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Northwestern is hosting two nanotechnology town hall meetings, Dec. 19 and Jan. 8. The forums offer the general public an opportunity to learn about the fundamentals of nanotechnology and to explore the larger questions about the smallest technology.

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by Megan Fellman

[video: Chad Mirkin discusses how he became interested in science and nanotechnology (12/05)]
[video: Mark Ratner defines nanotechnology and discusses what its impact may be (12/05)]

EVANSTON, Ill. --- There is a new industrial revolution under way, but it may be hard to see. It's nanotechnology -- science, technology and engineering that happens on the nanoscale. (A nanometer is one billionth of a meter -- in other words, very tiny.) Nanoparticles have been used to improve sunscreens, khaki pants, food containers and bandages for wounds. The technology promises to have a huge impact on much more significant areas, such as medicine, energy and electronics.

Northwestern University, a world leader in the basic research and application of nanotechnology, is hosting two nanotechnology town hall meetings, Dec. 19 and Jan. 8, each featuring an expert delivering a talk in plain English, followed by questions from the audience. The forums offer the general public an opportunity to learn about the fundamentals of nanotechnology and to explore the larger questions about the smallest technology.

The speakers are two of the biggest names in nanotechnology -- Chad Mirkin and Mark Ratner, both members of the Northwestern faculty. Mirkin is George B. Rathmann Professor of Chemistry in Northwestern's Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences, professor of medicine and of materials science and engineering and director of the International Institute for Nanotechnology. Ratner, also a chemist, is the Lawrence B. Dumas Distinguished University Professor and director of the Center for Nanofabrication and Molecular Self-Assembly.

The first meeting, featuring Mirkin, will be held from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 19, in the Hughes Auditorium of the Robert H. Lurie Medical Research Center, 303 E. Superior St., Chicago, at Northwestern's Feinberg School of Medicine.

Ratner will speak at the second meeting, which will be held from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 8, at the McCormick Tribune Center Forum, 1870 Campus Drive, on the University's Evanston campus.

The discussion portion of both meetings will be moderated by Laurie Zoloth, professor of medical humanities and bioethics and of religion at Northwestern and director of the Center for Bioethics, Science and Society.

The public outreach events are free, but advanced registration is required. To register, go to <http://www.nsec.northwestern.edu/townhalls.htm>. For more information, call (847) 467-4862.

The town hall meetings are sponsored by the Northwestern University Nanoscale Science and Engineering Center, the International Institute for Nanotechnology, the Center of Cancer Nanotechnology Excellence, the Illinois Science Council and the Institute on Biotechnology and the Human Future.