September 26, 2007

Green Glow Signals Promising New Future

By: by Diana L. Martin for the Times Union


The large steel-and-glass building stood before me like a mountain. My stomach sank and nerves set in. Had I made the right career move?

A friend once joked that aliens must be kept inside, because you can see a green glow rising through the trees as you drive on Interstate 90 at night. It's referred to by some as the "big ship" on the way to Crossgates Mall.

Despite a plethora of announcements and local news reports, some of my friends still aren't sure exactly what happens behind the scenes at the massive complex that has sprung up in recent years on the corner of Washington Avenue Extension and Fuller Road.

This was my first day on the job at the University at Albany's College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering. CNSE's $4.2 billion Albany NanoTech complex houses not only the college, but also numerous industry partners like IBM, AMD, International Sematech, Applied Materials, Tokyo Electron and Vistec Lithography, among many others, that conduct cutting-edge research in the most advanced facility of its kind at any university in the world.

As intimidating as it was walking into the building, you can imagine my thoughts as I walked through the halls, hearing conversations in other languages, seeing detailed scientific formulas written on whiteboards and recognizing that brilliant individuals surrounded me at every turn.

These kinds of interactions aren't new to me; I studied abroad in college and was exposed to numerous countries, cultures and individuals. Through my previous job with the Albany-Colonie Regional Chamber of Commerce, I had been to CNSE, taken tours and partnered with the NanoCollege on educational programs that allowed me to interact with faculty and staff.

But now I was employed by the college and, despite my past experience, I was entering a whole new world.

In this world, it's an exciting time to be in Albany. Yes, Albany. My new job is offering quite a bit of insight into the future of this city and things are looking pretty amazing.

Very simply put, nanotechnology is the study and manipulation of material at the nanoscale. One nanometer is a billionth of a meter. We're talking inconceivably small. When you can manipulate matter at this tiny scale, you can do some incredible things.

Nanotechnology is most commonly known for its role in the semiconductor industry -- making the chips that power common electronics like computers, cellphones and video games smaller, faster and more efficient.

The future of nanotechnology, however, reaches far beyond electronics. It will fuel major changes in the health care industry -- creating new ways to detect disease and developing less invasive and more targeted methods of treatment and drug delivery. It is spurring a multitude of applications involving new forms of clean and renewable energy, along with new ways to clean up pollution. It also is involved in the development of stronger, more lightweight materials for the military, improved methods of homeland security and faster and more efficient telecommunications.

Nanotechnology will literally shape the future of our society. And right now, the eyes of the industry -- on a global level -- are focused on what is happening in Albany. New forms of collaborative partnerships involving academia, industry and government are forging a new path for the future of this region.

CNSE is attracting the world's leading companies and creating an international hub of next-generation research, development and manufacturing.

This growth is creating opportunity for the entire region, with thousands of new jobs being created, both directly and indirectly, here and throughout the state. We're already seeing an influx of young, educated professionals, an increase in cultural diversity and, most importantly, new discoveries that could change our future.

And those discoveries are surfacing out of Albany, N.Y.

It's no longer a debate about whether or not this will happen. It's happening. I see it every day when I walk into the building.

For a young professional like me, it's an exciting time to be living and working in this region. There is a growing sense of optimism for the future, which is being driven by this college, and the individuals who lead it.

I'm still not sure what the building's green glow is all about, although I'm fairly certain this isn't the mother ship for extraterrestrial beings. I do feel confident with this step in my career. I'm proud to be here, and I have a lot to look forward to.