Northeastern faculty spark a sea change in the nanomedicine field

Drug-​​delivery sys­tems so small they are invis­ible to the eye. Gauze laden with par­ti­cles that hasten blood clot­ting. New syn­thetic vaccines.

Those are just a few of the prod­ucts emerging from the appli­ca­tion of nan­otech­nology to  med­i­cine. Now North­eastern, a leader in the field, has estab­lished a means to train a diverse work­force to develop them: The Nanomed­i­cine Academy of Minority Serving Institutions.

Nanomed­i­cine uses nanotechnology—the sci­ence of building devices from infin­i­tes­i­mally small particles—for the pre­ven­tion, diag­nosis, and treat­ment of dis­ease. North­eastern boasts sev­eral pio­neers in the field, including Thomas Web­ster, the Art Zafiropoulo Chair in Engi­neering and the chair of Northeastern’s chem­ical engi­neering depart­ment, and Srinivas Sridhar, Arts and Sci­ences Dis­tin­guished Pro­fessor of Physics and director of Northeastern’s Elec­tronic Mate­rials Research Institute.

Boston, Massachusetts, USA - July 22, 2010 - Srinivas Sridhar, director of Northeastern’s IGERT nanomedicine program and the principal investigator of a five-year, $3 million grant from the National Science Foundation to train scientists in nanomedicine.

Pro­fessor Srinivas Sridhar Photo by Mary Knox Merrill/​Northeastern University

Recently the two received a $496,000 grant from the National Sci­ence Foun­da­tion to launch the academy—a scal­able, inter­ac­tive net­work that will use Web-​​based video­con­fer­encing to live broad­cast grad­uate courses and research pro­to­cols in real-​​time from a class­room at North­eastern to stu­dents enrolled at four partner insti­tu­tions: the Uni­ver­sity of Puerto Rico Mayaguez, Tuskegee Uni­ver­sity, Morgan State Uni­ver­sity, and Florida Inter­na­tional University.

Nanomed­i­cine instruc­tors will oversee each class­room of approx­i­mately 10 stu­dents at the host uni­ver­si­ties, and par­tic­i­pants from all five schools will be able to con­tinue learning from one another after the broad­cast class­room instruc­tion through online blogs and dis­cus­sion boards.

This is a new model of higher edu­ca­tion,” says Sridhar, director of the academy, noting that few insti­tu­tions offer training in nanomed­i­cine and that no degree pro­grams cur­rently exist. Anne L. van de Ven, asso­ciate research sci­en­tist in the Depart­ment of Physics, will serve as assis­tant director. “We will develop the cur­riculum and deliver the con­tent simul­ta­ne­ously to all five insti­tu­tions based on the exper­tise we have built up at North­eastern over the past 10 years,” he adds.

October 16, 2012 - Professor Thomas Webster is Chair of the Department of Chemical Engineering.  Webster researches medical applications of nanomaterials.

Pro­fessor Thomas Web­ster Photo by Brooks Canaday/​Northeastern University

Guest lec­turers will com­ple­ment the offer­ings, including top researchers from the partner insti­tu­tions and other uni­ver­si­ties as well as experts from hos­pi­tals and com­pa­nies around the world.

The academy expands on the work of Northeastern’s 10-​​year Nanomed­i­cine and Tech­nology Pro­gram, also directed by Sridhar, which was funded by the NSF’s Inte­gra­tive Grad­uate Edu­ca­tion and Research Trainee­ship pro­gram and the National Cancer Insti­tute. That pro­gram has already edu­cated 50 doc­toral stu­dents in the emerging field of nanomed­i­cine. The four courses devel­oped through the program—Intro to Nanomed­i­cine Sci­ence and Tech­nology, Nanomed­i­cine Research Tech­niques, Nano/​Biomedical Com­mer­cial­iza­tion, and Nanomed­i­cine Seminar—will now be taught nation­ally through the academy.

Our vision is to exploit this unique distance-​​learning model and take the academy global,” says Web­ster. “We want to estab­lish offi­cial master’s and doc­toral degrees in nanomed­i­cine and add a physical-​​exchange com­po­nent, through which stu­dents from other insti­tu­tions come to North­eastern to ful­fill the thesis part of their degree. We see our­selves as very much the begin­ning of a sea change in the field.”