Jason R. Dwyer is a professor of chemistry at the University of Rhode Island where he leads a research team working at the nexus of chemistry, physics and biology. His research is driven by a fascination with the wondrous complexity of molecular function and the knowledge that a molecular-level understanding of nature can lead to practical technological advances. His work is strongly focused on developing nanofabricated tools to more deeply explore the molecular world and to turn this capability into inexpensive, high performance medical diagnostic devices.
Dwyer has a history of combining fundamental science with technology development. He designed and built the first "molecular movie camera" that he used to reveal the sudden atomic motions as metals were forced by laser superheating to melt in only one millionth of a millionth of a second. Dwyer used a similar camera to reveal biological processes such as the intricate dance between water molecules (the "solvent of life") and the DNA double helix.
Dwyer's research has been featured in top scientific journals such as Science and Nature and in the Discovery Channel documentary Bullet Time. The tools that he has built are able to reveal the wondrous molecular gymnastics otherwise known as a chemical reaction. He has co-founded Insight Nanofluidics, Inc., to commercialize a special nanofabricated sample cell.
Dwyer's research at URI is focused on using his expertise in nanofabrication to design simple but powerful devices that can directly sense and interact with single molecules to solve pressing real-world problems in areas such as pharmaceutical testing and clinical diagnostics.
ABOUT THIS LECTURE
One of the technologies that will play an increasingly important role in shaping our future is nanotechnology - the building of machines on the scale of atoms and molecules. This means motors, robot arms and even computers that are no more than a few tens of nanometers across. Nanotechnology has a wide range of applications from medicine to energy consumption to the food industry to everyday household uses. Experts are developing nano-devices to diagnose disease, to engineer tissue, or to deliver drugs in a manner that reduces the amount, cost, and often the pain associated with taking certain medications. A novel example of the latter is a micro-robot developed in Brad Nelson's lab that is designed to repair blocked blood vessels in the retina of the eye, a blockage that causes blindness. The robot, which is small enough to fit in a syringe is injected into the eye, remotely moved around in the eye by the physician until it reaches the blocked blood vessel and then commanded to deliver an extremely small dose of medicine to the blockage, opening up the blood vessel and restoring vision. There are many other equally extraordinary applications either in use or being developed - the field, begun in the late 1970s, is evolving very quickly.
Those working in nanotechnology fall into one of two groups: those who build very small machines or sensors by removing material from a block - top down - and those who build the machines by assembling them one molecule at a time - bottom up. A fascinating example of work in the second group is that of Milan Stojanovic, a biochemist at Columbia University, who has programmed a DNA robot, called a DNA walker, that can start, stop, turn and move. Although fairly primitive, these robots, which can also follow instructions and work together, are performing the basic operations required for a molecular-scale assembly line to build more sophisticated products.
In this lecture, Jason Dwyer, a bottom-up nanotechnologist who works on the development of nano-sensors, will discuss where nanotechnology is today via some examples of current applications and where the field is going over the next 10-20 years.