Haddonfield resident explores complex world of nanotechnology

Ilise Feitshans’ new book looks at implications of emerging scientific field

Ilise Feitshans poses with her husband, Dominique Charoy, outside their home in Haddonfield. Feitshans is holding a copy of her recently published book “Global Impacts of Nanotechnology Law: A Tool for Stakeholder Engagement.”

Ilise Feitshans left her post at the United Nations in 2008 after hearing how nanotechnology could transform daily life.

The Haddonfield resident sat in on a lecture by John Howard, the director of the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health, who afterward told her she should study the subject.

“He was emphatic,” Feitshans said, recalling her conversation with Howard.

Now, 10 years later, Feitshans is still intrigued by nanotechnology, and she recently published a book, “Global Impacts of Nanotechnology Law: A Tool for Stakeholder Engagement,” after years of research on the topic.

Nanotechnology is the science of manipulating particles at an extremely small level and researchers are using it to make materials that are lighter and stronger. Molecules behave differently at the nanoscale, and scientists are still just beginning to learn how these interactions work, Feitshans said.

“Nanotechnology is about this very mysterious interspace between the atomic and the bulk,” she said.

Currently, nanotechnology is being used to make packaging materials, clothes, tires, and planes and is being utilized in the development of pioneering new medicines and solar energy panels, Feitshans said.

She speaks energetically and passionately about how nanotechnology has the potential to be used to end some problems around the world, such as organ trafficking, maternal health and child labor in the mining industry.

“This is all brand new,” Feitshans said. “This sounds like science fiction.”

Her book, which was released May 31, is about the legal and regulatory issues surrounding the increased use of nanotechnology.

“The point in this book is that nanotechnology is everywhere and that it’s for everybody,” Feitshans said.

She splits her time between Haddonfield and France, where her husband is the caretaker of a synagogue near Geneva, Switzerland. Feitshans serves as a fellow in nanotechnology law at the European Scientific Institute.

Locally, she set up Haddonfield’s first Jewish center earlier this year in her home on Walnut Street.

Feitshans is also a lawyer who previously coordinated an update to the UN’s Encyclopedia of Occupational Health and Safety.

Feitshans said she is interested in how science intersects with public policy, and “Global Impacts of Nanotechnology Law” combines those areas of interests.

Howard, who inspired Feitshans to take on the subject in 2008, wrote the foreword to the book.

This book “fills a void in addressing the legal, social and policy implications of nanotechnology from a global governance perspective,” he wrote. “The book makes the nanotechnology applications of daily life accessible to readers who are curious about this new scientific and legal field but do not have a doctorate in either aerosol physics or administrative law.”

Feitshans said she hopes regular people, who she likes to call “stakeholders,” read the book and think carefully about what aspects of nanotechnology affect them. She wants people to pick an issue and act on it.

“We have a really unique opportunity,” Feitshans said. “Why don’t we citizens step up and have our say about how we want this stuff used?”

She said people can engage with their political representatives and debate the laws and regulations governing nanotechnology.

“Nanotechnology is the catalyst,” she added. “It’s the revolution that opens up the discussion.”

For more information on the book, visit www.crcpress.comand type “Global Impacts of Nanotechnology Law” into the search bar.