If a gathering for 800 could ever be considered "nano," this would be the one.
Next month Rice University's Richard E. Smalley Institute for Nanoscale Science and Technology will kick off its Week of Nano with the Buckyball Discovery Gala, celebrating the 25th anniversary of the discovery of the buckminsterfullerene at Rice and the 1996 Nobel Prize in Chemistry that followed.
The gala will be held at 7 p.m. Oct. 10 in the Imperial Ballroom at the Hyatt Regency Downtown, 1200 Louisiana St. It will be preceded by a showcase of Rice nanotechnology at 5 and a reception at 6.
Organizers promise a night of fun and celebration. Texas Rep. John Culberson will be at the controls for a live demonstration of how an electron microscope produces stunning images of the nanoscale world.
Rice scientists and their students will be on hand to detail their work, and guests will be treated to the world premiere of a nano-symphony -- a night with the River Oaks Chamber Orchestra compressed into six minutes -- by Anthony Brandt, associate professor of composition and theory at Rice’s Shepherd School of Music, as well as an oratorio by Houston composer J. Todd Frazier to celebrate the life of Rick Smalley, Rice's nanotechnology pioneer and a member of the Nobel-winning team. Smalley died in 2005.
Though the Week of Nano focus leans toward the future, Smalley's influence as a nationally known evangelist for nanotechnology will loom large over the week's events. Reinnette Marek, a graduate of Rice's Jones School of Business, became a co-chair of the gala in honor of her late friend. Marek helped found the first commercial company – Carbon Nanotechnologies Inc. (CNI) -- to manufacture carbon nanotubes using Smalley's HiPCO process, a key event in the process of bringing nano research to a wider world.
"I signed on to write his business plan and get startup financing for his company," said Marek, a Houston attorney and co-chair with her husband, Stan, and their friends Anne and Albert Chao. "He and I became friends."
After moving on from CNI, Marek kept in touch. "I had a great fondness for him and really respected and admired the work he did, and believe that nanotechnology -- in particular, the inventions that he made that will someday be commercialized -- are going to change the world as we know it," she said. "He was quite a guy."
Co-chair Anne Chao didn't know Smalley, but she has a long-standing family connection to nanotechnology at Rice. "My late father-in-law, T.T. Chao, had always been interested in scientific innovation, so when he wanted to make a gift to Rice, he set up a chair for a chemistry professor," said Chao, a part-time faculty member at Rice's Chao Center for Asian Studies who recently earned her doctorate here. "That's how we became involved with nanotechnology at Rice."
That T.T. and W.F. Chao Chair in Chemistry, currently held by James Tour, was key to a relationship that has blossomed into the T.T. Chao Symposium on Innovation, an annual event at Rice that will be held this year during the Week of Nano, Oct. 10-14.
A day after the gala, the four-day Buckyball Discovery Conference begins with a presentation by surviving members of the Nobel-winning team and continues with a comprehensive look at the past, present and future of nanotechnology. The conference is free, but participants must register and pay for meals and special events.
A Bucky "Ball" Celebration the evening of Oct. 11 will include the presentation of the National Historic Chemical Landmark designation, facility tours and nanotechnology demos and memorabilia.