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The Faculty of Arts and Science moves into the Applied Science Hub at Loyola

The shift also marks the opening of the new Centre for NanoScience Research
August 26, 2020
By Elisabeth Faure

A corridor with glass windows looking out on a courtyard with a sculpture and brick buildings. John Capobianco: “This building allows us to compete on both a Canadian and an international scale.”

During the week of August 24, Concordia’s new Applied Science Hub will welcome its latest round of occupants, this time from the Faculty of Arts and Science. These researchers will join their colleagues from the Gina Cody School of Engineering and Computer Science, who took up residence two weeks before.

The researchers will be working out of the hub’s new Centre for NanoScience Research (CeNSR).

“At the centre, we carry out basic research to understand the fundamental properties of these nanomaterials, to the development of novel syntheses, through to the final product,” explains John Capobianco, professor in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry and Concordia University Research Chair (CURC) in Nanoscience (Tier I).

CeNSR’s evolution

When Capobianco submitted his proposal for the CURC, he included the development of a nanoscience centre.

“We got to the point of getting more and more people involved in the centre, to the stage now of having some real space, where the centre will be housed, instead of just being in our individual labs. The hub will allow for not only more interactions between faculty members, but principally with the students from the other groups.”

Capobianco was also deeply involved in the hub’s construction — which began in spring 2018 — due to his role as the faculty’s associate dean of planning and academic facilities.

CeNSR is co-directed by Capobianco and Christine DeWolf, professor and chair of chemistry and biochemistry. It will host 13 full and associate members, including physicists, spectroscopists and organic, analytical, inorganic and physical chemists.

The new space will also promote and enhance collaborations with university colleagues from the Centre for Microscopy and Cellular Imaging, which will be moving in at a later date, and the District 3 Innovation Hub.

Research done at the nanoscience level involves materials 100,000 times smaller than the diameter of a human hair. The newly acquired transmission electron microscope (TEM) will allow researchers to examine fine detail of the nanomaterials — even as small as a single column of atoms.

“We are spanning a very broad range of research, all based on the nanomaterials we develop,” Capobianco explains. Applications include everything from bioimaging, nanothermometry and drug delivery to photodynamic therapy and sensors that allow disease diagnosis.

A pattern of small red, blue and white balls on a background of fuzzy white and grey spheres. Image taken from Angewandte Chemie International Edition, Volume 58, Issue 29.

Taking research to the next level

Ashlee Howarth is assistant professor of chemistry and biochemistry.

Howarth’s group works on the design and synthesis of new porous materials for applications in absorption, catalysis, sensing, drug delivery and batteries, using metal–organic frameworks, or MOFs. “They are basically molecular sponges where we can tune the size, shape and chemical makeup of the pores of these sponges to tailor them for specific applications.”

“As a member of CeNSR at Concordia, the facilities at the hub will allow me to expand the size of my research group and take my program to the next level.”

New equipment is a big part of the attraction. “For example, the centre will have a new scanning electron microscope with an integrated energy dispersive X-ray spectrometer. It will allow us to view our micron-sized materials in a way that we could not view them with our naked eyes, to gain information about structure, elemental composition and particle size,” she says.

The hub also has a state-of-the-art scale-up facility, allowing researchers to make materials on the gram and kilogram scale. The ability to optimize the scale-up of these materials in-house is critical when working toward commercialization. “This is something we were unable to work on before,” Howarth says.

She is looking forward to working in close proximity with District 3, whose members will also be in the hub.

“With a growing research group, new research equipment, scale-up facilities and mentorship from District 3, the possibilities are endless.”

Space to grow and learn

Rafik Naccache (BSc 00, MSc 07, PhD 12), also an assistant professor of chemistry and biochemistry, shares his colleagues’ excitement about the new hub.

“Our research revolves around the synthesis of nanomaterials, specifically carbon dots, from sustainable and renewable materials. Our focus is to achieve a fundamental understanding of the physical, chemical and optical properties of these nanoparticles in order to tailor and design them for applications, which include bioimaging, sensing and catalysis,” he explains.

“The facilities at the hub are truly remarkable. The space and the state-of-the-art infrastructure will allow us to attract and hire top graduate and postdoctoral talent, which will translate into scientific success. All the lab spaces and the technical services have been meticulously thought out with the researchers in mind.”

Naccache emphasizes the far-reaching impact of the new facilities and equipment.

“This will not only facilitate my task as a researcher but will also enhance the research and learning environment for our students. Their success translates to ours.”

Capobianco agrees, saying one of the features that excites him most about the new centre is the benefits it will afford graduate students.

“These students are truly excellent. All of them are eager to work at the centre. We are even attracting postdocs from places like Germany and Brazil, so we are becoming more and more known,” he notes.

“This building allows us to compete on both a Canadian and an international scale, and to be recognized as a major centre for nanoscience. It will help us grow by giving us space and room to do so.”

Find out more about Concordia’s new
Applied Science Hub.



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