A nanosystems engineer could...
|Develop a new material to make a lightweight tennis racket that can withstand the force of a powerful serve.||Create tiny particles that can move around a patient's body, finding and killing cancer cells, like in this video.|
|Design a new lightweight, but super-strong, fabric out of nanomaterials to make into stylish bulletproof suits.||Use nanotechnology to create a new generation of smaller, longer-lasting, more eco-friendly batteries.|
Key Facts & Information
|Overview||Imagine creating a new material, medicine, or electrical component that is too small to see. How would you design it? What could the new invention do? These are precisely the types of questions that nanosystems engineers answer every day. Nanosystems engineers design and build new technologies using the smallest building blocks, atoms, and molecules.|
|Key Requirements||Strong analytical skills, determination, patience, and the ability to make models from a mental picture|
|Minimum Degree||Bachelor's degree|
|Subjects to Study in High School||Biology, chemistry, physics, algebra, calculus, geometry; if available, computer science|
|Projected Job Growth (2010-2020)||More Slowly than Average (3% to 6%) In Demand!|
Training, Other Qualifications
Some entry-level job opportunities are available with a bachelor's degree. These are more likely to be jobs that involve the manufacturing of nanotechnology devices and materials using common techniques. Candidates for these jobs should have either a bachelor's degree in nanosystems engineering, or a degree in a related field, like chemical engineering, materials science, or bioengineering, and laboratory experience with nano production. Hands-on experience can be gained either through college classes, working as an undergraduate research assistant, or corporate internships.
However, most employers prefer candidates with either a master's or a PhD in either nanosciences, nanoengineering, or a related field like physics, chemical engineering, materials sciences, bioengineering, or microprocessing. Hands-on laboratory experience with nanoengineering is critical.
Education and Training
To become a nanosystems engineer, students need a bachelor's degree in either nanoengineering or in a related engineering field like chemical engineering, materials science, or bioengineering. Students should take classes in both general engineering principles and courses that specifically teach the concepts of nanoscience and the laboratory techniques required to create and manipulate nanomaterials.
People interested in careers that emphasize novel applications for nanotechnology will need a higher degree, like a master's or a PhD. Jobs as a professor or permanent researcher at an academic institute require a PhD.
Nanosystems engineers are usually members of larger research and development teams. Good communication skills and willingness to function as part of a team are crucial to career progression.
Nature of the Work
Nanosystems engineers design, develop, and characterize materials on the nanoscale. This means that the materials with which they work are only a few nanometers in size. A nanometer is one-billionth of a meter, which makes it roughly 100,000 times thinner than a strand of human hair! On the nanoscale, materials behave differently than they do on the macroscale. Nanosystems engineers study the properties of materials on this scale and use that information to engineer new technologies to benefit society. These products can appear in any number of fields, including medicine, cosmetics, the creation of electrical devices and computer parts, clean energy, and imaging. This video from KQED's QUEST Education Network, shows the wide variety of materials and solutions on which nanosystems engineers work.
Nanosystems engineers work in laboratories. They might spend a great deal of time using the computer to design and model nanodevices. When fabricating and testing their devices, they use sophisticated machinery and chemistry.
Nanosystems engineers usually work in teams with other engineers, and as such, need good communication and group problem-solving skills. They are typically employed by either military or corporate research and development laboratories, or run their own research laboratories in academic settings. Most nanosystems engineers have standard 40-hour work weeks.
On the Job
- Conduct research related to a range of nanotechnology topics, such as packaging, heat-transfer, fluorescence detection, nanoparticle dispersion, hybrid systems, liquid systems, nanocomposites, nanofabrication, optoelectronics, and nanolithography.
- Create designs or prototypes for nanosystem applications, such as biomedical delivery systems and atomic force microscopes.
- Design or engineer nanomaterials, nanodevices, nano-enabled products, or nanosystems, using three-dimensional computer-aided design (CAD) software.
- Coordinate or supervise the work of suppliers or vendors in the designing, building, or testing of nanosystem devices, such as lenses or probes.
- Design or conduct tests of new nanotechnology products, processes, or systems.
- Engineer production processes for specific nanotechnology applications, such as electroplating, nanofabrication, or epoxy.
- Develop processes or identify equipment needed for pilot or commercial nanoscale scale production.
- Provide scientific or technical guidance and expertise to scientists, engineers, technologists, technicians, or others using knowledge of chemical, analytical, or biological processes as applied to micro and nanoscale systems.
- Prepare nanotechnology-related invention disclosures or patent applications.
- Prepare reports, deliver presentations, or participate in program review activities to communicate engineering results and recommendations.
- Generate high-resolution images or measure force-distance curves, using techniques such as atomic force microscopy.
- Identify new applications for existing nanotechnologies.
- Provide technical guidance and support to customers on topics such as nanosystem start-up, maintenance, or use.
- Synthesize, process, or characterize nanomaterials, using advanced tools and techniques.
- Write proposals to secure external funding or to partner with other companies.
- Supervise technologists or technicians engaged in nanotechnology research or production.
Companies That Hire Nanosystems Engineers
Explore what you might do on the job with one of these projects...
- Bioinformatics - The Perfect Marriage of Computer Science & Medicine
- BLAST into the Past to Identify T. Rex's Closest Living Relative
- Can Nanotechnology Help Clean Up Ocean Oil Spills? Try It Yourself with Ferrofluid
- Computational Exploration of Protein Function
- Exploring Nanotechnology: Fold, Roll, & Stack Your Way to Super-Strong Materials
- Learning Your A, G, C's (and T, too)
- Neanderthals, Orangutans, Lemurs, & You—It's a Primate Family Reunion!
- Strength in Numbers?
- The Tree of Life — I (basic)
- The Tree of Life – II (advanced)
- Tiny Titans: Can Silver Nanoparticles Neutralize E. coli Bacteria?
- Trace Your Ancient Ancestry Through DNA
- Use DNA Sequencing to Trace the Blue Whale's Evolutionary Tree
- What is the Woolly Mammoth's Closest Living Relative?
- Which Animals Have Genome Projects?
- Who Has the Biggest Genome?
Do you have a specific question about a career as a Nanosystems Engineer that isn't answered on this page? Post your question on the Science Buddies Ask an Expert Forum.
- O*Net Online. (2009). National Center for O*Net Development. Retrieved May 1, 2009, from http://online.onetcenter.org/
- Dusto, Amy. (2010, May 14). Cogito Conversation: Katerina Aifantis, Engineering Superstar. Retrieved May 29, 2010, from www.cogito.org/Interviews/InterviewsDetail.aspx?ContentID=17932
- KQED Education Network. (2007, March 27). Nanotechnology Takes Off. QUEST. Retrieved June 7, 2010, from www.kqed.org/quest/television/view/189
- Lawrence Hall of Science. (2007). Nanozone: Who Works on Nanotechnology? Retrieved June 7, 2010, from www.nanozone.org/who.htm
- National Cancer Institute. (2010). Video Journey Into Nanotechnology. Retrieved June 7, 2010, from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jC8CUIID2HA
- Nova Science NOW. (2010). Rich Robinson: Nanoscientist. The Secret Life of Scientists. Retrieved May 29, 2010, from http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/secretlife/scientists/rich-robinson/
- Thompson, Amy Hodson. (2009, March 12). Cogito Conversation: Trevor Simmons, Carbon Nanomaterials Researcher. Retrieved May 29, 2010, from www.cogito.org/Interviews/InterviewsDetail.aspx?ContentID=17615
We'd like to acknowledge the additional support of: