January 08, 2008
By: by Richard A. D'Errico, The Business Review
Gov. Eliot Spitzer made his first trip to the state University at Albany's College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering Monday.
And he got a lesson in Nanotech 101.
Spitzer first toured the $4.2 billion Albany NanoTech complex where the UAlbany NanoCollege is located. Then, after brief remarks, he participated in a roundtable discussion that included: Alain Kaloyeros, the nanocollege's vice president and chief administrative officer, and Rick Whitney, M+W Zander U.S Operations's chief operations officer.
At first, he was confused by the difference between a wafer, which is what computer chips are built on, and the computer chips themselves. When someone noted that future wafers would be the size of a small coffee table, Spitzer wanted to know what devices they would go into. The wafer is like real estate and the chips are like housing subdivisions.
Kaloyeros, ever the professor, cleared up the confusion.
"Real estate I can understand," Spitzer said. Earlier, he joked that when he was a kid, wafers referred to something you dipped in milk.
Spitzer said as a student he took Advanced Placement physics courses but the stuff they were talking about at Albany NanoTech was over his head.
"What you are doing is the future," Spitzer said, "not only for Albany and New York state, but it's the next horizon."
Years ago, Spitzer said he remembered traveling to Research Triangle Park in North Carolina and feeling frustrated that New York was losing jobs to the park, one of the oldest and largest tech parks in the country. The 7,000 acre development is home to 157 companies employing more than 39,000 full-time high-tech workers.
"We've got to create those nodes of creativity," Spitzer said. "If we control it, we will control our destiny."
He was pleased when he surveyed the packed audience about how many were native New Yorkers versus out-of-staters to find half of those working or attending the nanocollege weren't from New York.
Spitzer said the state needs to keep investing in higher education, saying an "investment in education is akin to an investment in infrastructure."
As Spitzer asked panelists questions, he tried to find the practical use for the technology being developed. Could it ease congestion on airport tarmacs or make the subway system run smoother? He learned nanotechnology was being used in to combat cancer and prevent the spread of certain bacteria.
He also heard a request from Tom Birdsey, president and CEO of Einhorn Yaffee Prescott Architecture & Engineering to invest in a building on the Albany NanoTech campus devoted solely to alternative energy. Albany NanoTech is already home to Energy and Environmental Applications Center, and EYP said last year it plans it plans to locate at the college a new business group that is part of the creation of a $3.5 million National Institute for Sustainable Energy, that will also be at the nanocollege.