Las Vegas Sun

April 23, 2014

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Editorial: Research lacks proper funding

An electrical engineering professor is poised to help UNLV play a major role in revolutionizing and improving the technology with which we build computers, treat cancer or harness electrical energy from the sun.

But, according to a story published Sunday by the Las Vegas Sun, Biswajit "B.J." Das' groundbreaking research in the field of nanotechnology is hampered by a lack of funding and red tape at UNLV that has, for example, forced him to store $250,000 worth of new scientific equipment in a hallway. UNLV hasn't yet been able to build even a temporary trailer to house it.

Nanotechnology involves manipulating matter at the atomic level to create smaller-than-ever electrical devices - such as a computer the size of a sugar cube - and manufacture materials that are smaller and stronger.

The potential of such research is astonishing: Imagine, for example, being able to place a tiny device inside a single human cell and destroy cancer before it starts.

Das sees such a future but not if the funding for such work continues to trickle into his program piecemeal. Das has $2 million in grants from several organizations - owing largely to grants applied for by his wife, who currently isn't being paid for her administrative work because of a lack of funding. But he needs more laboratory space and an actual staff to make it work.

Das is an internationally acclaimed expert in this field. His theories on nanotechnology have launched some $1 billion in research worldwide, the Sun reports. Yet UNLV continues to lag in raising the money needed to support this crucial work.

UNLV is on the cusp of becoming a leader in technological research that, when its uses are marketed, could also provide the university with a vast source of revenue. However, it needs the support of the university system and the Nevada Legislature. State lawmakers say they want to see UNLV become a leader in research. But that doesn't seem to be the case when scientists such as Das are forced to scrape by. The kind of research that makes a good university great takes more than rhetoric.

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