe, to not educate themselves before stepping into a story. There’s no reason to cram in five years of annotated med school, but we need to come to the party prepared with the basic language.


The Geiger Group at Northwestern University, who hosted my foray into nanoscience.   image source

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