Rice Names institute in honor of Smalley

CONTACT: B.J. Almond

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Rice Names institute in honor of Smalley

Center for Nanoscale Science and Technology will become Smalley Institute

Rice University’s Center for Nanoscale Science and Technology (CNST) has been renamed the Richard E. Smalley Institute for Nanoscale Science and Technology.

The Board of Trustees approved the name change Dec. 14 in honor of CNST founder and University Professor Richard Smalley, who died Oct. 28.

“The Center for Nanoscale Science and Technology has been a driving force at Rice for fostering new research, attracting very gifted faculty, building a better graduate program and making Rice a well-known leader in the world of nanotechnology,” Rice President David W. Leebron said. “The carbon molecules known as “buckyballs” that CNST founder Rick Smalley co-discovered formed the foundation for the field of nanotechnology and presaged the dawning of a new era in the physical sciences, giving researchers an unprecedented level of control over materials and promising extraordinary applications in transportation, medicine and energy transmission. Because buckyballs forever changed Rice’s international reputation and put the university at the forefront of 21st century science and technology, it is only fitting that the CNST be elevated to the status of an institute whose name pays tribute to Nobel laureate Rick Smalley.”

The CNST originated when Smalley, the Gene and Norman Hackerman Professor of Chemistry and professor of physics, headed a task force that defined a nanotechnology initiative at Rice. The Board of Governors approved the center, and Smalley was appointed director. A major fund-raising campaign produced $37 million to sustain the initiative through the generosity of individual and corporate donors. Several new faculty members were hired, and construction of a 70,000-square-foot laboratory was completed in 1997 – the year after Smalley and Rice’s Robert Curl Jr. won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for their 1985 discovery of buckminsterfullerenes, or buckyballs, which measure one nanometer, or one-billionth of a meter, in diameter.

Today more than 110 faculty members from 14 departments are affiliated with the CNST, including Curl, University Professor Emeritus and the Kenneth S. Pitzer-Schlumberger Professor Emeritus of Chemistry. The center has brought millions of research dollars to Rice, including a portion of $10 million Congress appropriated in 2004 for the Strategic Partnership for Research in Nanotechnology and a $2.2 million grant awarded this year by the National Science Foundation for a five-year project that will offer an integrated approach to international research and education in the area of nanotechnology.

“People around the world know the name Smalley as the foremost leader in nanotechnology, not just for science, but also for public advocacy and for a magnificent vision for humanity,” said Wade Adams, who became CNST director in 2002 and will direct the Smalley Institute. “I have been privileged and honored to work with Rick for the past four years as we grew and strengthened CNST, and I already miss greatly our daily discussions about the future of nanotechnology. We all – faculty, staff and students – have an obligation to continue our very best efforts to reach his vision and beyond.”

Smalley, often cited as the “Father of Nanotechnology,” was hopeful that nanotechnology could solve the global energy problem, which would ultimately solve other worldwide problems like hunger and water shortages. He testified before Congress and valued the importance of educating the public about science. He believed the potential of nanotechnology to benefit humanity was virtually limitless, and he abided by the mantra “Be a scientist; save the world.”

“Rick Smalley was a visionary who was able to see at least a part of his dream become reality and to see even those parts not yet realized as possible,” said Kathleen Matthews, dean of the Wiess School of Natural Sciences. “He took us along on his quest and inspired many to change their direction, their perspective and their goals. Rick Smalley truly made a difference at Rice, and it is most appropriate that we have the Richard E. Smalley Institute for Nanoscale Science and Technology.”

Friends and supporters are encouraged to make gifts to the new Smalley Institute in honor of Smalley, and Rice will continue to seek additional grants in support of the institute’s research and educational mission.

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