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Which route to Nanotechnology?

  1. Apr 26, 2008 #1
    I'm interested in going into the field of Nanotechnology, and after speaking to a professor from McGill university, he told me that getting a degree in EE with a minor in physics would be one of the best foundations for grad work in nanotech. Now, the thing is that McGill doesn't actually offer any nanotech programmes at the undergrad level, but he said that in his opinion, EE would be just as beneficial as a programme that specializes in nanotechnology.

    On the other hand, I just received my acceptance from Waterloo in their Honours Nanotechnology Engineering Co-Op, and I'm having second thoughts about having already accepted EE at McGill (Waterloo's acceptance arrived almost 2 months later, and I had not realised that it would take so long, so I assumed that I hadn't been accepted).

    I know that the professor that I spoke to at McGill specifically said that he feels that programmes like Waterloo's nanotech engineering are nothing special , but he is obviously biased towards promoting McGill. I plan on doing postgraduate study, so I don't really know which undergraduate programme will be the most beneficial, if there actually is any difference between them in the long run.

    Another thing is that I currently live in Montreal, and I love the city, so staying at McGill would be nice. Then again, the cost of going to Waterloo wouldn't be a problem, and I've heard great things about going somewhere else for University (kind of sucks that I'd lose the ability to drink if I left Quebec though). Also, I lose my summers if I go to Waterloo because of the Co-Op aspects of the programme.

    Would anyone be able to offer any insight as to what route would probably be best? Right now, I'm leaning towards McGill, but that's probably because staying at home is a more comforting thought. I really don't know which one would be better academically.
  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 26, 2008 #2
    In my opinion an undergraduate in Nanotechnology is a little too specialized. By that, you narrow your knowledge directly in one field which is never good. This is especially not good for job prospects. Instead, it is better if you broaden your knowledge during your undergraduate studies and then specialize in your postgraduate. So I think that EE is much better for now and if you still want to go into nanotech after that, you can do that without trouble.
  4. Apr 26, 2008 #3
    I don’t really feel that there is a difference. Nanotechnology as a degree is relatively new. I reality it is just basically solid state physics. All in all the best stuff I believe is done by people that are much more like physicist then engineers, especially in the future since the newest generations of chips will be facing more and more fundamental physics problems like inductance. So personally I would say go with the engineering part if you want to work on the production end run phases physics if you what to be a ground breaking stuff. I.E. where I go to school we focus a lot on the industry aspects. If you go to Waterloo if you get to do your work term here you will count your self lucky since it is considered by the faculty there to be the most prestigious. In reality it’s all about money, if a school does not have many many millions of dollars pouring into its nanotech program it is hard to keep current and attract good people. The my school has spent 4.2 billion dollar on Nanotech in the last 4 years, this has a lot to do with the fact that New York has a lot of money and a lot of leverage with company’s, for example we just convinced SEMETECH to move their headquarters to our campus, AMD is building a new 4 billion dollar fab just 30 miles up the highway, and IBM has scientists permanently stationed here.

    College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering (CNSE)
    State University of New York, Albany, New York, USA

    So I would say it all depends upon what you what to do, and I am sorry to let you know most of us do not at this point in our lives! Good luck though, let me know if you need anything further.
  5. Apr 26, 2008 #4
    From what I've seen so far, I'm thinking that going the EE route might be my best bet, especially if it won't make a huge difference as far as my being able to do further study in nanotech goes. Firstly, if I change my mind, I'm actually going to graduate as an accredited engineer, so that's a huge benefit. Also, I'll have far more options to choose from if I do EE than if I do nanotech engineering.

    Noobieschool, I had done a bit of research as far as what grad school I might want to consider attending, and CNSE looked really attractive. How are you liking the program over there?
  6. Apr 26, 2008 #5


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    Just make sure you check what "nanotechnology" actually means at the various schools.
    The problem is that it is a that is a word that means different things to different people.
    E.g. at the university where I did my PhD I belonged to the department of Microtechnology&Nanoscience; there nanotechnology basically meant "very small things fabricated on a chip", the whole department (which included physicists, EE, chemists and even some bio people) was basically organized around a very good cleanroom where we could fabricate structures using e-beam lithography etc.

