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Prospective returning student; nanotechnology?

  1. Jul 2, 2010 #1
    I graduated 5 years ago in Computer Engineering (branch of EE at my school, much in common) and have been working as a software engineer. It's mostly enjoyable/tolerable but I just don't find it intellectually stimulating and satisfying enough, and I don't see a career in this field advancing too far ahead in this aspect. Going back to school has always been on my mind and the question has always been "in what field", and I feel like I need to decide now.

    I've been a big science geek for as long as I remember and CompE was really my second choice after physics (didn't go into physics due to family pressure and moment of weakness). Physics is still my favorite subject in science, and I've been studying aspects of it myself, but I'm not totally set on making it my career anymore; in fact as a career I'm perhaps more interested in nanotechnology, and even biological engineering. The former would be the first choice because biology is a bit removed from my background and I'd pretty much have to do undergrad all over again. Nanotech at the school I'm looking at (University of British Columbia, Canadian, where I did my major) is under EE and has some very interesting research related to its biomedical applications (which really is my core interest); this may be a good point to branch out from.

    Now I realize this forum is primarily physics oriented, but the people here seem pretty knowledgable about a large variety of things so I'm gonna ask anyway.

    - Is this a good field to go into with regards to academic and industry research opportunities?
    - What are my chances of getting admitted into such a program after so long out of school? (I've been keeping the theories fresh in my mind and learning ontop of that, but profs may not believe/care). My GPA is ok but not stellar which is another one of my concerns (3.7x overall, dipped to 3.3 for last year only, because I just lost drive). I have no research experience and have not had much contact with any profs.
    - Is there anything else I should know that might help me in making a more informed decision?

    I'm going to contact a prof soon but I'd like to have a ballpark feel on this first. If I have a chance I'd like to try. I feel like I'm still in a position in my life where I can take a risk, and this is something I just have to try.
  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 2, 2010 #2
    Nanotechnology is a rather big term and it applies differently according to the field. It is actually an evolution rather than a revolution, but nowadays everyone likes to use the term & jump on the Nano wagon.

    In terms of career, it is field dependent, since some topics are just research oriented while others are application oriented. As for career in research, there are plentiful of opportunities.

    Before moving forward, I hope you drop the term nano from your consideration (unless you can pinpoint exactly the sub-topic). For example, if the university has research relevant to semiconductors, then it is almost 99% definitely into Nanoelectornics, but you might not see that written anywhere (as I wrote earlier, it is just an evolution, not a revolution). So what you have to follow is your interest.

    Some sub-topics are inter-disciplinary e.g. (plasmonic) bio sensors.
  4. Jul 2, 2010 #3
    since Computer Eng. is really close to EE, hence you can probably have a look at NanoHub:


    it features some really good lectures/webcasts ,simulation tools and other learning materials (totally free).
  5. Jul 2, 2010 #4
    Thanks for the response. Good point that I should drop the term "nanotechnology" because it is very hyped. The research at the school I'm looking at is mostly in MEMS, biomedical devices and nano-scale electronics (carbon tubes/quantum dots whatnot). I am more interested in the former areas. I know a lot of it is very interdisciplinary and I don't have the background to jump into it, but I do hope to get my feet in and branch out.

    I will take a look at the link to try to narrow down my interests and perhaps put myself into a better position.
    Last edited: Jul 2, 2010
  6. Jul 2, 2010 #5
    I live(d) near UBC, and I was planning on doing summer research there this year. I was also looking at UBC's nanoscience/technology research groups, and I found some that were not in the EE department. As other people have said, nanotechnology/science is a broad field, so depending on your particular interests you may find a nanotechnology group in, say, the chemistry department that fits you better.
  7. Jul 3, 2010 #6
    You're welcome.

    BTW, not having a background in these field doesn't meant you can't go for a master degree in it, so you would have to sit for another bachelor degree.
    For example, even when teaching a course on MEMS, they (the department) expect no prerequisites except for basic EE knowledge, hence they will cover the basics, Even if they don't, it shouldn't be hard for you to cover it through self study. If the situation was bad you might probably need a course or two from the final year bachelor ones.

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