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Nanotechnology for Curing Cancer Inquiry

  1. Aug 18, 2008 #1
    I have always wanted to cure cancers and diseases since my mother had breast cancer a while back, and through my love of science and Engineering-robotics(I was looking at ME to get into robotics at first) I came across nanotechnology. Since I want to use nanomachines to work towards cures and treatments(which is basically research for now), I was wondering what I should major in college. I recently graduated from high school, and I have already found a grad school that specializes in nanotech (college of nanoscale science and engineering) but I am not sure what to accomplish in college to prepare me for nanotech in grad school, since I have not found any schools so far(I live in chicago by the way), that offer nanotech in college. I have looked through different disciplines of science, microbiology, biochemistry, molecular biophysics, and many more, and I have also spoken to many professors, but still have no clear path to accomplish my goals. Any information that someone can provide will be greatly appreciated. Thank you very much.
  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 18, 2008 #2
    SUNY Buffalo supposedly has the best Nanotechnology program by far.
    Nanotech need MatE,EE,BME..etc.
  4. Aug 18, 2008 #3
    Hm, i don't know.
    I have been searching about this for months now...

    Nanobots are still vision unfortunately :(

    I mean, "nanotechnology" today is mainly still only about optimization of materials or nanoelectronics.
    The most up-to-date things are molecular electronics i think.


    Did you take a look at (Bio)molecular engineering?

    I don't know who is the leading figure in these fields....could be Craig Venter though ;).

    Is this guy only a media-attraction or is he really some steps ahead compared to others in his fields?
    Last edited: Aug 18, 2008
  5. Aug 18, 2008 #4
    I meant SUNY Albany.
    Anyways, I recommend Biomedical Engineering.
  6. Aug 18, 2008 #5
    It is not just for medical purposes, military, as well as other forms of engineering. I do not know if a double major would be best, in biochem or microbio and a form of engineering, or what I should look for. I just feel that nanotechnology and other forms of science and engineering have limitless possibilities that we have yet to really comprehend, and I want to be able to discover, research, and utilize those ideas and concepts to better society, and the world as a whole. Whether it be in weapons, or medically, or in robotics. I just don't know where to start, or what exactly I am looking for. =[ And as for biomolecular engineering, I know a little about it, but have not found much on it. Any links?
    Last edited: Aug 18, 2008
  7. Aug 18, 2008 #6
    Then try MIT....I believe they got awarded several billion to build new Armour using nanotechnology from the DoD
    Nanotechology is in materials engineering.
  8. Aug 18, 2008 #7
    Yeah I know MIT is an amazing school, but I don't have the grades to get in out of high school. I spent more time doing my own research than I did homework lol. Transferring would be the best I could do to get there, and then there are the expenses. *sigh*
  9. Aug 18, 2008 #8


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  10. Aug 18, 2008 #9
    whoa, I thought of using sound and light waves but I did not think it could be done so quickly lol. Especially since I am just out of high school ='[. I hope there are still things to even cure by time I know how to do it.
  11. Aug 18, 2008 #10
    At the open day for what became my university (Durham, UK) I seem to remember being told nanotechnology could be used for drug delivery. Stick something good at killing both cancer cells and people inside an inert shell (possibly gold?), which you get to dismantle somehow when positioned appropriately relative to a lump. Afraid I wasn't savvy to the details at the time, but I hope that opens up some lines of enquiry for you.
  12. Aug 18, 2008 #11
    Very interesting, I know they are already using nanotech for drug delivery but I never really knew how scientists were doing it. Nanorobots would make life so much easier.
  13. Aug 19, 2008 #12
    Go for a MNT (Molecular Nanotechnology) degree like Drexler.

    But i have never found such a course.
    You have to arrange the courses yourself i think.
  14. Aug 19, 2008 #13
    I think you should start out as a chemist, then go through either a theoretical chem/materials degree. Although I would recommend the double-degree chemistry with physics at reed college in Oakland. It is prolly the best the US have to offer a nanotech-career that is in the limit of chemistry goes physics, and vice versa.
  15. Aug 19, 2008 #14

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    Eric Drexler is not someone to emulate if you want to work in nanotechnology. What has he done? (As opposed to written about)

    His PhD was done under the auspicies of the MIT Media Laboratory. Not Biology, not Materials Science, not Biological Engineering (which was called something else back then - probably Applied Biological Science).
  16. Aug 19, 2008 #15

    His name sounds like a super-hero. Who else has done that.
  17. Aug 19, 2008 #16
    Actually, what did he study as bachelor?

