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The Richard E. Smalley Institute for Nanoscale Science and Technology

The Richard E. Smalley Institute for Nanoscale Science and Technology

The Richard E. Smalley Institute for Nanoscale Science and Technology was originally named the Center for Nanoscale Science and Technology. In 2005 after the passing of Professor Smalley, the Rice University Board of Trustees renamed the Institute in his honor. In this historical account, the Institute will be referred to as the Center for Nanoscale Science and Technology prior to Fall 2005 and the Smalley Institute thereafter.

In 1993, Professor Richard E. Smalley envisioned the first nanotechnology center in the world. Thus, the Center for Nanoscale Science and Technology (CNST) was born. With full support from the university, CNST was tasked with defining and implementing the nanotechnology initiative at Rice University. CNST set forth a bold objective to provide a venue where researchers from all disciplines of science and engineering can come together to share ideas and discuss their views and prospects of nanoscience, nanoengineering, and nanotechnology. CNST concluded the best way to achieve this objective was to provide the administrative and technical infrastructure to conduct cutting-edge nanotechnology research, sponsor seminars and conferences, advocate entrepreneurism, encourage multi-disciplinary collaborations, connect to external organizations, and support educational initiatives from the kindergarten to the professional level.

In order to effectively execute the objectives of CNST, a major fundraising campaign was undertaken which amassed $37 million. CNST then laid the foundation for Rice University’s nanotechnology initiative by creating a $5 million research equipment fund, constructing a new 70,000-square-foot laboratory (Dell Butcher Hall), and recruiting several prestigious faculty members. Additionally, Smalley was granted the Norman Hackerman/Welch Chair of Chemistry with financial support for his research group.

Within 8 years, CNST had fostered the formation of a nanotechnology spin-off company (Carbon Nanotechnologies, Inc), received NSF funding for a new nanotechnology center (Center for Biological and Environmental Nanotechnology), and developed a centralized, well-managed equipment collection valued at greater than $10 million (Shared Equipment Authority).

Building on this success, CNST began branching out to incorporate technical training, industry partnership, and community outreach. In 2002, CNST held the 1st Annual TunaFest Celebration, an informal venue for industry, academia, and nanotech enthusiasts to network. In just 6 years, TunaFest has grown to over 1000 attendees making it the premier nanotechnology social event of Houston. From 2002 to 2004, CNST advanced nanotechnology education through a variety of initiatives. The NanoKids program, based in Professor Tour’s group, brings key concepts of nanoscience to middle school students. Additionally, CNST worked with several departments at Rice University to create undergraduate curriculum, a professional masters program, and continuing education courses in a variety of nanoscience and engineering topics.

While expanding their initiative portfolio, CNST continued cultivating its scientific strengths, fostering 10 spin-off companies, developing 5 unique nanotechnology centers and components, and growing the shared equipment at Rice University to over $12 million. By 2005, CNST supported the research efforts of 100 faculty members with over 400 graduate students spanning 14 departments at Rice University.

After Smalley’s passing in Fall 2005, the Rice University Board of Trustees renamed CNST the Richard E. Smalley Institute for Nanoscale Science and Technology.

As the Smalley Institute matured over the last 15 years, the vision of the Institute evolved to leading the world in solving humanity’s most pressing problems through the application of nanotechnology. As Professor Smalley so aptly put it, “Rice’s research reputation comes from solving the hardest problems in science. Others can work on the easy ones, the applied problems. Focus on the grand challenges, the holy grails in nanotechnology. Don’t be distracted by the other things!” To this end the Smalley Institute continues to provide the world-class facilities, experienced leadership, and collaborative environment necessary to advance fundamental knowledge and implement discoveries in nanoscale science and engineering.

Currently the Smalley Institute...
- includes 151 faculty members in 21 departments with over 500 students researching nanotechnology in a variety of societal and scientific arenas including energy, education, aerospace, ethics, and human health;
- consists of 5 major centers and components including $15 million in shared equipment and facilities for nanotechnology research;
- affiliates with 8 nanotechnology organizations in Houston and around Texas; and
- collaborates with over 50 associations to promote nanotechnology in all aspects of science and society.

The Richard E. Smalley Institute for Nanoscale Science and Technology
Rice University
6100 Main Street
Space Science Building, Suite 301
Houston, Texas
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