Nanosystems engineer

A nanosystems engineer could...

Develop a new material to make a lightweight tennis racket that can withstand the force of a powerful serve. Tennis player Create tiny particles that can move around a patient's body, finding and killing cancer cells, like in this video. Nanotechnology
Design a new lightweight, but super-strong, fabric out of nanomaterials to make into stylish bulletproof suits. Suit Use nanotechnology to create a new generation of smaller, longer-lasting, more eco-friendly batteries. Eco battery
Find out more...

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
Median Salary
Nanosystems Engineer
U.S. Mean Annual Wage
Min Wage
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024) Little or No Change (-2% to 2%)
  • Visit the Lawrence Hall of Science's virtual exhibit, Nanozone, to learn the life stories of four very different nanosystems engineers.
  • Meet Katerina Aifantis, whose research spans a wide array of topics, including nanotechnology, biomedical engineering and improving lithium ion batteries.
  • Watch a video about Rich Robeson, a nanoscientist and professor at Cornell University, who wants to use nanoparticles to help meet the world's energy needs in an environmentally friendly manner.
Related Occupations
Source: O*Net

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.

Other Qualifications

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.

In this video, nanosystem engineers find impactful ways to apply advances in physics and chemistry.

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.

Work Environment

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.

Source: test

Companies That Hire Nanosystems Engineers

Explore what you might do on the job with one of these projects...

Log in to add favorite
Science Fair Project Idea
The enormous task of cleaning up oil spills in oceans and seas has burdened industry, government, and environmentalists for decades. The cleanup is almost always difficult. It involves great amounts of time, resources, and money to remove the oil from the water, and the cleanup is often only partially successful. Today, however, scientists are coming to the rescue, developing a new technique that combines nanotechnology and magnetism. In this science project, you will test the proposed… Read more
Log in to add favorite
Science Fair Project Idea
Advertisements for high-tech sports gear or the latest and greatest outdoor material promise lighter and stronger products every season. Is it a scam? How can engineers keep creating materials that are both lighter and stronger than anything known so far? The answer is in the nanoscale! Using nanotechnology, scientists can play around with the detailed structure of matter, leading to a whole new range of materials, some with amazing qualities. In this science project, you will get a glimpse… Read more
Log in to add favorite
Science Fair Project Idea
Ever try to tear a telephone book in half? Even though you can easily rip one or a few pages to shreds, the entire phone book has strength in numbers and holds together. This project is an introduction to measuring and comparing the strength of materials. Does spaghetti get extra strength if you bundle it together, or does strength simply increase proportionally with the number of strands? If you are interested in materials testing, get cracking! Read more
Log in to add favorite
Science Fair Project Idea
Have you ever heard that nanoparticles can kill bacteria? You may have even seen some consumer products advertise that they contain antibacterial nanoparticles. A nanometer is one billionth of a meter long. Nanoparticles are usually just a few nanometers in diameter — really, really tiny! So how can something that small kill bacteria which are approximately 700 - 1400 nanometers across? Are they really effective? In this science project you will grow some E. coli bacteria and… Read more
Log in to add favorite
Science Fair Project Idea
This is a project about the "molecular alphabet" of DNA. With just four "letters," it manages to keep track of the plan for an entire person, and keep a complete copy in nearly every cell. This project will help you start learning this new alphabet. Read more
Log in to add favorite
Science Fair Project Idea
The DNA in our cells contains our "blueprints," but it's the proteins in our cells that do most of the work. The Human Genome Project has allowed us to start reading the blueprints, but we still don't understand what most of the proteins do. This is a fairly advanced project that explores ways of identifying the function of unknown proteins. Read more
Log in to add favorite
Science Fair Project Idea
You have probably seen figures showing how human beings are related to chimpanzees, gorillas, and other primates. In this genomics science fair project, you will use bioinformatics tools to generate your own primate family tree. Read more

Ask Questions

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.

Additional Information


Additional Support

We'd like to acknowledge the additional support of:

  • Chevron
  • Intel
  • Medtronic
Free science fair projects.