Swiss Nanoscience Institute
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The Swiss Nanoscience Institute (SNI) at the University of Basel is a center of excellence for nanosciences and nanotechnology. In the SNI network, interdisciplinary teams of scientists conduct basic and applied research and actively support knowledge and technology transfer to industry. Within the study of nanoscience and the PhD School, the SNI trains young scientists and prepares them for careers in industry and academia.
The SNI was founded in 2006 by the Canton of Aargau and the University of Basel to promote research and training in the nanosciences and nanotechnology in Northwestern Switzerland. Since then, numerous research projects have been successfully initiated in which researchers from various disciplines and institutions work together in one network. In addition to research and training, the SNI is also involved in public relations and provides targeted support for various initiatives, particularly those aiming to interest children and young people in the natural sciences.
The success of the SNI is based on the interdisciplinary network that has been built up and consolidated over the years. This network includes various departments at the University of Basel, the University of Applied Sciences Northwestern Switzerland (FHNW), the Paul Scherrer Institute (PSI), the Department for Biosystems Science and Engineering at the Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) Zurich in Basel (D-BSSE) and the CSEM (Centre Suisse d’Electronique et de Microtechnique) in Muttenz. Membership of the SNI, which is earned by participating in SNI projects, and regular academic conferences involving its members constantly stimulate and encourage the exchange of information within the network.
Bachelor and Master Program
In 2002, the University of Basel – under the leadership of the SNI’s predecessor institution – launched the Bachelor’s and master's degree programs in nanosciences. Today, this demanding degree program is firmly established. Around 40 students who begin the Bachelor’s program each year receive a solid basic education in biology, chemistry, physics and mathematics and can subsequently choose from a wide range of courses that allow the students to focus on specific topics. Early on in their education, they have the opportunity to participate in various research groups, an activity that always proves particularly motivating.
To promote the further training of young scientists and a wide spectrum of basic scientific research, the SNI initiated a PhD School in 2013. At the end of 2014, 24 doctoral students were enrolled. Within the SNI PhD School, each doctoral student is supervised by two members of the SNI network. They also become involved in internal events such as the Winter School and the Annual Meeting and take part in various courses to gain insights into areas such as intellectual property, communication and rhetoric.
Leaders in their field
Basic sciences form the foundation of research work at the SNI. In addition to the various projects funded as part of the PhD School, the SNI also supports the basic scientific research performed by Argovia professors Roderick Lim and Martino Poggio. Both were promoted to associate professor in 2014 and their research successes in nanobiology and nanotechnology have contributed to the SNI’s outstanding international reputation. The SNI also supports titular professors Frithjof Nolting and Thomas Jung, who work in the Department of Physics at the University of Basel and at the Paul Scherrer Institute (PSI), and, from the end of 2014, Michel Kenzelmann who also works for the PSI and the Department of Physics.
Since it was founded, the SNI has placed great value on the transfer of academic findings to industry. To optimize this process, the SNI started an annual call for applied research projects. This program entitled Nano Argovia supports about ten projects each year from broad ranging areas of nanotechnology in close collaboration with industrial companies in Northwestern Switzerland and has a total budget of around 1.5 million Swiss francs. With the Nano Argovia program, the SNI is building an important bridge between research and application. In several cases, this collaboration has led to Commission for Technology and Innovation (CTI) and other follow-on projects.
The SNI views itself not only as a pure research institution, but also provides various services to industrial companies. In excellently equipped workshops for technology, electronics and mechanics, internal groups and industrial companies can harness the in-depth knowledge of the staff and the outstanding technical resources of the SNI and the affiliated departments.
Sharing the fascination with others
The SNI wishes to involve the public in its fascination with the natural sciences through active communication and participation in various events. For example, the SNI team is actively involved in science festivals and fairs both at home and abroad, provides schools and groups of interested visitors with an insight into everyday laboratory life, and strives to make scientific achievement
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