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Starting a career, nanotech passion, looking for advises.

  1. Jan 16, 2012 #1
    Disclaimer: Non english speaker, sorry for any mistakes. I'll try to be as brief and objective as possible, but I have many doubts.

    Background: 19 years old, hobbyist programmer since 10, finished high school last year, got a place on the best college of my city, choose Electronic Engineering randomly, completed the first semester (read: calculus 1, physics 1) with good grades - but comparing what they taugh me until now with what I see on the internet, I fear I don't have a good mathematical background at all. Not sure if too late to build it.

    My goal: understand, work on and contribute to the fields of nanotechnology and biomedicine. I would consider a success if someday I found myself activelly contributing on research involving the development of nano-scale machinery and their applications for the treatment of diseases like migraine and cancer.

    So my questions:

    1. What course to attend to?
    My college offer good engineering courses, but the Engineerings are very specific to their fields, not? For instance, programming and chemistry are related to my goals, but they'll teach many unrelated things, like building a reactor or a setting a network. Well, my university started, last year, a course called "Nanotechnology" - the very first of my continent, but I'm not sure it's a good course and I'd need a biomedical background too, I guess? So a idea is to course nanotech and biomedicine at the same time, but that would be hard. Someone suggested I should course Computer Engineering, where I probably would get good grades, and use it to get into a named college or research outside my country.

    2. How do I get into top research on the subject?
    What is the place where the 'good stuff' is happening? Where are the discoveries being made, research being done, equipment at disposal? Big companies, universities as Haward, what? And what do I need to get into it? Good grades? Money? Knowledge? IQ? Well, how it works, in general?

    3. What should I study in home?
    I have free time, but I don't know how to use it. For instance, is it a good investment spend a huge amount of my time the next years learning advanced math and physics until I can do quantum mechanics and, thus, understand the laws of the dynamics on the nanoscale? Or will it be useless and it's better if I just spend my time on topics directly related to nanotechnology? The same question for chemistry, computing, and any other topic.

    Tl;dr want to get into nanotechnology applied to biomedicine, participating activelly and directly into the development of that field. What course to attend to, what to study at home and how do I get involved into research?

    EDIT: I swear I clicked on Career Guidance. Weird. Can someone move it?
    Last edited: Jan 16, 2012
  2. jcsd
  3. Jan 17, 2012 #2
    I was in a similar situation like 8 years back.

    I hope that you understand that nanotechnology is a buzz word, spanning a number of scientific fields.

    Regarding your questions:

    A.1) Focus mainly on your degree courses, if there is time, try to attend courses from other departments or those intended for the nanotech specialization.
    The advise that you should study computer engineering is unwise in my opinion.
    Electronics engineering is a nice field of study that is heavily involved in the developed of nanotechnology.

    A.2) In order to get into top university, your best shot is once you obtain a good bachelor degree (good grades, some research experience, additional courses), then you can head for a master degree and/or PhD (Note that in the US, unlike Europe, a PhD covers a master degree equivalent, i.e. US: Bachelor -> PhD, Europe: Bachelor -> master -> PhD).

    A.3) Don't worry about your math skills, you just got started. I would suggest that you don't do much during the first two years of your studies.
    Once you are done with those 2 years, you can use resources like NanoHub:
    They have plenty of online courses covering nanoelectronics, the bio nano stuff and others.
  4. Jan 22, 2012 #3
    Thank you very much for your answer.

    So you suggest I don't change to nanotech and stay on eletronics engineering?

    Why you say I should't worry about math skills and not study it on the first two years? How important will it be?
  5. Jan 22, 2012 #4
    I did not mean that you shouldn't study math, I meant that the math you will be taught during the first two years (or during the whole programme) should suffice for all your needs during those years and there is no need to delve into additional or advanced math topics.

    You can learn those advanced/additional topics if you happen to need them.
    Its very important to focus on your basic courses in order to build a solid understanding of them.

    I can't give advise on changing major as this involves many factors.
  6. Jan 22, 2012 #5
    Allright! But do you know what course could get me closer to my goal?

    To be honest, it's a well defined goal. I would like to move research into the development of a treatment for a specific ignored visual-mental disease. I fear it can't be done with standard methods (medication) so this is why I'm interested in nanotechnology. I belive it could provide the tools to identify and repair compromised neuronal tissue. I'd not mind if it took decades of work because it is something I'd love to work on, but I don't know if the goal is realist and, if it is, what course to attend to. This is it. Any words?

    Again, thank you very much for answering this topic. This is very important for me.
  7. Jan 22, 2012 #6


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    Science Advisor

    I absolutely agree with this. Nanotechnology is thrown around far too much and nano- prefixes are added to so many things (often inappropriately) by researchers in an effort to "sex up" their research.

    If you want to get into nanomedicine then you can go down two routes; either you can change to try and do a biology based course or you can stick with what you are doing an approach it from a medical device angle. With no background in the former that will be hard for you but not a problem. I completed an MSc nanotechnology and regenerative medicine and that course included biologists, material scientists, physicists, doctors amongst others. My advice would be to go for any nanotechnology module your course offers with the goal of doing a masters in nanomedicine or related subject.

    I have to warn you though that nanomedicine is not the study of tiny robots. If this is what you are looking for you wont find it.
  8. Jan 22, 2012 #7
    You mean this because they don't exist, or you are saying there are other fields more suited for those who would like to colaborate on research regarding the possibility of the creation of cellular-sized tools for medicine (not necessarily nanorobots) ? What's your opinion on the viability of my goal?

    Someone pointed out I should just stick with a biomedical course, because if those tools are to be developed, I would not need to be a nanotechnology expert to apply them on research. This makes sense, but it will be one less working on the development of those tools.
    Last edited: Jan 22, 2012
  9. Jan 22, 2012 #8


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    I mean because we are nowhere near the technology required to make cell sized robots. We can make micromachines (like gears and motors) and can make things like nanofibrous tissue scaffolds for directed cell behaviour but nano/microbots for medicine are science fiction at this stage and might always be.

    My advice for you at the moment is to look into tissue engineering, I would hazard a guess that TE is what you want to get into. However you mentioned wanting to treat a specific condition, which one? That will change what advice I give.
  10. Jan 23, 2012 #9
    I'll take a look on tissue engineering.
    The specific conditions are HPPD and migraine aura. The former consists of several perpetual visual disturbances that happen after a single exposure to certain chemicals and the latter, you probably know, consists of several migraine attacks with visual effects.
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