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Microscopic world of nanotechnology revealed at next Abertay lecture

25 February 2014

If you have ever wondered how to fit 24 volumes of an encyclopaedia onto the head of a pin, Abertay University’s next Professorial Lecture on the microscopic world of nanotechnology will explain how this has become a real possibility.

In 'The Nanotechnology Revolution – A Game-changer of the Millennium', Professor Ashok Adya will introduce this fascinating area of science, providing an overview of nanotechnology's many and varied uses both in research and in our daily lives.

From its humble beginnings as a mad-capped theory, to today's experiments in everything from engineering to biotechnology and forensic science, Professor Adya will get to the heart of what nanotechnology is, what it can do, and what it will make possible in the future.

Speaking about why he is so interested in this subject, Professor Adya said:

"Back in 1959, Richard Feynman - who won the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1965 - declared that it would one day be possible to fit 24 volumes of Encyclopaedia Britannica onto the head of a pin. He said this could be done in principle without violating any laws of physics, but in practice it wasn't possible because we didn't have the tools available to do it! People thought he was crazy. Indeed, even when I was a student, it just wasn't possible to look at things on such a small scale. But this has now been done - as have many, many other things that it was once thought were impossible - thanks to nanotechnology.

"Everything around us has always existed on a nanoscale - it is just that it is only in the past 20 years that we have developed the techniques that enable us to view and manipulate things that are so small.

"To give you an idea of the scale at which we work, there are about 80,000 nm in the width of a single human hair. By comparison, a red blood cell is only about 7000 nm in diameter and DNA is smaller still, at only 2 nm across.

"This technology has completely revolutionised our approach to dealing effectively with a whole range of global problems - everything from materials science, biotechnology and food science, to agriculture, forensics, the life sciences and medicine. For example, we can now look inside cells and see what's going on in there; we can inject drugs into them to see what happens; and we can pick atoms up and move them around.

"This technology is already being used to help with the early diagnosis and better treatment of patients with cancer, and this is happening in two ways. Firstly with the development of nanoparticles that are loaded with drugs to target tumours and kill cancer cells without harming healthy tissues, and secondly by developing nanosensor devices to detect the biological signatures of cancer for its early diagnosis. But there are new applications of nanotechnology that are being discovered all the time, so it is truly an exciting area of science that has opened up innumerable possibilities for the future."

‘The Nanotechnology Revolution - A Game Changer of the Millennium’ will take place on Wednesday, March 12 at 6 pm in Abertay University’s Main Lecture Theatre, Kydd Building, Bell Street, Dundee.

The event is free and everyone is welcome. There will be complementary refreshments at the end of the talk.


For media enquiries please contact Kirsty Cameron T: 01382 308935 M: 07972172158 E:

Notes to Editors:

Professor Ashok Adya has had a highly distinguished career so far. He has over 130 publications to his name, many of which have resulted from interdisciplinary work covering a range of disciplines including chemistry, physics, biology, computing, engineering, life and forensic sciences.

Born in Punjab, India, he has always been fascinated by science and says that "curiosity is the motivating and driving force of every scientist".

It had always been his dream to go to university, but to do this and become a researcher he had to overcome several family and financial hurdles.

However, he began his academic career as a student at Punjab University from where he simultaneously attained two undergraduate degrees: a BSc in Chemistry, Physics and Mathematics, as well as an Honours degree in Mathematics.

He then went on to receive his MSc in Chemistry from Punjab Agricultural University, where he is now an Honorary Adjunct Professor.

After his MSc, Professor Adya moved to Delhi, where he gained his PhD from Delhi University. He was awarded various research fellowships during his studies there, including a post-doctoral position whilst still in the pre-doctoral stages of his PhD.

Upon award of his doctorate, Professor Adya took up the position of Lecturer at Kirori Mal College - part of Delhi University - where he was subsequently promoted to the position of Reader, before going to Tokyo Institute of Technology in Japan to pursue his post-doctoral studies under the sponsorship of UNESCO.

He then came to the UK to work as a Research Associate and then Research Fellow at Bristol University - positions funded by the EPSRC - before being appointed a permanent Lecturer in Chemistry at the Dundee Institute of Technology in 1993, shortly before it became Abertay University.

He was then promoted to the position of Reader at Abertay in 2000, and became Professor of Nanotechnology in 2011.

As the founder and chair of the BIO- and Nano-Technologies for Health and Environment (BIONTHE) Research Group, Professor Adya uses nanotechnology to investigate aspects and mechanisms of growth, metabolism and the effects of a variety of environmental stresses on a diverse range of cells of industrial, environmental, medical and forensic significance.

This research involves applying nanotools to fields as diverse as biotechnology, food, forensics, and the material and life sciences, including cancer research.

As well as his current position, Professor Adya has held visiting professorships in France, Ukraine, Japan and India and continues to carry out research at international facilities in collaboration with many international partners.

Speaking about what inspired him to become a researcher, and continues to inspire him to carry out his research, Professor Adya said:

"It is the continuous curiosity and passion to learn and my love for venturing into the unknown to discover something new that has kept my interests alive all this time to carry out research not only in the areas I specialise in, but much beyond that.

"I enjoy passing on the new knowledge I gain through research to my students through teaching, and my thirst for knowledge was and still remains unquenchable. It is because of this strong desire to deepen my understanding of nature and the way it works that I decided to devote my career to research and I never regretted it."

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