Frank Underdown Jr.

B.S. Physics/Math (1990) Central Michigan University; M.S. Physics (Nuclear) (1995) Central Michigan University

Ph.D. Physics (Atomic, molecular & Optics) (1999) at Michigan Tech. University

Nanoscience Center

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Address: Dr. Frank Underdown Jr. Keweenaw Nanoscience Center (Rebuilding the World One Molecule at a Time) 747 7th. St. Laurium, MI 49913 Tel: 906-337-6639 Fax: 906-337-6640

Dr. Frank Underdown, Jr. is a black physicist running a research, development and consulting company in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. The research concerns nanoechnology, bionanotechnology and quantum optics. He has also worked several years in industry designing RF/Microwave communications systems for satellite communications, control system engineering and optics.

Underdown is poised on the brink of a new frontier ­ that of nanotechnology and nanoengineering. When fully explored, understood and harnessed, nanoscience is expected to revolutionize the world much the way electricity, microelectronics and antibiotics have. Nano, in the world of science, is a prefix that means one-billionth of a unit of measure. For example, a nanosecond is a billionth of a second. One sixteenth of an inch is approximately 1,588,000 nanometers long.   The nanoscientist, concerned with particles that range in size from one to several hundred nanometers in size, lives in the world of the molecule. Even a single animal or plant cell ranges in the area of several thousand nanometers in diameter, but a DNA molecule, for example, is only 2.5 nanometers in width.   Since the molecular structure of a material determines its characteristics, nanoscientists  hope to be able to construct materials much in the same way that nature does now, by building and putting together molecules to produce materials with the desired characteristics. Applications can be imagined in everything from manufacturing to medicine. Some natural nanotechnologies include photosynthesis, an abalone's shell and molecules in our own body's molecular energy producing cycle.

Undrdown is relatively new to academia, having spent much of his career as a non-degreed electrical engineer in the American West, working for a variety of firms in Arizona and California. Though he spent much of his childhood in the Lower Peninsula of Michigan, more than a decade in deserts isn't the best way to prepare for winters where 20 feet of snow is commonplace.

After a layoff, he decided he needed a degree and graduated with a bachelor's in physics from Central Michigan University (CMU) in 1990. He got his masters from CMU in nuclear physics in 1995 and his doctorate in 1999 from Michigan Tech in atomic, molecular and optical physics.

That was the same year he founded the Nanoscience Center. Using grants from the CIA, among other places, to support research, he pays the bills by teaching as an adjunct professor at Northern Michigan University, commuting 115 miles each way to Marquette, the U.P.'s largest city, and by consulting. Last year, he taught six courses one semester at the University of Wisconsin at Oshkosh, leaving on his five-hour drive Monday at 6 a.m. and departing for home Friday night.


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