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Careers in nanotechnology

  1. Aug 5, 2012 #1

    Grad school is still a few (3) years off, but its good to have plans in mind so I thought I would ask:

    Has anyone information on the industry prospects of nanotechnology specializations? Previous posts indicate that condensed matter / solid state physics are some of the more common industrial fields - are these similar to, overlapping with, nanotech? (excuse my naivete).

    My university offers graduate program titled, "Nanotechnology, materials and energy," which sounds like a dead-ringer for a marketable degree, so I add this joiner question: Should I beware of masters degrees that sound *too general*, for fear of watering down the skill set I end up with? Or is it more about selling yourself and learning things on the job? I see myself quite likely entering industry after a masters, so this is somewhat of a concern.

    Thanks for the replies,
    (apologies for my lame username.)
  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 7, 2012 #2
    No replies so I'll parse this down a bit:

    If you have friends or associates that have gone into nanotechnology, do you have any idea of how they are doing post-graduation?

    Job offers you encounter through long hours spent on job boards for physics - do a significant portion seem nanotech related?

    or more generally: What is your gut feeling of the field as a whole?

    Most of the articles I've read in the last year from nanotech fields seem to be very "foundational" work - i.e. we developed a monomolecular motor, we designed a better manufacturing system for graphene, we show a process that could build molecular transistors, and the like. So, is this field set to explode in 5 or 10 years, or is this another "cold fusion" dead end?

    thanks for your responses, hunches, info, in advance
  4. Aug 7, 2012 #3
    nanotech is a supporting technology to the electronics and chemical industries. I would bet it being a supporting field to electronics for at least the next 10 years, as we're rapidly hitting fundamental physical limits in electronics. In the chemicals field, there's still going to be new developments in drug delivery, catalysis, materials processing, etc. but it's a continuity of the same developments that have been going on since the 19th century.

    in terms of employment no I don't think there will ever be a huge demand for nanotech positions. just like fusion; even if fusion is made viable as an energy source, it won't create many new jobs.
  5. Aug 7, 2012 #4
    Thanks for your response chillfactor!

    The general tone of nanotech articles is very future oriented, and somewhat vague, usually like "we see this having applications in fields x, y, z,..." so one might take that as 'the next big thing' or someone walking around with a golden hammer looking for nails.

    could you clarify one thing; what precisely would the effect of electronics hitting fundamental limits have on nanotech? thanks.

    also, whats your background in? thanks!
  6. Aug 7, 2012 #5
    i am a graduate student in physics.

    the nanotech articles are, from what i see, pretty good. its not super employable like software but hey what is, right?

    if you only cared about employment after a BS degree, be an accountant or programmer. in general, anything that has to do with materials, manufacturing, etc. is less employable than a desk job that only needs a computer just because there's more desks with computers on them than multi million dollar labs.

    new patterning techniques could see immediate uses in the electronics industry for instance, since RAM is built at the very lowest limits (rather than built at the very lowest limits of reliability).

    electronics hitting fundamental limits = you can't make transistors in silicon that's smaller than the silicon atom for obvious reasons. I think you'll hit limits far before that due to leakage currents. 14 nm is the current state of the art (in RAM) and I think this is it. I really don't think things are going to get much smaller at the pace they did in the past 20 years. You can already see the slowdown and hitting the limits. If they did according to Moore's "Law" we'll be making transistors out of quarks within a few decades... that's not happening. Everything hits the limits at one point.

    Now you have to find alternatives to silicon. That's not really happening very well right now though. Don't take my word for it though, look at careerbuilder and search EVERYTHING that has to do with nanotechnology (try MEMS, materials science, and nano as terms to start off with). The results are pathetic.
  7. Aug 8, 2012 #6
    It's not necessarily just a question of employability. There is a great deal of appeal for me at trying to work in a field thats innovating, or at least churning out lots of new ideas and products. Programming might fit that bill but I see most programmers doing debugging and finetuning existing programs... nanotech has something of a romantic appeal, you could say!

    I take it your feeling is that nanotech would be primarily a research oriented career, whether in a company that can afford to undertake it or a university?

    I thought Moore's law was related to the price of transistors and how many you can fit on a single chip. So they might wind up with larger chips, eh?

    I did. no results found for nano or MEMS, tons for material but its so broad could be anything really.

    What's your area of focus if you dont mind me asking?
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