Career Profile: Nanotechnology

A NANOTECHNOLOGIST is a type of scientist who works with materials on an atomic or subatomic level. NANOTECHNOLOGISTS design and produce structures and devices that are highly durable and efficient, yet incredibly small in nature. NANOTECHNOLOGISTS create products that measure fractions of a nanometer up to 100 nanometers. Each nanometer contains eight to ten atoms. For comparison purposes, consider that one single human hair is over 80,000 nanometers thick!

NANOTECHNOLOGISTS work primarily in a lab manipulating microparticles (including microchips) to produce technologies and products one atom or molecule at a time. The first wide-scale use of nanotechnology was in developing improved sun-tan lotion. Some examples of the work of NANOTECHNOLOGISTS are: stain-resistant clothing, military-grade disinfectant, golf balls that correct their own flight path, etc. Most computer equipment and machinery has also been refined at some point by a NANOTECHNOLOGIST, generally in an attempt to increase speed.

In order to perform their duties, NANOTECHNOLOGISTS use many special tools, including the atomic force microscope, scanning tunneling microscope, and electron beam lithograph.

NANOTECHNOLOGISTS must have an immense interest in science and engineering. They must have science knowledge in many disciplines such as chemistry, physics, and biology. A great ability in the field of math is also required.

Additionally, NANOTECHNOLOGISTS should be creative. They should be able to look at or use and product and consider ways to make it last longer or work better.

Above all, NANOTECHNOLOGISTS must have patience. Manipulating atoms and molecules requires practice and precision.

NANOTECHNOLOGISTS must first have a degree in a science or engineering discipline. A Bachelor’s Degree may permit some lab work, but most credentialed NANOTECHNOLOGISTS who conduct research and/or manage lab experiences are required to have an advanced degree (Master’s or Doctorate).

Individuals wishing to enter the field of NANOTECHNOLOGY should take science, math, and computer courses in high school and college.

The earnings of a NANOTECHNOLOGIST will vary greatly depending upon location, education, experience, and the type of project in which you wish to work. An entry-level NANOTECHNOLOGIST should expect to earn roughly the same annual salary as a Physicist or Engineer. After successful products have been developed, the salary should increase. Salaries can range from anywhere from $40,000 per year to $265,000 per year.

According to National Science Foundation estimates, the US will need 800,000 to 1 million nanotechnology workers in the next decade.

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