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Master of the Miniature

Postdoctoral fellow Naomi Matsuura wins the 2007 Polanyi Prize

Who she is
Naomi Matsuura is a scientist who is developing new technologies on the nanometre scale (one nanometre is equal to one millionth of a millimetre). Her work is poised to transform cancer research with its new approaches to detecting, tracking and possibly treating the disease on a cellular level. For example, Matsuura has developed an infinitesimal complex coating that can allow nanostructures to first be attached to cancer cells, then activated to behave as a beacon for diagnostic imaging (such as computed tomography and magnetic resonance imaging). The coating can also be used to locally deliver a drug that leaks out of the coating’s tiny pores.

Why she’s in the news
A Uof T postdoctoral fellow in imaging research at Sunnybrook Research Institute, Matsuura (PhD 2003) was recently recognized with the Ontario Council on Graduate Studies John Charles Polanyi Prize, a $20,000 grant awarded to outstanding researchers in the early stages of their careers.

What her research is about
Nanotechnology is based on the concept that materials behave in unusual, counterintuitive ways when their physical dimensions are dramatically miniaturized. After all, the properties of materials – such as how magnetic they are, how well they conduct electricity, how strong they are and at what temperature they melt – change at the nano-scale. At this tiny size, materials can be designed to behave differently than when they exist as larger units. Recent advances in creating nanometre-scale structures with standard laboratory tools, combined with growing public curiosity in nanotechnology, have resulted in a flurry of academic and commercial interest in nanostructures, in fields as diverse as optics and medicine.

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