California NanoSystems Institute

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California NanoSystems Institute interior walkways built over a parking structure at UCLA
Elings Hall, which houses the California NanoSystems Institute, UCSB

The California NanoSystems Institute (CNSI) is an integrated research center operating jointly at UCLA and UC Santa Barbara. Its missions are to foster interdisciplinary collaborations for discoveries in nanosystems and nanotechnology; train the next generation of scientists, educators and technology leaders; and facilitate partnerships with industry, fueling economic development and the social well-being of California, the United States and the world.

CNSI was created by Governor Gray Davis as part of a science and innovation initiative, it was established in 2000 with $100 million from the state of California and an additional $250 million in federal research grants and industry funding. At the institute, scientists in the areas of biology, chemistry, biochemistry, physics, mathematics, computational science and engineering measure, modify and manipulate the building blocks of our world – atoms and molecules. These scientists benefit from an integrated laboratory culture enabling them to conduct dynamic research at the nanoscale, leading to significant breakthroughs in the areas of health, energy, the environment and information technology.


On December 7, 2000, California Governor Gray Davis announced the location of the federally sponsored California NanoSystems Institute section of the California Institutes for Science and Innovation (Cal ISI) initiative. The California legislature put forth $100 million for three research facilities to advance the future of the state's economy.[1] The California NanoSystems Institute (CNSI) was selected out of the proposals along with three other Cal ISIs: California Institute for Quantitative Biosciences (QB3), California Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology (Cal-(IT)2), and Center for Information Technology Research in the Interest of Society (CITRIS).[2] In August, 2000, CNSI was founded on both campuses of UCSB and UCLA. Martha Krebs, the former director of the U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Science, was named the founder.

Active leaders[edit]


The people in charge of UCLA CNSI fall into two categories: directors and associate directors.


  • Jeff F. Miller, Ph.D. - Director

Associate Directors[edit]

  • Heather Maynard, Ph.D. - Associate Director of Technology & Development
  • Andre Nel, M.B., CH.B., Ph.D. - Associate Director of Research
  • Aydogan Ozcan, Ph.D. - Associate Director of Entrepreneurship, Industry and Academic Exchange
  • Leonard H. Rome, Ph.D. - Associate Director of Facilities Management
  • Adam Z. Stieg, Ph.D. - Associate Director of Technology Centers


The people in charge of UCSB CNSI fall into two categories: administrative staff and the faculty.

Administrative staff[edit]

  • Craig Hawker - Director
  • Andrew Cleland - Associate Director
  • H. Tom Soh - Associate Director
  • Holly Woo - Assistant Director, Administration
  • Eva Deloa - Financial Manager
  • Bob Hanson - Building Manager
    • The building manager is responsible for the maintenance, facility resource leads, and infrastructure of CNSI. The building manager oversees any changes in infrastructure or maintenance to the labs or the building as a whole.[3]

Current research[edit]


Research priorities of the CNSI at UCLA build upon the work of our Members, over 150 leading faculty representing nearly 35 Departments. CNSI provides a unique collaborative atmosphere that leverages pooled talent and resources to address the most serious and perplexing questions of our time. The Institute facilitates powerful collaborations among world-class scientists in fields ranging from applied mathematics and engineering to the natural and biomedical sciences. By leveraging the Institute’s central location in the heart of UCLA’s Court of Sciences and proximity to UCLA’s David Geffen School of Medicine, Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center, and Eli and Edythe Broad Center of Regenerative Medicine and Stem Cell Research, CNSI supports problem-based, team science initiatives in targeted areas:

Nanomedicine for Cancer[edit]

CNSI scientists are developing new techniques that utilize nanotechnology to develop fundamental insight into the mechanisms underlying oncogenesis, malignant transformation and metastasis, new platforms for early-stage detection as well as systems for targeted delivery of therapeutic drugs tuned to specifically target cancer sites in the body.


Nanotechnology is vital to the maintenance of a sustainable environment for future generations. Our diverse teams are meeting the grand challenges of today and anticipating problems before they arise. Aligned with the UCLA’s Sustainable LA Grand Challenge, CNSI members have taken lead positions in the development of more efficient, cost-effective nanomaterials and devices that generate, store, and conserve energy as well as strategies to remediate emissions from industrial processes and pollutants in the air, water and land.

Tools for Discovery[edit]

Nanoscience and related technologies are rapidly changing traditional perspectives by enabling new views of the atomic and molecular worlds. The last decade provides a litany of examples demonstrating how new tools and methods have transformed the fields of science, engineering, and medicine. Interdisciplinary at its core, research at CNSI addresses the grand challenges of our generation by developing enabling research tools including: advanced detectors and imaging systems, physical platforms for manipulating matter over multiple length scales, and design strategies for the preparation of functional nanomaterials.

Beyond CMOS[edit]

Ever-increasing global demand for efficient and durable information exchange has created a race to develop next-generation technology platforms. Powered by an ability to design and fabricate circuits, detectors, and actuators at the nanometer scale, CNSI researchers are breaking new ground in the creation of fast, flexible, and scalable electronic devices toward applications ranging from bio/electro/chemical sensors and neuromorphic computing to high-speed multimodal imaging and lens-free microscopy platforms for telemedicine.

