Physics Professor Wins Cottrell College Science Award to Conduct Nano-Biotechnology Research


Photo of Dr. Santaneel Ghosh

Dr. Santaneel Ghosh will investigate the feasibility of using specially designed nano-robots to enhance axon growth after a nervous system injury.


June 21, 2010 – Dr. Santaneel Ghosh, assistant professor of physics at Southeast Missouri State University, has been awarded a two-year Cottrell College Science Award to conduct nano-biotechnology research.

The $35,000 grant from the Research Corporation for Science Advancement will allow Ghosh to investigate the feasibility of using specially designed nano-robots to enhance axon growth after a nervous system injury. Axons are a part of a nerve cell through which impulses travel away from a cell body.

Ghosh’s project is titled “Externally tunable, biocompatible, multifunctional nano-carriers for controlled release of drugs into neurons.”

Southeast students will participate in the project and will be involved in significant research in the area of nano-materials, nano-biotechnology and neuroscience. In addition to conducting research in the Integrative Nanotechnology Laboratory developed by Ghosh at Southeast, students will be using state-of-the-art nano-scale research laboratories to conduct cutting-edge research at the National Institute of Standard and Technology, Center of Nano-scale Science and Technology and at the University of North Texas.

“This award is a strong statement about the high quality of research in the nano-biotechnology area currently going on at Southeast,” Ghosh said. “Grants like this are laying the groundwork for a new research direction at the University, and, I hope this will particularly help in Southeast being awarded future funding from the National Institute of Health (NIH).”

He says students working on this project will receive invaluable training that will help them to make career choices during graduate studies in the area of biomedical engineering or in clinical research. This project also will integrate with undergraduate educational efforts, including the existing Ronald F. McNair program, which promotes research experiences for minorities, Ghosh said.

“The proposed research is extremely interesting,” he said. 

Treatment potential for many biomedical conditions is currently limited by the lack of therapeutics that can be efficiently targeted and precisely controlled, Ghosh said. For example, paralysis and spinal cord injuries are more prevalent than previously thought, he said. A recent study revealed that about 1.9 percent of the U.S. population, or 5,596,000, people reported they are living with some form of paralysis and 1,275,000 people in the United States are living with spinal cord injury, he said.

“Currently, there is no effective treatment available for spinal cord injury, partly because of the complexity of the nervous system,” Ghosh said. “On-demand release of a specific drug or a combination of drugs to the nervous system remains a challenge in modern therapeutics. In this proposed study, the primary objective is to synthesize a remote-controlled, biocompatible, nano-scale system for efficient targeting of damaged cells and controlled release of therapeutic agents in response to magnetic fields.”

Ghosh and his co-workers have published several articles in leading journals and presented their initial research findings at reputable international conferences. Recently, the snapshot from this work has received the Association of Laboratory Automation sponsored Tony B. Award at the annual meeting of the organization in Palm Springs, Calif.

In 1912, Research Corporation was the second foundation established in the United States, and, at the time of its founding, the only one devoted to the advancement of science.  The foundation is the fulfillment of the unique philanthropic concept of Frederick Gardner Cottrell, scientist, inventor and philanthropist, who established Research Corporation with the assistance of Charles Doolittle Walcott, secretary of the Smithsonian Institution. Research Corporation’s funds were initially derived from proceeds from Dr. Cottrell’s invention, the electrostatic precipitator for controlling air pollution. Later, proceeds from inventions contributed by public-spirited scientists, Williams and Waterman’s synthesis of Vitamin B1; Brown and Hazen’s discovery of the first antifungal antibiotic; and Charles Townes’ invention of the laser and maser, helped build the foundation’s financial base. The Cottrell College Science Awards support high quality research through early career grants to individuals or teams of faculty.