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SCI 60 W — A Small Revolution: Medical Advances in Nanotechnology

Quarter: Spring
Course Format: Online (System Requirements)
Duration: 5 weeks
Date(s): Apr 8—May 10
Drop Deadline: Apr 11
Unit: 1
Tuition: $315
Instructor(s): Travis Shaffer
Limit: 40
Status: Closed
Please Note: Online courses have a new refund policy. The full tuition refund deadline for this course is April 11 at 5:00 pm (PT); 50% tuition refund deadline is April 16 at 5:00 pm (PT).
Apr 8—May 10
5 weeks
Drop By
Apr 11
1 Unit
Travis Shaffer
Please Note: Online courses have a new refund policy. The full tuition refund deadline for this course is April 11 at 5:00 pm (PT); 50% tuition refund deadline is April 16 at 5:00 pm (PT).
Could we one day have miniature robots patrolling our bodies, seeking out and preventing disease before we show any symptoms? In 1959, Nobel Laureate Richard Feynman predicted such a future in his seminal lecture to the American Physical Society, “There’s Plenty of Room at the Bottom,” but the technology would take decades to develop. This course offers an introduction to nanotechnology, the process by which scientists are able to control structures 100,000 times smaller than a human hair, and explores nano’s emerging role in healthcare diagnosis and therapy. For example, in patients with leukemia, injected stem cells can be loaded with nanoparticles and seen on MRI to determine if these cells engraft, aiding in patient treatment. Similarly, some chemotherapies are loaded into nanoparticles, which can circulate uniquely through the body, avoiding areas (such as the heart) where they are toxic. In addition, the course will explore the nanotechnological development pipeline—the process by which nano innovations go from the initial discovery to FDA approval and commercialization (and why various nano products have failed). We will discuss how nanotechnology has taken on a near-mythical status in popular culture and how to differentiate hype from reality. The course will conclude with a conversation about what the future in five and fifty years may hold for nanotechnology in biomedicine and beyond.


  • Course sizes are limited.
    You won't have 5,000 classmates. This course's enrollment is capped at 40 participants.

  • Frequent interaction with the instructor.
    You aren't expected to work through the material alone. Instructors will answer questions and interact with students on the discussion board and through weekly video meetings.

  • Study with a vibrant peer group.
    Stanford Continuing Studies courses attract thoughtful and engaged students who take courses for the love of learning. Students in each course will exchange ideas with one another through easy-to-use message boards as well as optional weekly real-time video conferences.

  • Direct feedback from the instructor.
    Instructors will review and offer feedback on assignment submissions. Students are not required to turn in assignments, but for those who do, their work is graded by the instructor.

  • Courses offer the flexibility to participate on your own schedule.
    Course work is completed on a weekly basis when you have the time. You can log in and participate in the class whenever it's convenient for you. If you can’t attend the weekly video meetings, the sessions are always recorded for you and your instructor is just an email away.

  • This course is offered through Stanford Continuing Studies.
    To learn more about the program, visit our About Us page. For more information on the online format, please visit the FAQ page.

This course is open to all students. No prior background in science or medicine is needed.

Travis Shaffer, Postdoctoral Researcher, Department of Radiology, Stanford

Travis Shaffer received a PhD in chemistry with a focus on nanotechnology and biomedical applications from CUNY–Hunter College. His research investigates new techniques for imaging immune cells and developing more sensitive nanoparticle probes for biomedical applications.

Textbooks for this course:

(Recommended) Preeti Nigam Joshi, Nanotechnology in Biomedicine, 1st edition (ISBN 9781498771658)