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Nano revolution: taking health and medicine to the next level

Navigate developments in nanotechnology

Nanotechnology is unlocking new ways to understand human biology. Scientists expect discoveries in this field will completely revolutionise medicine, from detecting arterial blockages to neural disorders in the brain.

Our biology functions at the nanoscale, just billionths of a metre in size. Revolutions in technology are now allowing scientists to work at this scale, opening up a whole host of opportunities to improve medical diagnosis and treatment. Visiting nanoscientist Paul S. Weiss from UCLA is at the cutting edge of this nexus. 

Professor Weiss helped build the technological roadmap for BRAIN Initiative under the Obama Administration; to find new ways to treat, cure and even prevent brain disorders. He leads an interdisciplinary team to research the ultimate limits of miniaturisation in order to develop new tools and better understand the chemical and physical world. Some of the Weiss Group’s research includes tissue engineering and regeneration, and ways to address single gene mutations like sickle cell.   

In this event Professor Weiss shares his insights into the wide-ranging applications of nanotechnology in fields such as neuroscience and microbiome studies; he will take you on a journey to the very limits of what is possible. 

He is joined by Dr Anna Waterhouse and Dr Shelley Wickham from the University of Sydney Nano Institute, who are leading a project to build autonomous, programmable nanorobots to navigate the human body. Their goal is to see inside even the narrowest blood vessels, to detect the fatty deposits that signal the start of heart disease and allow treatment before it progresses.  

This event was co-presented with the University of Sydney Nano Institute. It was held on Tuesday 17 February at the University of Sydney.

The speakers

Paul S. Weiss is a nanoscientist and holds a UC Presidential Chair and is a distinguished professor of chemistry, bioengineering, and materials science at UCLA. He studies the ultimate limits of miniaturization, developing new tools and methods for atomic-resolution and spectroscopic imaging and chemical patterning. He applies these advances in other areas including neuroscience, microbiome studies, and high-throughput cell transfection.

He has won awards in science, engineering, teaching, publishing, and communications. He is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences, AAAS, ACS, AIMBE, APS, AVS, Canadian Academy of Engineering, and MRS. He is the founding and current editor-in-chief of ACS Nano.

Shelley Wickham is an ARC DECRA Fellow, Westpac Research Fellow and Senior Lecturer in the Schools of Chemistry and Physics at the University of Sydney. She earned both her BSc at the University of Sydney, working on photonic structures found in biology. She received her PhD from the University of Oxford working on building synthetic molecular motors out of DNA. She then moved to a postdoc position at Harvard Medical School and the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering, where she worked on designing 3-dimensional DNA origami nanostructures, and using them to study biological systems.

Shelley has research interests in self-assembling nanotechnology and molecular robotics. In particular, in the design and assembly of programmable nanostructures out of DNA, with applications in cell biology, materials science and nanomedicine. She is co-lead of the Sydney Nano Institute Grand Challenge project in Molecular Nanorobotics for Health, and faculty mentor of the University of Sydney BIOMOD team.

Anna Waterhouse is the Head of the Cardiovascular Medical Devices Group and recipient of an ARC DECRA based at the Charles Perkins Centre at the University of Sydney in the Central Clinical School, Sydney Medical School with a joint position as a Group Leader at the Heart Research Institute.

Julie Cairney grew up in outback Australia in the town of Broken Hill. She studied Materials Science and Engineering at UNSW under a scholarship from Pasminco Limited (a former mining company based in Broken Hill). In 2002, she was awarded a PhD (Physical Metallurgy) also from UNSW. The next few years were spent working as a researcher at the University of Birmingham, UK and the Max Planck Institute for Metals Research in Stuttgart, Germany, before returning to Australia. 

She is currently working as a Professor in the School of Aerospace, Mechanical and Mechatronic Engineering, and is a Director at the Australian Centre for Microscopy and Microanalysis and is CEO of Australian Microscopy & Microanalysis Research Facility.

Further resources

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