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Message from the Dean

November 24th, 2008

I’ll begin this post with some exciting news about the University’s Nanosystems Initiative, a multi-million dollar nanotechnology center that’s expected to be fully operational come summer, and will focus on the development of fuel-cell and biosensor research. Congresswoman Louise Slaughter announced last week she had secured $1.6 million in federal funding for the initiative, bringing her total support of the project to $4.4 million over the last three years.

The money will support research from disciplines across the University’s campuses, as scientists and engineers from six departments, including the medical center, are spearheading the project. Work now underway at the center — which is housed in Wilmot and Goergen halls — is leading the development of efficient fuel cells for powering homes and cars, and of optical nanotechnology for detecting target molecules (which is of great interest to homeland security experts). And in coming years, the initiative will focus on enhancing the efficiency of solar cells, derived from research being conducted as we speak by engineers in the Institute of Optics and the Department of Chemical Engineering.

SEAS is playing a significant role in our University’s efforts in the basic research required to advance new technologies through the Nanosystems Initiative. As Rep. Slaughter said last week, “The University of Rochester continues to lead the way in advancing exciting new technologies that will help address the nation’s energy, security, and health needs.”

SEAS made news on the student level last week, too. Jonathan Ortloff, a senior from Plattsburgh and a dual-major in organ performance at the Eastman School and engineering sciences at the College, was featured with several of his U of R colleagues on “Need to Know,” a television program broadcast by WXXI. The segment was centered on social entrepreneurship and Jonathan’s status as a Kauffman Entrepreneurial Year (KEY) scholar. When he’s not honing his skills as a musician, Jonathan is researching fluid dynamics, acoustics, and other fundamental physics of sound. And as a KEY scholar, he has been studying an organ built by the famed Æolian-Skinner company and installed in 1937 in Strong Auditorium. (The instrument has been silent since at least the 1970s.) Jonathan’s interdisciplinary experience here is part of what so sharply distinguishes the University of Rochester from its peers — and which sets our graduates apart after they enter the professional world.

Through ground-breaking research, education, and service provided by our faculty, students, and staff, SEAS generates some great news, week after week. To that end, I’d like now to announce the arrival last week of a new University Communications staffer, Evan Wendel. As the office’s engineering writer, Evan will gather and promote SEAS’ many compelling stories, in hopes of garnering both local and national media attention for our tremendous faculty, staff, students, and alumni. Evan recently completed his graduate degree in media studies at MIT, where his thesis research focused on the transformative potentials of social networks in today’s music industry. Coupling his background in media with a bachelor’s degree in physics, Evan hopes that as a science writer he will be able to not only learn about and report on our cutting-edge research, but also explore ways in which social media might benefit the work of our faculty and students. Welcome aboard, Evan!

Because the week ahead is an abbreviated one, I won’t be posting next Monday, Dec. 1. But please keep your news and ideas coming — and in the meantime, from my family to all of yours, here’s wishing you a joyous and restful Thanksgiving weekend!

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