Hopkins grant funds nanotech grad program

Baltimore & Region

November 25, 2005|By DENNIS O'BRIEN | DENNIS O'BRIEN,SUN REPORTER

The Johns Hopkins University is starting a graduate program aimed at training a new breed of scientist and engineer - the nanotechnologist.

The school has won a $1 million grant to design a program and begin training doctoral students in nanomedicine, an emerging field that treats diseases on a molecular level. The discipline shows promise in fighting various cancers and genetic illnesses.

The effort is a response to the growing need for doctors, chemists and engineers who can work in the physical sciences with nanoscale devices, said Denis Wirtz, the Hopkins professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering who will direct the program.

"We really believe that a key to the future of medicine is technology and, in particular, nanotechnology," Wirtz said. "We'll be looking for people who are not only a new breed of scientist and engineer, but entrepreneurs as well."

Hopkins also plans to announce the formation of a separate nanomedicine research institute in the weeks ahead.

The graduate program will select applicants admitted to Hopkins' schools of engineering, medicine or arts and sciences and train them so they can develop biomaterials - nano-sized drug delivery systems and diagnostic devices, he said.

The grant was awarded by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, a nonprofit medical research organization established by the industrialist in 1953.

The Hopkins proposal was one of 10 grants the Chevy Chase-based nonprofit gave after reviewing 132 funding requests from universities nationwide. The grants are intended to improve training for students pursuing doctorates in the sciences, HHMI officials say.

In the first two years, Wirtz said, the money will go toward planning, a new nanopartical lab, designing a curriculum and recruiting two faculty members. Six students will be enrolled in the third year, he said.

Eventually, the program will enroll about 50 students, with doctorates awarded to those who complete four to six years of study.

After three years, Hopkins will seek funding from the National Institutes of Health to continue the program.

dennis.obrien@baltsun.com

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