Precision Antibiotics + the Microbiome[edit]

The persistent rise in antibiotic-resistant bacterial pathogens necessitates the development of precision antibiotics that specifically and selectively kill bacterial pathogens. Research at CNSI represents a paradigm shift in the treatment and prevention of infectious diseases focused on the creation of “programmable” nanoparticle-based platforms for rapidly producing precision antibiotics. CNSI has also taken a lead role in the recently announced US National Microbiome Initiative by partnering with the UCLA Microbiome Center to launch the Center for Nano-Microbiome Convergence to develop a new generation of tools and technologies for understanding and engineering the microbiomes that shape life on our planet.

Stem Cell Nanomedicine[edit]

Through a recently established partnership with the UCLA Eli and Edythe Broad Center of Regenerative Medicine and Stem Cell Research, CNSI researchers are working to create nano-enabled materials and technologies for manipulating stem cell development and guiding tissue regeneration. Using a modest amount of seed money we have launched a multidisciplinary team to work on a new scaffold designed to accelerate healing after acute cardiac injury, in a manner that minimizes scarring and regenerates healthy heart tissue. This is one of several efforts we hope to launch that leverages synergy between stem cell medicine and nanosciences to deliver minimally invasive therapies for currently intractable diseases.


Current nanotechnology research being conducted on the UCSB campus is organized into three differing fields.

Biology and biomedical[edit]

The research fields of nanobiology (nanobiotechnology) and biomedicine show promise in the connection of nanoscale science to biological/nonbiological matter. New diagnostic methods as well as new ways to administer increasingly efficient disease specific treatments are also being researched and developed.[4]

Energy efficiency[edit]

Nanotechnology has promise to help fight global warming. Nanoscale research can promise more efficient, less wasteful technologies. Also, nanoscale allows to control, transform and store energy more efficiently.[5]

Information technologies[edit]

Both UCLA and UCSB CNSI labs show potential to develop upgrades in the processing, storage, and transmission of information as well as increases in the speed of information processing.[6]


The California NanoSystems Institute depends on partnerships with technological companies to help fund and run its research facilities. Partnerships fund the operation and expansions of CNSI in addition to the $250 million government research grants received in 2000. Increasing numbers of partnerships were created due to budget cuts by the state.


CNSI has international partnerships with the Chinese Academy of Sciences, the Beijing Nano Center, the University of Tokyo, the University of Kyoto, Kyushu University, Yonsei University, Seoul National University, KAIST, University of Bristol,[7] and Zhejiang University.[8]

Founding partners[edit]

Partners that joined when the institute was originally created include:

Associate partners[edit]

Partners that joined after creation include:


Educational opportunities[edit]


Both campuses offer several educational opportunities including hands-on laboratory research experience for junior high students and their teachers. These activities are done in collaboration with graduate students doing research in similar fields. UCSB scientists and researchers run family science nights at local junior highs to give families the opportunity to participate in scientific activities with their children. along with after-school engineering and science club for grades 3-8 to explore science with UCSB undergrad club leaders. CNSI also hosts research opportunities for high school juniors and local Santa Barbara teachers on the UCSB campus.[10] In addition, CNSI at UCSB holds a summer program called SIMS (Summer Institute of Math and Science) for incoming freshmen.[11]


Both UCLA and UCSB contribute to various scholarships for incoming freshmen. They both offer undergraduate courses that give insight to all fields and majors of math and science. Undergraduates have the opportunity to act as club leaders and mentors to younger ages in grades K-12. Undergraduates also have extensive research opportunities in several fields during the year and through summer on either campus.[12] Students within CNSI's UCSB affiliation, UCSB Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, can choose to intern or volunteer at the institute for lab experience.[13]


Graduate opportunities are limited to:

  • Mentoring:
    • community college students
    • incoming freshmen
    • high school juniors
    • high school teachers
    • undergraduates
  • Assisting researchers in the lab[14]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ California Launches Major Nanotechnology Research Initiative”. Foresight Update 43.December 20, 2000. <>.[dead link] 13 October 2008.
  2. ^ Foust, Brenda. “The California Institutes for Science and Innovation”. January, 2005. The Senate Source. <>[permanent dead link]. 13 October 2008.
  3. ^ “Administrative Staff”. <>. 13 October 2008.
  4. ^ "Biological and Biomedical". <>[permanent dead link]. 13 October 2008.
  5. ^ "Energy Efficiency". <>[permanent dead link]. 13 October 2008.
  6. ^ "Information Technologies". <>[permanent dead link]. 13 October 2008.
  7. ^ "Partners". <>[permanent dead link]. 13 October 2008.
  8. ^ "Welcome to ZCNI". <>[permanent dead link]. Retrieved 6 June 2013.
  9. ^ "Partnerships". <>[permanent dead link]. 13 October 2008.
  10. ^ "K-12". <>[permanent dead link]. 13 October 2008.
  11. ^ "SIMS". SIMS. Archived from the original on 1 October 2012. Retrieved 16 February 2012. 
  12. ^ "Undergraduate". <>[permanent dead link]. 13 October 2008.
  13. ^ "CNSI" (PDF). About CNSI. CNSI. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2 October 2011. Retrieved 16 February 2012. 
  14. ^ "Graduate". <>[permanent dead link]. 13 October 2008.

External links[edit]