The National Center for Earth and Environmental Nanotechnology Infrastructure (NanoEarth) hosted the ninth annual NanoTechnology Entrepreneurship Challenge (NTEC) this spring. In the second year open to all 16 National Nanotechnology Coordinated Infrastructure (NNCI) sites, 10 teams competed from four separate sites.

NTEC launched in 2014 to encourage diverse, college-student led teams to focus on innovative sustainable nanotechnology applications. During the seven-week virtual NTEC Accelerator Program, teams receive mentorship from nanotechnology entrepreneurs and have access to NNCI facilities and staff. They learn how to gauge customer interest in their idea, develop a business model, and create a nanotechnology-enabled minimum viable product (MVP). Top teams were chosen in May by an external group of panelists during a virtual NTEC Showcase.

Ivonne González-Gamboa with her advisors Yves Theriault and Manual Martinez

Ivonne González-Gamboa and advisors
Ivonne González-Gamboa with her advisors Yves Theriault and Manual Martinez

Ivonne González-Gamboa, Research Fellow in the Nanoengineering Department at the University of California at San Diego (UC San Diego) won the NTEC Diversity Award and the top spot for her research on “Nanoparticle Embedded Pesticides for Reduced Environmental Toxicity”. Gonzalez-Gamboa worked with the San Diego Nanotechnology Infrastructure (SDNI) at the UC San Diego. Manuel Martinez served as an industry advisor and Yves Theriault, Ph.D., Program Manager for Education and Outreach Programs at Qualcomm Institute Department, UC San Diego, and Director of Education and Outreach at SDNI served as the NTEC mentor.

Hunter Holden
Hunter Holden with his NTEC award

Hunter HoldenNanoscience Ph.D. candidate at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNC Greensboro), won second place for research on “Structural Bacterial Cellulose”. Holden worked with the Joint School of Nanoscience and Nanoengineering (JSNN), part of the Southeastern Nanotechnology Infrastructure Corridor (SENIC) NNCI site. Dennis R. LaJeunesse, Ph.D., Professor of Nanoscience and Director of Graduate Studies at JSNN and the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, served as the lead advisor.

Naimat Bari (right) with his advisors Amrinder Nain and Bahareh Behkam

Naimat Bari and advisors
Naimat Bari (right) with his advisors Amrinder Nain and Bahareh Behkam

Naimat K. Bari, Ph.D., Postdoctoral Researcher in the Virginia Tech Department of Mechanical Engineering, secured third place with research on “Nanofibrous Living Materials for Pathogen Detection”. Bari worked with the NNCI site NanoEarth at Virginia Tech. Bahareh Behkam, Ph.D., Associate Professor in the Virginia Tech Department of Mechanical Engineering, served as the lead advisor.

This year, the panel awarded an Honorable Mention to Cade Toth, a recent Virginia Tech Nanomedicine graduate. Toth completed his research on the "Characterization of Natural Iridescent Iron Oxyhydroxide from Graves Mountain, Georgia" with NanoEarth. Marc Michel, Ph.D., NanoEarth Deputy Director and Virginia Tech Department of Geosciences Associate Professor of Nanoscience, served as the lead advisor.

NanoEarth is a node of the NNCI, an NSF-funded network of 16 centers spread throughout the United States serving as user facilities for cutting edge nanotechnology research. NanoEarth is part of Virginia Tech’s Institute for Critical Technology and Applied Science (ICTAS), and proudly headquartered in Blacksburg, Virginia.

NTEC is made possible by NSF Award 2100059 for the NNCI Coordinating Office and individual support and resources available at each participating NNCI site.

The next call for proposals will be in early 2024. If you have any questions, please reach out to Research Professor Matt Hull, Ph.D. at