The latest from MCS

From the manipulation of microscopic particles to the development of environmentally sustainable energy sources, research advancements in Mellon College of Science (MCS) are bringing Carnegie Mellon’s interdisciplinary character to the forefront. Changes to the landscape and buildings are apparent. But one must look behind the closed doors of Doherty Hall and the Mellon Institute to find what’s new in science at the university.
Amid constant innovation in green chemistry and biotechnology, MCS holds to its mantra that strength rests in numbers. The school encourages collaboration among students and faculty in intellectual and commercial pursuits of science.
MCS dean Richard D. McCullough said, “The power of a group is much more powerful than the power of an individual.”
McCullough said that while other universities typically stress research as a solo effort, Carnegie Mellon professors work together on projects.
“If you go to other universities ... you just don’t get that collaboration,” he said. “That’s where we can win.”

Computational biology and biotechnology

McCullough said that MCS is a leader in computational biology and biotechnology. Computational biology is a specialized type of data analysis in which experts use computers to search for data patterns in biomedical data.
This technology can enable scientists better understand the structure of DNA, RNA, and proteins. McCullough said that computers can help to determine the identity of a protein that is expressed in a cancer cell.
“Now, we’re at the point where we’re really seen as one of the strong computational biology programs in the country,” said McCullough.
Research projects include genetic analysis and the modeling of brain tumors and neuron paths.
According to McCullough, this program is interdisciplinary in its use of computers. In particular, statistical algorithms from computers can be used to analyze data patterns.
“We leverage off the strength of the School of Computer Science,” McCullough said.

Green chemistry

In addition to biology, MCS is expanding its expertise in green chemistry.
Green chemistry is the development of chemical processes that reduce the presence of harmful chemicals in the environment. It applies to such developments as solar energy and chemicals that clean the environment.
Carnegie Mellon’s Institute for Green Oxidation Chemistry is a research and education center that is focused on sustainability science.
The center researches renewable energy technologies, such as solar power, as well as alternatives to fossilized carbon energy sources.
McCullough said that green chemistry has also become a commercial endeavor for MCS. According to McCullough, a new company is currently being formed based on Carnegie Mellon’s advancements in green chemistry.
“The companies can be spun out from CMU,’” said McCullough.

Advancements in green chemistry also stem from the field of nanotechnology, the development of micro-scale technology that can be used to analyze and manipulate samples of atoms.
Nanotechnology is deeply interdisciplinary as well.
Joint expertise in biology, robotics, and mathematics provides researchers with the opportunity to improve computer storage, build structures to support a diseased heart, and develop sensors that detect chemical levels in the body.
McCullough is currently involved in a project that requires the use of nanotechnology to construct nanowires. Nanowires are organic materials that can be used in solar cells in solar technology.
In addition to developing nanowires, Carnegie Mellon’s Center to Study and Design a New Generation of Technologies is a joint effort by MCS and College of Engineering to advance nanoresearch in sensing, technology storage, and energy generation.
McCullough said that MCS maintains an interdisciplinary and collaborative approach to research.