(Photo by Flickr user Open Grid Scheduler / Grid Engine, used under a Creative Commons license)
For most of us, it’s hard to imagine what technology might look like 30 years from now. For members of the Mid-Atlantc Micro/Nano Alliance (MAMNA), it’s a little less hard.
MAMNA was formed over 10 years ago as an alliance of companies, universities and government labs that are working in micro- and nano-engineering. Labs like NASA, the Naval Research Lab, the Army Research Lab and NIST are all members, as well as a bunch of local universities. It was, and is, a way of “getting all the different labs and small businesses together to share resources,” MAMNA President Brendan Hanrahan told Technical.ly. This is important because many of the tools used in this kind of engineering are very expensive — sharing access and information can lift all boats, so to speak.
The alliance is also a way for researchers working on technologies that are very far from commercialization to connect and discuss. By a way of fostering community MAMNA hold two main events every year — a scientific speed networking event and a symposium. Each year the symposium has a general theme (last year was materials; this year is sensors) and a lineup of impressive speakers. For example, this spring’s symposium will be headlined by Nobel Prize winner Dr. John Mather.
"If you're solving a current problem you're not being imaginative enough."
Hanrahan himself, now a materials engineer for the Army, joined MAMNA when he was a student at the University of Maryland. He found it valuable to be around like-minded individuals. What he didn’t expect was to be leading the organization some day — “they said, ‘Would somebody please take over?’ and everyone else stepped back when I wasn’t paying attention,” Hanrahan laughed, by way of explaining his path to the presidency.
But leading MAMNA intersects nicely with what Hanrahan does today, which he explained as essentially trying to imagine what the Army will need in the year 2050. “If you’re solving a current problem you’re not being imaginative enough,” he said. Hanrahan does his work by looking for interesting early-stage research and thinking about what possible tech applications it could have — MAMNA is a great forum for finding that research.
And what does the future of technology hold? Hanrahan, for one, is excited about the potential of new chemical sensors. “I think [the sensors] are going to take wearables to the next level,” he said. And as it would happen these sensors, and others, will be on display at MAMNA’s upcoming symposium.
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