Celebrating 15 Years of Groundbreaking Innovation at the Nano Scale

Posted on April 04, 2024

Dean Sherine Obare with a student work in a UNCG JSNN lab.
Outgoing Dean Sherine Obare has led JSNN since 2019.

UNC Greensboro and NC A&T State University’s Joint School of Nanoscience and Nanoengineering (JSNN) will celebrate 15 years of collaboration and innovation. 

Founded in 2009 – and thanks to the hard work of faculty, staff, and students – JSNN has laid the groundwork for innovative research, searching for technological answers that could protect members of the U.S. armed forces through the ICONS project; and incorporate nanomaterial into clothing to fight bacteria. 

On April 4, 2024, from 4-6 p.m., JSNN will hold an anniversary celebration at the campus on East Gate City Boulevard in Greensboro. An award ceremony will honor individuals who contributed to its growth and development. The following day, April 5, JSNN students will lead a seminar at 11 a.m. with presentations on food, dress, and dance from their home countries, to celebrate the diverse nationalities and cultures they represent. 

Tiny materials leave a big impact

JSNN is one of 16 sites that the National Science Foundation funds as part of the National Nanotechnology Coordination Infrastructure (NNCI). It’s become a beacon for collaboration that integrates science and engineering. Students develop skills to help them pursue careers in biotechnology or create award-winning solutions with help from NASA.

In the past decade, over $30 million has been awarded to the faculty in the form of grants and contracts, an impressive amount given the School’s relatively small size. More than 500 journal articles have been published featuring discoveries made at JSNN. The faculty have issued over 20 patents, and more than 200 students have received graduate degrees. 

Three spin-off companies are implementing the technologies coming out of JSNN, including Minerva Lithium, led by Associate Professor Hemali Rathnayake and assisted by graduate student Sheeba Dawood, who won the 2022 Startup Battlefield at TechCrunch Disrupt competition. 

Getting the word out about Nano

JSNN’s success comes from its incredible scientists committed to sharing their research with their students and extend opportunities beyond campus, such as Dr. Eric Josephs, chair of the organizing committee for the National Science Foundation’s Nanoscale Science and Engineering Grantees Conference in December 2023.

Its success is due to students eager to help the public understand nano’s real-world impact, such as those who work together on the “Navigating Nano” podcast.

It’s also due to dedicated staff such as Mahdi Fahim, the director of research operations and environmental health and safety who fostered an award-winning culture of safety.

The University Economic Development Association (UEDA) recognized JSNN through an Excellence in Innovation Award in 2022. Insights into Diversity has also recognized JSNN for its success in supporting Women in Nanotechnology, and for educating students in STEM Entrepreneurship. The North Carolina Biotechnology Center recognized JSNN for its Excellence in supporting Biotechnology Innovation.

The JSNN community looks forward to many more years of research with a new leader at the helm. Dr. Mitch Croatt, department head of chemistry and biochemistry, moves into the role of interim dean on May 1, as Dean Sherine Obare will become UNCG’s new vice chancellor for research and engagement

Story by Janet Imrick, University Communications
Photography by Martin W. Kane, University Communications; and Bert Vanderveen, VanderVeen Photographers

photo of faculty mentor and student in lab setting

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