Naomi Halas

l5Naomi J. Halas is a pioneering nanotechnologist at Rice University and a co-founder of Nanospectra Biosciences, a company developing photothermal therapies for cancer and other diseases. She is an author of more than 250 refereed publications, has more than 15 issued patents and has been cited nearly 60,000 times with an h-index of 120.

Her mission is to create a new type of nanoparticles meant to provide specific functions and evolve the field of nanotechnology. She aims to understand the physical properties of nanomaterials, both at the microscopic and macroscopic level, and to incorporate them into unique applications of societal and technological impact.

Halas is best known for her invention of nanoshells – tiny glass particles coated in gold, a new type of nanoparticles with tunable optical properties especially suited for biotechnology applications. Such nanoparticles have a huge potential in cancer treatment as it could work similarly to chemotherapy but without any toxic side-effects. She dreams of a world without cancer and believes that her team holds the key.

As a great example of interdisciplinary research, she is also a member of the National Academy of Sciences, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and a fellow of the APS, MRS, OSA, IEEE and SPIE. She is a recipient of the R.W. Wood Prize from the Optical Society of America and 2014 Frank Isakson Prize from the American Physical Society for Optical Effects in Solids.

Your own background was very diverse. Has that served you well in your career?

Starting in music and going to chemistry and physics and laser science, was quite a liability. But it has turned out to be a tremendous asset. To have a background that is very broad and diverse has enabled me to be able to talk to people in many different disciplines and have enough expertise within each of those disciplines that we can develop intelligent and focused collaborations.

Do you ever think about your legacy as a scientist?

Well, as a graduate student, the sort of scientists that really stuck out in my mind were not necessarily the ones who had just done great science but who in addition had a wonderful human legacy. I decided that was the kind of faculty member I wanted to be.

This lecture is sponsored by SPIE.