Nanotechnology institute views research as borderless pursuit

An international network linking researchers, students and institutions enhances Waterloo's global reputation as a nanotechnology leader.

By Christian Aagaard

Communications & Public Affairs

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University of Waterloo nanotechnology faculty in JiangsuUniversity of Waterloo Nanotechnology faculty in Jiangsu, just outside of SooChow University where the WIN-SUN-SIP Joint Nanotechnology Centre was estiablished.

Researchers at the Waterloo Institute for Nanotechnology work in a state-of-the-art building, but one reliable instrument they use is as old as cross-border travel.

Passports extend WIN’s each well beyond the walls of the Mike & Ophelia Lazaridis Quantum-Nano Centre on the main campus of the University of Waterloo.

“Internationalization is a big part of science,’’ says Dr. Arthur Carty, WIN’s executive director. “You have to be part of the scene if you want to be well-respected.’’

Nanotechnology explores the realm of the extraordinarily small, manipulating particles of atomic dimensions to design and engineer materials and devices with amazing properties. WIN’s relationships around the world include:

  • An agreement with Soochow University in Suzhou, China, to collaborate on 12 projects. WIN and Soochow also jointly supervise joint doctoral programs, and host co-op exchanges;
  • Research and exchange agreements with five top institutions in Taiwan. WIN delegates and Taiwanese counterparts held a three-day workshop in December in Hualien, Taiwan;
  • A recently achieved memorandum of understanding to develop a “virtual research centre for nano-systems” with the University of Cambridge, UK;
  • Five projects, including exchanges, with India. Among possible outcomes — a handheld device using nanotechnology for portable diagnosis of pathogens in water;
  • Hosting a workshop at Waterloo in November 2011 that involved Japan’s nanotechnology leaders and drew 65 participants from 25 organizations. The event was organized with the National Institute of Materials Science in Japan.
  • Joint supervision of 13 doctoral students with the University of Bordeaux, and partners in France.

Besides the sponsoring institutions, agreements count on support from government and private-sector partners.

Exchanges expose collaborating researchers to new cultures and new ways of approaching challenges, Carty says.

“As part of (WIN’s) vision to be a global leader in nanotechnology and its applications, we have to establish our renown internationally,’’ Carty. “Part of that is by establishing collaborative relationships.’’