NNCO Quarterly Newsletter: Spring 2020 Edition

June 04, 2020

A Quarterly Newsletter of the National Nanotechnology Coordination Office (NNCO)



Welcome to an abbreviated “spring” edition of the NNCO Newsletter. I realize that it is after Memorial Day (but before the summer solstice), and I beg your pardon as it has been a very busy and unusual spring. My heart goes out to everyone who has been affected by the global pandemic. Many of us have found ways to contribute to the response (please see usa.gov/coronavirus and examples of NNI agency activities below), and I appreciate the inputs that we’ve received from the community highlighting how nanotechnology is being used to prevent, detect, or treat the virus. We will look for ways to share these highlights at the appropriate time. The NNCO has been fortunate to be able to carry on its work within the guidance to keep staff members and others safe. I want to acknowledge and thank the NNCO staff for seamlessly transitioning to telework to continue support of the NNI agencies and the nanotechnology community.

A significant event that occurred this spring was the release of the Congressionally mandated Quadrennial Review of the National Nanotechnology Initiative by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. The committee was given a difficult task: to assess the NNI in the global context and to recommend if the initiative should continue, and if so, how. After several open meetings with experts and considerable discussion, the pre-publication version of the report was released on April 7. A public webinar is scheduled for next week, June 9, and will include a review of the key findings and recommendations and an opportunity for the public to ask questions. I encourage you to participate in the webinar, and want to personally thank the committee for providing a thoughtful report. The findings and recommendations will inform discussions of the future directions of the NNI.

Many of you know and share my passion for students. Unfortunately, the Student Leaders Conference we organize every year with TechConnect won’t take place this summer. However, we are working with the students to organize a virtual meeting, and we welcome you and your students to participate. Please see additional details below. Going virtual also gave us the opportunity this spring to share an event hosted at one of the new groups (NanoNU at Northwestern University) with the entire network, which would not have been possible if it had been held as a typical in-person seminar.

The NNCO, although currently remote, continues to be here for the community. I welcome your highlights, thoughts, and ideas as we chart the path forward for the NNI. I miss you all greatly and look forward to seeing you as soon as possible at meetings and events. In the meantime, I will cherish my conversations in the three series of NNI podcasts and hope you do as well, and will “see” you in upcoming virtual meetings all over the world. Please do take care and be well.


Response to COVID-19: Examples from NNI Agencies. 

  • Response to COVID-19: Examples from NNI Agencies. 

NNI participating agencies are using existing appropriations as well as emergency supplemental funding to support research addressing the COVID-19 crisis. Agencies are funding a variety of research projects as part of this effort, including many that are nanotechnology-related, from materials for masks and air filters to sensors, oxygen generators, antimicrobial coatings, vaccines, vaccine delivery systems, and x-ray imaging to understand the virus and how it spreads.

Agencies are utilizing a wide range of mechanisms to support and expedite this research. To get funding as quickly as possible to the research community, NIH is using Urgent and Emergency competing revisions and administrative supplements to existing grant awards. NSF is using existing funding opportunities and also issued several (now-archived) Dear Colleague Letters specifically inviting relevant proposals through the Rapid Response Research (RAPID) funding mechanism and the SBIR/STTR program. Hundreds of RAPID awards have been announced, including a number of nanotechnology projects. FDA is expediting review and approval of COVID diagnostics and therapeutics applications, including accelerated clinical trials for two nanotechnology-enabled vaccines, is maintaining and securing drug supply chains, and is providing guidance to manufacturers. DOE’s Office of Science is contributing to COVID-19 research efforts by enabling access to user facilities throughout its national laboratory complex, and is supporting research on understanding the structure and spread of the virus through x-ray imaging and supercomputer modeling. NIST is funding high-impact biopharmaceutical manufacturing projects to support the Nation’s response to the pandemic and has announced that it will award grants to help manufacturers respond to the crisis through Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) centers in all 50 states and Puerto Rico. Other NNI agencies are also investing heavily in the response. Additional information is available at usa.gov/coronavirus. Further information on the nanotechnology contributions to these efforts will be included in the NNI Supplement to the President’s 2021 Budget.

Additional nanotechnology research advances are highlighted on nano.gov and through the NNI social media feeds (LinkedIn: National Nanotechnology Initiative and Twitter: @NNInanonews).

On April 7, 2020, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) released the latest Quadrennial Review of the NNI. This report recommends a framework for a redesign of the NNI and its coordination, with the goal of achieving a U.S. resurgence in nanotechnology. NASEM is organizing a public webinar on June 9, 2020, from 1 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. EDT to discuss the report. Register at http://nni.eventbrite.com.


A special episode of the Nanotechnology Entrepreneurship Network (NEN) podcast series was released on March 31, 2020. This episode featured a conversation with Dr. Jennifer Shieh, Chief Scientist and Program Manager at the U.S. Small Business Administration, who discussed resources available to small businesses impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.


This year, the Student Leaders Conference is going virtual. It will feature a Career Pathways panel and a Student Presentations session. This conference provides a great opportunity to get involved with NextTech, an active and growing network of undergraduate students with a focus on emerging technologies. Contact nanoed@nnco.nano.gov to learn more about NextTech or if you are interested in participating in the virtual Student Leaders Conference.

Are you currently looking for a job? With the COVID-19 pandemic, companies are foregoing in-person interviews in favor of video interviews. But how do you leave the best possible impression when you are not meeting your interviewer face to face? Check out the latest video in the NextTech student network's professional development series for tips on setting yourself up for success in a video interview: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nytNRKhkTIk.


Through three different podcast series, guests are exploring nanotechnology topics from different perspectives:


June 9, 2020: Webinar
Quadrennial Review of the National Nanotechnology Initiative: Report Briefing

June 24, 2020: Webinar
Advances in Self-Powered Wearable Sensors: A Biofuel-Powered Electronic Skin (Sensors NSI Webinar Series)

September 16–17, 2020: Virtual Workshop
U.S.-EU NanoEHS Communities of Research (COR) Workshop

www.nano.gov | info@nnco.nano.gov

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