  18. Aug 19, 2008 #17
    Well originally you said you wanted to do nanotech for the purpose of curing cancer. To me this sounds like using technology to solve biomedical problems. Sounds like a no-brainier to me: bio/biomedical engineering.

    Electrical engineering is a close second because in there, you can focus on the design and development of nanoscale devices for various applications or in the improvement/evolution of existing technologies by harnessing nanoscale phenomena.

    Chemistry and materials science is more fundamental and I feel like the focus there is on how to make/characterize nanomaterials as opposed to direct application. Same goes with physics. With that said, a fundamental understanding of nature goes a long way, especially when navigating uncharted waters.

    On a side note, you might want to check out UC San Diego. I believe they recently started a center that focuses on nanotech for cancer treatment.
  19. Aug 19, 2008 #18
    I wonder if such specialized course would be benificial.

    I mean, there are many who says, that in the end you have knowledge of many fields but you have no in-depth view at all.

    I just wonder.
  20. Aug 19, 2008 #19
    cmos: You ever took a chem-ENG class? They are full of application, application and more application. Being an materials chem-ENG coupled with a nanotech understanding would in my eyes only get him closer to his goal. Namely produce cancertreatments with the help of nanotech.

    A skilled materials engineer will probably one day come up with a nice little fullerene that will bind with the cancer cells and look for the nearest exit (like sweat, faeces or urine). That is probably something that is being researched today, at this present moment of science history. fullerenes are probably the closest bet nanotechnologists have for either a nano-drugsuspension or a nano-surgery-tool.
  21. Aug 19, 2008 #20


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    I'd agree with a previous commenter and say that a chemistry degree (physical chemistry or materials chemistry) would be the way to go if you are interested in nanotechnology (of course, I'm biased as I am a chemist, but when I think of nanotechnology I think of people like Stoddart, Lieber, and Whitesides, all chemists).

    Chemistry is the science that concentrates most on understanding phenomena on the nanometer scale, and chemistry gives you the training to know how to construct nanostructures and understand their properties. In addition, an understanding of chemistry gives you a good background for understanding the biochemistry and molecular biology of cancer. That said, plenty of physicists and engineers do good work in nanotech as well, so those fields are not out of the question either. Since you talked about nanomachines, perhaps looking at microfluidics (i.e. the idea of a lab-on-a-chip) and MEMS (microelectromechanical systems), which fall more under engineering, could be useful. Biologists who study/use nanotechnolgy usually do so in collaboration with chemists or physicists (although some have a background in chemistry/physics and can do so w/o collaborating).

    In my opinion, despite the fact that you want to use nanotechnology to cure cancer, focusing your undergrad on understanding the chemistry and physics of nanoscale systems would be more useful than focusing on cancer (though you should definitely look into biology classes to supplement your required classes). It's better to learn the fundamentals first before delving into applications.

    Also, I do not think you necessarily need to find an undergraduate program focused on nanotechnology. I would think that most large research universities would have professors working on nanotechnology and would provide opportunities to learn about nanotech.
  22. Aug 19, 2008 #21
    Thanks for the info. So would you recommend a single major in chem/biochem/chem eng or perhaps a double major in one of the previously mentioned majors, and another discipline of science/engineering such as microbio or EE? The reason I was looking at microbio was because of how it focuses more on the diseases, cancers, and viruses that occur(or atleast it was the impression I got), and since that is what I wanted to help cure, I thought it would be best to really understand them and how they function.
  23. Aug 20, 2008 #22


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    A single major in chemistry/physics/engineering would probably sufficient but a double major or minor wouldn't hurt. Engineering degree programs tend to be fairly packed, however, and it is often difficult to do a double major as an engineer (though a bioengineering program may work well). Double majoring as a chem/physics major is often more doable. Of course, things vary widely depending on the school you are at, so it would definitely be helpful to consult counselors at the specific school on these issues. I would agree that microbio classes, either as a second major, minor, or just electives would be good options. Microbiology classes, however, tend to focus more on infections diseases (bacteria & viruses) than noninfectious diseases (such as cancer). If available, molecular and cell biology classes are useful for understanding the basics of cancer. In general, it is easier to go from the physical sciences to the life sciences than vice versa, so I would first focus on obtaining a good knowledge of the fundamentals of chem/physics/engineering before delving into very deeply into biology.

