Field Trip to the Minnesota Nano Center

Ever wondered what it’s like to go into a “clean room”? A couple weeks ago a group of students from the Center for Sustainable Nanotechnology (CSN) got to find out during a tour at the Minnesota Nano Center.

MNC group

Dressed for the Minnesota Nano Center clean room! Personally, I think we look like Oompa-Loompas. (photo by Miriam Krause)

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Bacteria in the Shell: A Nano-bio Hybrid for Solar Energy Capture

As a fan of sci-fi, I recently watched two classic movies: the original Star Wars (which you’re probably familiar with) and Ghost in the Shell (a post-cyberpunk Japanese animation). Both movies had a very interesting commonality: human-machine hybrids. But what does this have to do with nanotechnology?


The most famous human-machine hybrid in pop culture?  (image from The Empire Strikes Back, adapted from

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How to search for a needle in a haystack: Spotting really tiny signals from the edge of the universe

As a chemistry graduate student I don’t normally take classes outside of the chemistry building, but this semester I happened to have an optics course in the physics department. So a few months ago when scientists at the Advanced Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO for short) found gravitational waves,1 I got an inside look at just how excited physicists can get! Everyone in the department was walking around with smiles on their faces and talking animatedly to each other in the hallways. They were like kids at Christmas. Well, like kids who know a lot of math and like to talk about physics.

gravity waves

Gravity waves! (image by NASA/Ames Research Center/C. Henze)

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How to Survive Your First Professional Conference

Now that spring semester is coming to an end, a lot of scientists are getting ready to go to scientific conferences over the summer. During spring break I had the opportunity to participate in the American Chemical Society conference held in San Diego. This national conference attracts thousands of chemists from all over the country to spend five days learning about the latest information in their areas of professional interest and networking with colleagues. Moreover, this conference was particularly interesting to me as an undergrad student because it provides an opportunity for undergrads to present an oral or poster presentation on their research. Here’s a picture of me presenting the work that I did last summer with Dr. Vivian Feng as part of the Center for Sustainable Nanotechnology.


Figure 1: I had a pleasure to be part of a poster presentation at 251st ACS national meeting! (Photo by Vivian Feng)

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The Materials Genome Initiative (MGI) and the CSN

You’ve probably heard of the Human Genome Project (HGP), which was a collaborative international research program to map and understand all the genes of human beings. The HGP was declared complete in April 2003 and gave us the amazing ability to read the complete genetic blueprint for a human being, leading to a new era of molecular medicine.

So what is the Materials Genome Initiative (MGI)?


How is the materials genome like the human genome?  (image of DNA by National Human Genome Research Institute, National Institutes of Health)

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Battery Behavior in the Biosphere: How We Probed Nanoscale Battery Materials Interacting with Bacteria

Along with eight colleagues (most from the Center for Sustainable Nanotechnology) I recently co-authored an article in the American Chemical Society’s Chemistry of Materials journal titled “Impact of Nanoscale Lithium Nickel Manganese Cobalt Oxide (NMC) on the Bacterium Shewanella oneidensis MR‐1.”1 Just as the name suggests, we analyzed how nanoscale NMC, an important material in some lithium-ion batteries, affected the growth and survival of an important soil dwelling bacterium. Since its publication, it has received some media attention for being the first scientific study characterizing the direct influence of battery materials on an organism – you can read more about the press coverage here and here.

NMC flakes

Nano-scale flakes of NMC battery material from our paper1

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