Shubhra Gangopadhyay is the one of the few female faculty at MU’s Center for Micro/Nano Systems and Nanotechnology. She’s also the one in charge of developing the center. In the Electrical and Computer Engineering department, of which Gangopadhyay is the LaPierre Endowed Chair Professor, she is one of three women. “There is a shortage of female scientists and female professors, in general,” Gangopadhyay says. “And in engineering, it is really not good.”
Nano-sized particles—clusters of molecules so small that 100,000,000 would fit across a single hair—can be built by attatching molecules together or by smashing apart bigger clusters. Shubhra Gangopadhyay’s lab does both. Her work will result in amazing new technologies, some of which will be used by the U.S. Department of Defense.
Gangopadhyay’s work falls into three categories. She uses nano particles to harvest energy, create new and better computer chips, and design sensors. For example, her lab has created a “lab on a chip,” which will analyze thousands of cells simultaneously as well as a regular-sized lab.
Though most of Gangopadhyay’s work is at the research stage, some of her ideas are already sold for commercial use. For instance, she helped develop a plasma-coated plastic, which is both fog- and bullet- proof, to be used on airplane windows. A gene-gun that blasts medicines or genes into cancer cells could revolutionize oncology.
Gangopadhyay’s favorite project is an inexpensive test for certain kinds of metabolic activity. This test is important for patients infected with HIV and TB. Much like today’s pregnancy tests, this new technology would offer an inexpensive way to help AIDS-infected patients. She hopes to see the test used in those countries most severely impacted by the diease.
Gangopadhyay’s future plans include helping to establish a Nanotech Consortium, to be headquartered in Columbia, which will work closely with large corporations, such as Boeing, to develop new technology.
Gangopadhyay teaches classes for both graduate and undergraduate students. She also does outreach to local public schools, and many junior high and high school students visit her lab and work as summer interns. Nanotechnology is the science of the future, she explains, so it is important to get young people exposed early.
For Gangopadhyay, collaboration is one of the most important parts of scientific research. “If you don’t have the right collaborators,” she remarks, “it’s impossible to move your field to the next level.” Many of the collaborations with which she is involved are possible only on the MU campus.