April 7, 2003

Engineering Conference Explores Nanoscience

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“Break the Size Barrier,” the 20th annual Cornell Society of Engineers (CSE) conference held April 3-5, brought students, faculty, alumni and guests together to explore current nanoscience studies and applications.

Nanoscience is engineering at a molecular level. As Bill Nye ’77 said in his opening remarks on Friday, April 4, “There is plenty of room at the bottom; nanotechnology gives us new ways to redirect information and very small amounts of material, and — dare I say it? — we may be able to change the world.”

The conference spanned over three days and included both speakers who are alumni in the industry and Cornell faculty who are involved in nanoscience research at the university.

“The capability provided by nanoscience is one of the most important enabling technologies of the 21st century, with wide ranging implications for the quality of our lives,” said W. Kent Fuchs, Joseph Silbert Dean of the College of Engineering.

The conference began at 3:30 p.m. on Thursday as the public registered for the events in Hollister Hall. Following registration, the William G. Ohaus Memorial Seminar commenced with speaker Ammar Hanafi ’88, School of Applied and Engineering Physics (A&EP) Vice President of Strategy and Bus Development of Cisco Systems.

Following the memorial seminar was the graduate research symposium in the Statler Hotel ballroom foyer, where graduate students representing different departments within the College of Engineering presented their projects with the aid of posters. Some highlights of the displayed work included Philip Stalcup grad’s “Gas Washing by Carbon Dioxide” and Zhongping Bao grad’s “What Will Happen if My Cell Phone Drops?”

Thursday’s festivities concluded with a reception in the Statler cosponsored by the CSE and the Engineering Student Council.

On Friday, after a welcome from President Hunter R. Rawlings III, the audience made its way to Barnes Hall, where they heard opening remarks from Fuchs; Robert Maroney ’72, CSE president, and Sarah Fischell ’78, Conference Chair.

“CSE brings alumni, faculty and students together on important emerging technology,” Fischell said. She added that since its establishment in 1905, the CSE has provided members with the opportunity to network with fellow alumni for the advancement of both the profession and the College of Engineering. Fischell introduced Nye, who talked about the importance of nanotechnology.

“We may be looking at a future only dreamed of 40 years ago and not even imagined 100 years ago,” Nye said. “Cornell has an openness and inclusion of undergraduates that we need to nourish.”

David F. Welch Ph.D. ’85, chief technical officer and cofounder of Infinera, spoke about technology leverage in the world of telecommunications. He focused on huge potential for start-up companies.

“The information age is still in the early stages, and the stage is set for innovations to change the telecommunication landscape,” Welsh said.

The remainder of Friday included speakers Prof. Lester Eastman ’52, electrical and computer engineering; Prof. Jerry M. Woodall Ph.D. ’82, electrical engineering, Yale University; Philip Batson ’70, A&EP; Vice Provost John Silcox and Prof. Chris Ober, materials engineering.

Conference participants also had the chance to take a hard-hat tour of Duffield Hall, which will serve as Cornell’s premiere science building upon its projected completion on February 28, 2005. With three large atria connecting Duffield Hall to Phillips Hall and Upson Hall, engineers will have a venue for informal social and educational gatherings.

On Friday evening, undergraduate students presented their engineering projects to fellow students, faculty, and alumni in the Statler Hotel.

Among the projects, the Robocup attracted significant interest from attendees. The ultimate goal of the engineers who invented the small machine, and continue to perfect it, is to develop a team of fully autonomous human robots able to beat the human world soccer champions. They have already emerged victorious in the international challenges held in 1999, 2000 and 2002.

“The design process each year starts from scratch,” said Patrick Dingie ’04, a Robocup presenter. On display were the robots from 2002 and 2003. The combination of mechanical, electrical and computer science is what makes the robots work without human control.

“It’s fascinating and very stimulating and refreshing to come back to Cornell and see what people are doing,” Nye said of the undergraduate poster session. “I see how advanced students are and how they are working so closely with professors. They are working on state-of-the-art stuff. There’s more to it than learning your core sciences — It’s priceless.”

After the symposium, guests enjoyed a dinner and award presentation in the Statler Hotel Ballroom.

On Saturday, the day began with the Dean’s breakfast and Annual Meeting of CSE, where Fuchs spoke. Following the breakfast, guests assembled to hear Greg J. Galvin M.S. ’82, president and CEO of Kionix, speak about the business of microtechnology.

The conference ended with a panel discussion, “Outlook for the Future.”

Participants included W. David Williams, Ph.D. ’76, director of Special Microsystems Programs at Sandia National Laboratories; Kevin McGovern ’70, chairperson of McGovern Capital; Sandeep Malhotra M.S. ’89 of Ardesta Ventures and Josh Wolfe ’99, managing partner at Lux Capital.

Archived article by Jessica Liebman