Meet Oliver Brand, executive director of the Institute for Electronics and Nanotechnology (IEN) at Georgia Tech.
IEN is one of Georgia Tech's 10 interdisciplinary research institutes (IRIs) within the Georgia Tech Research enterprise.
What is your field of expertise and why did you choose it?
My research is in the area of Micro Electro Mechanical Systems or MEMS and, in particular, the development of micro-scale physical, chemical and biological sensors, which are fabricated using processes similar to the ones used to make integrated circuits. I was first introduced to this area at the beginning of my Ph.D. in the early 1990s and was initially fascinated by images of these micrometer-sized devices. We quickly learned that these beautiful, tiny structures and devices can have many useful applications.
What makes the way in which your IRI enables campus research unique?
My field of research MEMS and micro/nanotechnology in general rely on expensive equipment to fabricate these tiny devices and systems. To enable research in this area, IEN maintains extensive core facilities for fabrication and characterization at the micro- and nanoscale. These facilities are not only used by Georgia Tech researchers, but by dozens of companies and other academic institutions. Many of these companies are start-ups that couldn’t do the work they do without access to these facilities. In addition, nanotechnology is a highly interdisciplinary field and the IRIs help bring together the interdisciplinary teams to tackle big problems.
What couldn’t have happened without your IRI?
IEN supports an incredibly talented team of research faculty and staff that have the goal of enabling nanotechnology research, development and commercialization done by Georgia Tech faculty, students, and external partners. Many nanotechnology research accomplishments at Georgia Tech and beyond could have simply not happened without the dedication of this team.
What impact is your research having on the world?
Let me pick a timely example, the development of COVID-19 tests. Many of these tests have nanotechnology components in order to detect the virus that has nanometer dimensions by itself. Over the past year, we have been heavily involved in an NIH-funded program called Rapid Acceleration of Diagnostics or RADx, where we assist project teams developing novel tests with engineering expertise but also access to the core facilities I mentioned earlier. Some of the tests we have supported now already are commercially available.