    As with many fields, especially interdisciplinary fields such as nanotechnology, there is no right way to get to the endpoint you want. You have a lot of good options for majors and ultimately, your decision should be based on approach to learning about science and nanotechnolgy is more interesting and attractive to you. If you wish to focus more on the biology of cancer, then double majoring or doing biochem is probably a better option to you. If you'd rather be very strong in the technical and physiochemical aspects nanotechnology and pick up the biology later in grad school, a more focused single major program would be more useful.

    Personally, I took a mixture of biochem, physical chem and math classes during my undergrad (officially a biochem major with a math minor) and I found taking a mixture of classes to be very useful and enlightening because they exposed me to fairly different ways of thinking. Despite the differences in the classes I took, there was still some overlap between classes which was very neat to see (e.g. my abstract algebra classes helping to understand quantum and x-ray crystallography).
    Last edited: Aug 20, 2008
  24. Aug 21, 2008 #23
    Currently I am attending a community college close to home for now until I get everything situated then I will transfer out after my first or second semester. I am having difficulties choosing a college because each of them offer different courses as well as have their own advantages and disadvantages. The colleges and majors I am looking at are as follows...

    IIT(Illinois Institute of Technology) - Offers Biophysics, chemistry, physics, Molecular Biology, chemical engineering, materials engineering.

    U of I Urbana (University of Illinois at urbana) - Offers Biochem, Bioengineering, Biophysics, Cell and Developmental Biology, Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, materials science and engineering, Molecular and Cell Biology, and Microbiology.

    UWM (University of Wisconsin at Madison) - Offers Biochemistry, Biological Systems Engineering, Microbiology, Biomedical Engineering,Chemical and Biological Engineering, Materials science and engineering, biochem,physics, microbiology, and molecular biology.

    UWSP (University of Wisconsin at Stevens Point) - Offers biochem, microbiology, physics, chem, and chem engineering.

    IIT is a private school and the most expensive, but is known for its engineering programs, U of I is just an amazing all around school, and it would be nice to attend a school in illinois since I live in chicago, UWM is known for its science programs, and has an abundant amount of majors along with U of I. UWSP is not as known, but they have helped me greatly with college thus far, and I would get a $10,000 scholarship for just because I graduated from Lane Tech high school if I attend, making it the least expensive school out of the bunch. Also the professors there have actually taken time to talk to me, one of which had lunch with me and we talked science in our entire conversation which was an amazing and surreal experience(I am a science nerd, and there are not many people interested in science than I from the people I knew, so it was nice to talk to someone else just as enthusiastic about science). Since there are only around 9,000 students there, the professors can connect more with the students, unlike UWM and U of I since there are so many people. I am torn between these schools, because of the different majors. Any advice from you guys on the schools and majors I would need to help me for grad school? Once again, thank you all for your help. I have learned more from you all about my nanotech goals than I have in my previous 4 years of high school.
  25. Aug 21, 2008 #24
    If you really really want to do science and not got any "pretentious" things going on. I would go for the one that currently have helped you the most and taken their time to facilitate you into their college. I would say UWSP, of course it seems like a tier-4 school. But you have a foot-in before you started the college, which actually is more than most that attend a tier-1,2.

    And your motivation is not glory or money, just getting the job done. So go to that school.
  26. Aug 21, 2008 #25
    But is it worth going to a lower tier school because I want to be respectful? They may have helped me the most, but then again when it comes to being there, the dorms are below average, and although they were nice, is it wrong to want something more? You know what I mean. I don't want to give up a better education because they were nice. I know I have atleast 4 months before I can even look at another school, but I just want to have an idea of what I will do and where I will try to go. True that money is not my motivation, but a significant amount of knowledge will be needed to even try to accomplish what I have in mind. UWSP does not offer as many majors as the others, but do you think they will offer what I will need? I think a double major is inevitable. On a side note, do anyone have an idea on the progress of nanorobots? Or is it still just a future dream for scientists? Just wondering.
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