Bringing Nanotechnology into the Classroom
By Claudia Borke
In the past century, we have witnessed enormous innovative strides. Everything has become smaller and faster, and its pace is continuously accelerating with lightning speed. What the computer revolution was in the 1980s, we are experiencing now with nanotechnology, which has revolutionized modern science, medicine, and the technological world. It brings the realm of the impossible to the possible.
So, what exactly is nanotechnology?
We sat down with Mason bioengineer Carolina Salvador Morales to discuss her class, BENG 441 Nanotechnology in Health. Morales states that nanotechnology is the application of nanoscience. By understanding the fundamentals of nanoscience, we can envisage myriad applications in many fields including medicine and electronics. Morales goes on to indicate that “to treat diseases like cancer, diabetes, and neurodegenerative diseases,” nanoscience will help target the disease better by creating biodegradable “envelopes” to deliver medication directly to the diseased cells of the body.
Morales came to Mason from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in August 2011. Her numerous years of work with Professor Robert S. Langer on drug delivery at MIT and the Harvard Medical School made her the ideal candidate to teach the Nanotechnology in Health course at Mason last spring. The student response to this new course has been excellent. When asked what her favorite topic was to teach, Morales responded, “The physico-chemical principles and the second part of my class which focused entirely on nanomedicine.”
Nanomedicine has been of particular interest to Morales, both inside and outside her class.
Because of her interest in nanomedicine, she emphasizes the importance of nanotechnology by giving examples of how this field has the potential to improve the treatment of devastating diseases such as cancer. Since nanotechnology is a highly multidisciplinary field, very often we can see innovative engineering approaches used in this area for the solution of a specific problem. This feature of nanotechnology excites her the most since along with conducting basic science, there is the possibility and the need for innovation to find simpler, faster, and more effective solutions in medicine.
The use of engineering approaches is an aspect which she focuses on in her class. Her goal is to make students see the power that nanotechnology has in our everyday life and encourage students to continue in research.
Morales is teaching Translation and Entrepreneurship in Bioengineering this fall.
The popular Nanotechnology in Health will be offered next in spring 2013.
This article originally appeared in the fall 2012 issue of the Bioengineering at Mason newsletter.
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