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The Center for Nanotechnology in Society at the University of California at Santa Barbara (CNS-UCSB) helped to win the new University of California Center for the Environmental Implications of Nanotechnology (UC CEIN), a five-year, $24 million center co-funded by the National Science Foundation and the Environmental Protection Agency to study the environmental impacts of nanotechnology. The new center, headquartered at UCLA but involving significant collaboration from UC Santa Barbara researchers, will include a research group on environmental risk perception led by Dr. Barbara Herr Harthorn, Director of the CNS-UCSB and Associate Professor of Feminist Studies, Anthropology & Sociology. CNS-UCSB also will collaborate in the UC CEIN's novel science journalist program, led by Professor William Freudenburg, a professor in UCSB's Environmental Studies Program and a member of Harthorn's team. UC CEIN also includes other researchers in the Bren School of Environmental Science and Management, Environmental Studies, Chemistry, and Ecology, Evolution, and Marine Biology.
"The new centers represent a promising step toward US development of much needed systematic knowledge about the environmental toxicology, ecology, and bioaccumulation of nanoparticles," said Harthorn. "Characterization of the hazards (and eventually, potential for exposures) associated with nanomaterial development and incorporation in other products is an essential next step in the responsible development of nanotechnologies. CNS-UCSB researchers involved in the UC CEIN and our new collaborators look forward to assessing public perceptions of nanoparticle environmental hazards, and conducting systematic comparative analyses of risk and risk communication, as we work with UC CEIN toxicologists and ecologists to develop empirically based risk communication."
UC CEIN will be led by UCLA's chief of nanomedicine, Dr. Andre Nel. It was founded due to growing public, industry, and regulatory agencies' interest in better understanding the environmental impacts of nanoparticles. Combining interests in understanding nanoparticles' effects in the environment, NSF and EPA sought out teams of university researchers to conduct such studies in a competition that was run over 2007 and 2008. The presence of CNS-UCSB and its experience as an NSF Nanoscale Science and Engineering Center dedicated to research on the societal impacts of nanotechnologies contributed to the success of the UC CEIN in securing its $24 million award.
Four of the seven Integrated Research Groups (IRGs) in the UC CEIN are based at UC Santa Barbara. Harthorn's IRG, which builds on her research team's effort in the CNS-UCSB, also includes UCSB Environmental Studies professor William Freudenburg, University of British Columbia (UBC) environmental risk researchers Terre Satterfield and Milind Kandlikar, and Cardiff University's social psychologist Nick Pidgeon. In addition to Harthorn's IRG, the other 3 at UCSB will be led by Arturo Keller, professor of environmental engineering in the Bren School of Environmental Science & Management and UC CEIN associate director; Bren professor of microbiology, Patricia Holden; and Bren associate professor of applied marine ecology, Hunter Lenihan. Other researchers include Environmental Studies professor and chair, Josh Schimel; professor and vice chair in the Department of Ecology, Roger Nisbet; EEMB assistant professor, Bradley Cardinale; and Galen Stucky, professor, Chemistry and Material Research Labs. The UC CEIN collaboration will also include researchers at UC Davis, UC Riverside, Lawrence Livermore and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratories, Columbia University, Germany's University of Bremen, and Nanyang Technological University in Singapore.
Funding for the center is part of the National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI), a multi-agency federal program created to encourage development of nanotechnology in the U.S. economy.
"Nanoscience involves research to discover new behaviors and properties of materials with dimensions at the nanoscale which ranges roughly from 1 to 100 nanometers(nm)," states the National Nanotechnology Initiative Web site. One nanometer is one billionth of a meter. "Nanotechnology is the way discoveries made at the nanoscale are put to work. Nanotechnology is more than throwing together a batch of nanoscale materials—it requires the ability to manipulate and control those materials in a useful way."
The NSF Center for Nanotechnology in Society at UCSB serves as a national research and education center, a network hub among researchers and educators concerned with societal issues concerning nanotechnologies, and a resource base for studying these issues in the US and abroad. The Center addresses education for a new generation of social science and nanoscience professionals, and it conducts research on the historical context of the nano-enterprise, on innovation processes and global diffusion of nanotech, and on risk perception and the public sphere. CNS-UCSB researchers address a linked set of social and environmental issues regarding the domestic US and global creation, development, commercialization, production, consumption, and control of specific kinds of nanoscale technologies. It is one of only two such centers in the country (the other is housed at Arizona State University). The CNS research efforts are led by Dr. Harthorn and her UCSB Co-PIs, Professors Rich Appelbaum, Bruce Bimber, W. Patrick McCray, and Chris Newfield.
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