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Designing Nanostructures
Task Group Summaries

Designing Nanostructures Focus Group Summaries Book and Free PDF

Focus Group Descriptions and Summaries

Task Group Overview
At the conference, participants were divided into interdisciplinary focus groups. The groups spent eight hours over two days exploring diverse challenges at the interface between physical science, biomedical science, engineering, and technology. 

The focus groups were not expected to solve the particular problems posed to the group, but rather to come up with a consensus method of attack and a thoughtful list of what we know and don’t know how to do, and what’s needed to get there.   The composition of the groups was intentionally diverse, to encourage the generation of new approaches by combining a range of different types of contributions.  The groups included researchers from science, engineering, and medicine, as well as representatives from private and public funding agencies, universities, businesses, journals, and the science media.   Researchers represented a wide range of experience -- from postdoc to those well-established in their careers -- from a variety of disciplines that included chemistry, biology, physics, engineering, bioinformatics, medicine, toxicology, and applied anthropology. 

The conference committee had five objectives for the focus groups:

  • To approach nanoscience/technology and biomedicine from the perspective of specific problems having potentially revolutionary impact, rather than from the perspective of extensions of existing technology
  • To allow a group of people with a broad range of backgrounds to pool their insights and creativity to work on a shared problem
  • To identify ideas and insights common to a number of working groups, and to identify important fundamental problems in nanoscience/technology with the potential for very large impact on biomedicine
  • To identify the best (by whatever metrics seem to fit) big problems in biology and biomedicine to which nanoscience/technology might be applied, and to identify gaps in knowledge that limit progress in the solution of these problems
  • To allow individuals to make connections with one another in small working groups

The groups needed to address the challenge of communicating and working together from a diversity of expertise and perspectives, as they attempted to solve a complicated, interdisciplinary problem in a relatively short time.  Each group decided on its own structure and approach to tackle the problem.   Some groups decided to refine or redefine their problems, based on their experience. 

Each group presented two brief reports to the whole conference: (1) an interim report on Saturday to debrief on how things are going, along with any special requests (such as an expert in DNA sequencing to talk with the group); and (2) a final briefing on Sunday where each group:

  • Provided a concise statement of the problem
  • Outlined a structure for its solution
  • Identified the most important gaps in science and technology and recommended research areas needed to attack the problem 
  • Indicated the benefits to society if the problem could be solved

Based on the group interaction and the final briefings, graduate science writing students in each group wrote the following summaries, which were reviewed by the group members.  These summaries describe the problem, approach taken, group dynamics, the process the group followed to achieve its results, and benefits to society of the problem solution.  

Conference Summary

Task Group Descriptions and Summaries

A Micro System to Isolate, Sequence, and Identify DNA
from a Small, Low-concentration Sample

Description
Summary

Build a Synthetic Self-Replicator

Description
Summary

Build a System that will Detect Disease in vivo and
Report Back Results

Description
Summary

Building a Cell-Chip Interface to Sense Response to
Drug Leads and Toxins

Description
Summary

Sequence a Single Molecule of Protein

Description
Summary

Build a Glucose Sensor to Circulate (Implant) in vivo
in Humans and Regulate Insulin

Description
Summary

An In Vivo Nanofactory: the Medicine of the Future

Description
Summary

Improving Hydrogen Production by Genetic Methods: 
Designing a Better Nanomachine

Description
Summary

Design Principles of Living Systems

Description
Summary

Grow a Biological In Vitro Power Source on a Chip

Description
Summary