No matter the definition, everyone agrees that nanotechnology is a highly diverse and multidisciplinary scientific field. For that reason, the Smalley Institute at Rice University has an intellectually diverse membership including 151 faculty/staff members in 21 departments with over 500 graduate students researching nanotechnology in a variety of sociological and scientific arenas including energy, education, aerospace, ethics, and human health.
As the Smalley Institute matured over the last 15 years, the vision of the Institute evolved into leading the world in solving humanity's most pressing problems through the application of nanotechnology. As Professor Richard E. Smalley so aptly put it, "Rice's research reputation comes from solving the hardest problems in science. Others can work on the easy ones, the applied problems. Focus on the grand challenges, the holy grails in nanotechnology. Don't be distracted by the other things!" Professor Smalley identified the Top Ten Problems Facing Humanity over the next 50 years as energy, water, food, environment, poverty, terrorism & war, disease, education, democracy, and population.