IRG1-9: DNA Nanotechnology and Nanotechnologists

(W. Patrick McCray, Brian Tyrrell)


This research project examines the historical formation of an international interdisciplinary research community around using DNA molecules as the raw material for constructing active and passive nano-scale structures. One of the strands of the project interrogates the transformation in thinking that allowed DNA nanotechnologists to consider the structural properties of DNA separate from its genetic information. A second focus of this project is funding. Historians have argued that biology surpassed physics as the prestige discipline in American science in the post-Cold-War period. This project examines how DNA nanotechnology emerged as physicists, chemists, and computer scientists responded to the realities of federal funding in the sciences. Given the bio-nano focus of this project, there are strong resonances with November’s work in IRG 1-4. 

In the reporting year McCray continued work on a project called “From Blueprints to Bricks.” The goal is to explore the establishment of a research community in the US that does DNA nanotechnology. During this reporting period, McCray made multiple research trips to Caltech and NYU to do interviews with people active in the field of “DNA nanotechnology” (a form of nano-engineering that treats DNA not as an information-containing molecule but as a building material.) Brian Tyrrell IRG 1 new CNS Research Fellow, and McCray will work together on this line of work.