Nanotech research center created


Senior Reporter

For years, Michigan, Michigan State and Wayne State have been known informally as the Big Three when it comes to major research universities in Michigan. Now, an Oakland University professor said OU is attempting to carve itself a spot in that elite tier.

The recently established Nanotechnology Research & Development Institute is the latest aspect of an ambitious technological research initiative at OU that includes the Biomedical Research Center, the OU Beaumont School of Medicine and the proposed $16 million research park.

T.C. Yih, vice provost of research and engineering, was appointed chairperson of the Nanotech Institute and said the institute will help put OU on the cutting edge of a sector that will drive the national economy in the near future.

“If you put all this together, we are actually working into the future right now,” Yih said.

“I believe in the next 10 or 15 years as you project it, we will be a major player, at least in Michigan. Right now we have the Big Three — UM, MSU, Wayne State – I believe OU will be on the map.”

Provost Virinder Moudgil said Yih was the best choice to lead this new project.

“Dr. Yih is a nationally recognized leader in nanotechnology research,” Moudgil said. “Along with his current and past administrative experiences, Dr. Yih has first-hand experience and is eminently qualified to lead the Nanotech R&D Institute.”

Until taking his current position at the Nanotech Institute, Yih was a co-editor in chief of the journal, “Nanomedicine: Nanotechnology, Biology and Medicine.” In 2008, he also edited the book, “Micro and Nano Manipulations for Biomedical Applications,” which Moudgil, who has a background in the medical field, called “a book widely seen to be the authoritative volume on nanobiotechnology.”

People in the nanotechnology field deal with the manipulation of tiny particles. The prefix nano is derived from Latin for “dwarf” and denotes one-billionth.

“When we talk about nanoscale we are trying to observe and manipulate objects at the subatomic and molecular levels. What we try to do is change the building blocks for all physical objects,” Yih said.

Yih said several professors have been working in nano fields for years, such as Raul Chaudry with his stem cell research. According to Yih, one of the priorities of the Nanotech Institute will be to provide better funding for the professors currently engaged in nano research.

Moudgil said the establishment of the Nanotech Institute will lead to greater research opportunities for students.

“One of the objectives of the Institute is to enrich university curriculum and student research experience, at both undergraduate and graduate levels,” Moudgil said. “We intend to recruit students from different disciplines to participate in different R&D projects in collaboration with other academic units at OU and outside industrial and business partners.”

Yih said that this work will help generate federal funding by way of the 2000 National Nanotechnology Initiative.

“The so-called research projects that are funded by the federal agencies, would love to see student involvement which means we are required to recruit students into our projects,” Yih said.

“We really need to train and educate students for our future needs in nanotechnology fields.”

Both Moudgil and Yih said that the Nanotech Institute will be heavily involved in collaborations with area businesses.

“The Institute has already secured research funding from the Michigan University Commercialization Initiative as well as from a couple of regional companies,” Moudgil said. “We’ll continue to seek expanding our resource base in collaboration with the state and private organizations.”

Yih said the institute will attempt to work with students and faculty in the school of business to develop sales and marketing strategies. He also said he even hopes to work with Cooley Law School to address intellectual property issues.

The recent investment in research and technology at OU has Yih excited and confident that OU is thinking forward on important issues.

“This is really the third industrial revolution,” Yih said. “I credit [OU President] Dr. [Gary] Russi and Dr. Moudgil for being visionaries. They understand what Oakland needs to do in order to not just stay static, but to grow and expand and be viable in the future.”