    But where I work now the word "nanotechnology" refers to work on powders, i.e. work on nanoparticles for e.g. coatings, sunblock etc. This work is basically done by chemists.

    It has now reached a point where people avoid using the word nanotechnology because it doesn't really mean much anymore (the only reason I know what the word means where I work now is because there is literally an official document where it defined), we now tend to be a bit more specific and tend to talk about e.g. mesoscopic physics (or simply mesoscopics), nanolithography etc.
  7. Apr 26, 2008 #6
    For grad school we are extremely well funded, 100% of grad students are currently funded (tuition, fees, and steipen), and we are expanding as a rapid rate. As far as connections to industry I would say we are were you want to be for grad school. As for undergrad we are taking our time as far as getting that together, the goal is not to put together a chop shop undergrad program. Son interesting things are that we have one of only two extreme ultraviolet (“EUV”) Alpha Demo Tool (“ADT”) - a $65 million tool, and this is the only one in academia. This is what will allow us to etch chips down to less then 10 nm. We have strong connections here and if you want a education that puts you in the main stream on industry this is the case. Although I must admit as far as theoretical and the edge of cutting edge we are lacking. Fundamental research is done here but it is not the focus. The focus is fab (everything from chips to solar cells), then bio-nano, then bio biz (or at least this is what I understand). Also what is sort of cool is that our VP (guy in charge of the college, because this is only one part of the University) is the highest pay New York State employee (he drives a Ferrari).

    Too bad you were not going here for undergrad, as with a lot of schools that all but guarantees you admittance. Just make sure you get a 3.5 or better through your undergrad or you will not even compete with the students from Asia that we get with 4.0’s. See since we are a state university there is a definite bias over foreign students toward state residents and those that have attended the SUNY system.

    At any rate I recommend finding a prof you like early, and then two more because you will need 3 solid recommendations for grad school. Also that summer thing that you wouldn’t have off of you went to Waterloo is really no different because you are expected to spend your summers doing internships (All of your summers ). But this is not a bat thing it helps you make contacts that otherwise you would never have. Also it helps you learn weather or not you like a place, so I recommend applying to UAlbany's CNSE summer internship program, def drop the bomb in you app that you want to attend graduate school here, even if it is not the case. ;-)

    Good luck with your endeavors and studies and now it is time for me to get back to my fountain day weekend, you should Google that as well (life in Albany can be very fun!)
    Last edited: Apr 26, 2008
  8. Apr 26, 2008 #7
    I didn't know grad students were allowed at fountain day :tongue2:
  9. Apr 26, 2008 #8
    Actually the problem is that undergraduate education in nanotechnology can be too broad. Nanotechnology encompasses at least physics, chemistry, EE, MSE, CHEM, and even bio. Make sure before choosing your upper year courses know which area of nanotechnology you want to specialize. (nano-electronics, nano-photonics, nano-structural materials, nano-bio, etc.) So that you can get more focused and know where to go next after graduating.

    Also check out the previous thread by corona7w: "Career in nanotechnology? What should I major in?"
  10. Apr 27, 2008 #9

    alum are :-)
  11. Apr 28, 2008 #10


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    Just a question what exactly is the difference between microelectronics and nanotechnology? I remember doing some elementary solid state in my introductory microelectronics course.
  12. Apr 28, 2008 #11
    Well, a microelectronics course could be a balance between solid state device physics and circuit applications. I don't know what is "taught" in nanotechnology (you might want to check out the UG curriculum of the Univ of Waterloo, for example, as they have a UG program in Nanotechnology Engineering) but it will probably be more about the device fabrication technology than circuits. Circuits are an application of nanotechnology, and at the research level, there is a thin dividing line between nanotechnology and microelectronics from the point of view of an overlap.

    What I do know is that microelectronics will typically be concerned with the application of device physics to electronic devices and channel/transport phenomena in such devices, apart from the design of efficient electronic circuits...
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