Ask A Biologist: Nicholas Stephanopoulos builds his career at the nanoscale

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Ask A Biologist: Nicholas Stephanopoulos builds his career at the nanoscale

September 19, 2019

September 19, 2019

Nicholas Stephanopoulos always wanted to be a professor, just like his father. From an early age, he pursued his passion through science, working in labs during his high school years, and later studying chemistry at Harvard. Today, he serves as an assistant professor in the Biodesign Center for Molecular Design and Biomimetics and School of Molecular Sciences.

Stephanopoulos is a newly featured scientist in Ask A Biologist, an award-winning online science learning resource for students, teachers, parents and life-long learners, supported in part by the Biodesign Institute.

Giving Stephanopoulos the title of “bionanoengineer,” the story explains at an accessible level what it means to build biomaterials (like DNA and proteins), and why what we are learning in the nano- sciences is having – and will continue to have – a significant impact in the fields of medicine, biology and energy.

Aimed at inspiring students and helping them gain a preliminary understanding of Stephanopoulos’ work, the feature story explains, “Imagine if we put medicine into a tiny cage, so small that the whole cage can move through your body. While the medicine moves around, that cage would make sure the medicine doesn’t touch anything it isn’t supposed to. A protective cage like that would prevent some side effects of medicines.”

Stephanopoulos describes his driving force: “If you’re looking to become a scientist, you should never stop asking questions about how the world works. Learn as much as you can.”

“At the end of the day, you get to learn for a living, and that’s pretty cool,” he said.

Several Biodesign researchers have been featured recently in Ask A Biologist, including Arvind Varsani (with a podcast, “Virus Quest”) Rosa Krajmalnik-Brown, Grant McFadden, Athena Aktipis, Ferran Garcia-Pichel, Diego Mastroeni and Shelley Haydel.

Since 1997, Ask A Biologist has served as a volunteer-run program at ASU, providing an open forum between academia and the public for scientific questions and comments. Among other educational tools and activities on the website, such as games, puzzles, experiments, podcasts and scientific assessments, featured researchers field questions from the public about their field of study with a guaranteed 72-hour turn-around time.

Ask A Biologist continues to grow in popularity – the website receives around 1,000 visitors a day, and the site’s volunteers have answered over 18,000 scientific questions, primarily from elementary and secondary students. Although its focus is on educating the younger generation, it is accessible to all, which is validated by the fact that it falls in the top five most-visited sites at ASU.

Read the Ask A Biologist story on Stephanopoulos here: Building at a Nanoscale.

If you would like to be featured in a future Ask a Biologist profile, contact Dianne Price, Biodesign Science Communications.

Building at a Nanoscale was created in collaboration with The Biodesign Institute. This section of Ask A Biologist was funded by NSF Grant Award number 1753387.


Written by: Gabrielle Hirneise, Dianne Price