ABE446: Biological Nanoengineering

Link to campus listing

Course summary

Spring 2014

Image: Bhalerao et al (2005) Applied Physics Letters

Biology provides us with a vast array of nanoscale, functional components such as nucleic acids and enzymes. Engineering teaches us how to organize components using a rational framework to obtain useful work.

Biological nanotechnology (also known as bio-nanotechnology or nano-biotechnology) is a rapidly maturing field of engineering that deals with the design and fabrication of hybrid devices and systems that use biological macromolecules as their primary functioning components. This new course covers aspects of bio-molecular function and the interface with synthetic nanomaterials to explore the possibility of devices and systems that are unprecedented in nature. Within a lecture-and-discussion format, senior undergraduates and graduates will learn the principles of design of biological nanosystems, will be able to critically respond to the engineering issues surrounding the creation of “nanobots”, and will be able to appreciate their potential benefit and impact in health, agricultural, industrial and human environments.

Topics covered

  • Synthetic Nanostructures
  • Micromachining and Self Assembly
  • Biologic Nanostructures
  • Targeting, control and power systems in nature
  • Nanodevice design rationale and case studies
  • Biomimetic strategies
  • Biological response to nanodevices
  • Nanotechnology in the environment
  • Economic and non-technical discussions surrounding nanotechnology

ABET Outcomes Evaluation

Students will be evaluated against the following ABET criteria: (Critical aspects denoted in bold if appropriate)

  • a. Ability to apply mathematics, science and engineering principles
  • b. Ability to design and conduct experiments, analyze and interpret data.
  • c. Ability to design a system, component, or process to meet desired needs.
  • f. Understanding of professional and ethical responsibility.
  • g. Ability to communicate effectively.
  • k. Ability to use the techniques, skills and modern engineering tools necessary for engineering practice.

Course Format: Two one-hour lectures, one two-hour discussion per week. Two exams and one term paper in the form of a device design proposal. Weekly discussions based on reading assignments. Lectures will be recorded and made available on iTunes U. Please keep an eye on the blog posts for links.

Course Schedule and Location: Lectures: Mondays and Fridays 3:00 to 3:50 pm, Discussion: Wednesday 3:00 - 5:00 pm (242 Agricultural Engineering Sciences Building)

Prerequisites: Senior / Grad standing or permission of instructor.

Links (From my public Dropbox folder)

Carbon nanostructures

Quantum dots and polymers


Bioconjugation and self assembly

DNA Nanosystems

Design project guidelines

Grading rubrics

Protein Nanosystems

Molecular Biology overview

UML and Systems

Targeting and Triggering

Sample Quad Chart

Biological sensors

Nanoparticles in Imaging

Immune System I

Immune System II

Vaccine Design

Genetic Engineering

Molecular cloning

Molecular display technologies


Non biological tools

Nanotechnology in the environment


Course is in session for Sp 14 - we meet MF 3-4 W 3-5.