Nanoscale interactions determine nanoparticle safety and effectiveness in environmental, biological, and medical applications. To better exploit the potential of nanoparticles for these applications, a fundamental understanding of nanoscale interactions is required. This project will provide a quantitative understanding of nanoscale interactions at single particle and single cell levels by systematically studying inter-nanoparticle interactions, nanoparticle-cell interactions, and nanoparticle intracellular transport using unique bio-analytical methods. The potential scientific impact of this project will be in providing engineering guidelines for the design of safer and more effective nanoparticles made possible by a deeper quantitative understanding, and thus better control, of nanoscale interactions. Core educational impacts are based on bionanotechnology engagement of Native American and other underserved high school juniors in rural Southwest Oklahoma via year-round research-integrated education and outreach activities to inspire successful careers in science and engineering.

The safe and effective use of nanoparticles in environmental, biological, and medical applications requires a better quantitative understanding of nanoparticle interactions with biological media and systems. This project will establish a new research paradigm to systematically study the mechanisms and kinetics of nanoscale interactions based on unique label-free and in situ quantitative bio-analytical methods at single particle and single cell levels via three research objectives. In Objective 1, inter-nanoparticle interactions will be quantified. Nanoparticle-cell interactions will be assessed in Objective 2. In Objective 3, nanoparticle intracellular transport will be determined with unique spatiotemporal resolution. These quantitative and mechanistic studies have the potential to inform the engineering of nanoparticles that efficiently overcome biological barriers for safe and effective biological and medical applications. This research will additionally enable a better quantitative and mechanistic understanding of nanoparticle environmental interactions and associated ecological effects. The scientific vision will be integrated with the engagement of Native American and other underserved high school juniors in bionanotechnology via a unique program termed Bionanotechnology Engagement for Native Americans in Oklahoma (BE4NANO). In partnership with local Native American tribes, public high schools, a technology center, and university allies, there will be two primary educational objectives to (i) engage these students in bionanotechnology via year-round activities, and to (ii) create academic and social support networks for these students within the institution. Through BE4NANO, high school students will be inspired to consider careers as scientists and engineers. In addition, the PI will provide support and encouragement to maximize success, thereby increasing the number of Native American students in college science, technology, engineering, and mathematics programs and retaining these students in their programs of study. Students will be empowered to engage and inspire the next generation of BE4NANO participants within their underserved communities, creating a positive and inclusive feedback loop to sustain this holistic research-integrated education and outreach program.

This project is jointly funded by the Nanoscale Interactions Program within the Chemical, Bioengineering, Environmental and Transport Systems (CBET) Division and the Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR).

This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.

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University of Oklahoma
United States
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