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Nanomaterials in the Environment, Agriculture & Technology -  Organized Research Unit (NEAT ORU) - UC Davis


Goals of the NEAT-ORU

Nanomaterials consist of small particles with large surface areas and enhanced chemical and biological reactivity. They figure prominently in fundamental science, in communication, information, and electronic technology, in catalysis, in biotechnology and medicine, and in the transport of adsorbed pollutants and nutrients in the hydrosphere, atmosphere, and biosphere. We must develop new knowledge and educate students in the fundamental physical science needed to identify, characterize, and understand nanomaterials, in the constellation of related environmental, geological, atmospheric and biological issues, as well as the regulatory and societal issues that arise or are impacted by such research. Participants in this program will be well poised to embark on careers in basic research, technology, environmental management and remediation, health sciences, and public policy and legislative development. The NEAT initiative at UC Davis is to provide a broad, deep, and interactive environment to address these issues in terms of research and education.

NEAT Faculty Recruitment Initiative

A 1997 call for proposals for interdisciplinary faculty hiring initiatives resulted in commitments from several colleges for about 12 faculty lines related to NEAT.

Successful recruitments include:

  • Anthony Wexler in fall 2000, as a Professor with appointments in Mechanical and Aeronautical Engineering, Civil Engineering, and Land, Air, and Water Resources.
  • Gang-yu Liu in fall 2001 as an Associate Professor in Chemistry.
  • Kai Liu in the fall 2001 as an Assistant Professor in Physics.
  • Joerg Loeffler in fall 2001 as an Assistant Professor in Chemical Engineering and Materials Science.
  • Nigel Browning in Winter 2003 with a joint appointment in Chemical Engineering and Materials Science and the National Center for Electron Microscopy at Lawrence Berkeley Lab, now moved affiliation to Livermore National Lab.
  • James Rustad in Fall 2004 as an Associate Professor in Geology.
  • Sabyasachi Sen in 2004 as an Associate Professor in Chemical Engineering and Materials Science.
  • Sangtae Kim in fall 2004 as Assistant Professor in Chemical Engineering and Materials Science (partly supported by NEAT).

Other appointments, not tied to the NEAT recruitment initiative, have brought in faculty with nanomaterials interests. These include Roland Faller, Assistant Professor of Chemical Engineering (Fall 2002), Atul Parikh, Assistant Professor in Applied Science (Fall 2001), Saif Islam (Assistant Professor of Electrical Engineering (Fall 2004), Mark Asta, Professor of Chemical Engineering and Materials Science (Fall 2005), and Guilia Galli, Professor of Chemistry (Fall 2005). NEAT was an asset in these recruitments and Navrotsky served on several of the search committees. These new faculty are now active participants in the NEAT community.

NEAT Organized Research Unit (ORU)

NEAT formally became an Organized Research Unit (ORU, directed by A. Navrotsky) on the Davis campus in July 2002. The is integral in catalyzing and organizing response to calls for proposals, especially those for multi-investigator interdisciplinary projects, by pulling together campus resources from the diverse and extensive research and teaching interests of a large number of investigators (> 30) in many different departments (> 10). Its unifying theme is materials, mainly nanomaterials, with emphasis on the interaction of materials and the natural and man-made environment. The ORU is a focal point for the IGERT and the recruitment initiative, as well as for seminars, discussions, and off-campus interactions. It provides staff support as well as visibility. The NEAT ORU is now actively working with the new Energy for the Future Initiative on campus. NEAT forms the focus of fundamental molecular scale research in materials, including nanomaterials, for energy applications.

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