In 2001, a small group of UNC faculty members began discussing an exciting new possibility: an academic alliance that fostered multidisciplinary research that went beyond the boundaries of traditional sciences into the exciting and emerging disciplines of nanoscience and biomedical engineering. This new alliance would pool resources, manage shared facilities, and provide concrete infrastructure for broader collaborations that would lead to cutting-edge research and groundbreaking innovations.
In 2002, the Institute for Advanced Materials was established. Over the next decade, the Institute hired 6 new faculty members into affiliated departments:
Mike Ramsey (2004): “Lab-on-a-chip” micro & nanofluidics
Tom Meyer (2005): Photochemistry and energy technology
Peter Mucha (2005): Complex fluids and complex systems
Rene Lopez (2006): Nanofabrication and non-linear optical properties of nanostructures
Wei You (2006): Organic electronic materials synthesis
Nancy Allbritton (2007): Materials science applied to biotechnology
Between them, these six faculty demonstrate real-world impacts through over 100 patents, other reports of invention, multiple startup companies, corporate partnerships, and consulting activities. Remarkably, over the four-year period of fiscal years 2010 through 2013, they were the lead principal investigators on a total of over $42M in federal grants. The Institute participated in a joint investment with NC State University in the Triangle National Lithography Center, and constructed a world-class shared analytical research facility and nanofabrication lab, CHANL, which is housed in the new state-of-the-art $205 million, 650,000 square foot Science Complex at UNC Chapel Hill. The Institute also helped found the Solar Energy Research Center (SERC) and the UNC Energy Frontier Research Center for Solar Fuels, initially funded by a five-year $17.5 million grant by the Department of Energy that has been renewed for another four years.
Our mission is to create and translate scientific research into practical application, taking ideas to impacts.
Embracing an interdisciplinary approach, team-based science, and an entrepreneurial mindset, the activities and efforts of the Department should be designed to positively impact the N.C. economy. With distributed materials science expertise already existing across campus, APSc is poised to make a substantial mark in the broad area of applications and engineering of soft and nano-materials, emphasizing translational research, combining scientific approaches in materials and nanotechnology with applications in health, water and energy to complement and collaborate with other efforts across campus.
New faculty should represent diversity in its many forms; have a strong emphasis on real-world application through entrepreneurship and/or corporate partnership; be eager to play in team science groups, projects and centers; be flexible, to nimbly adapt to new applications; and not fit 100% into our existing science departments.
The immediate priorities of the new Department must be the hiring of new faculty, development of the Department curricula, and the securing of the resources necessary for the success of this new effort.