Nanoscientist

A relatively new branch of the physical sciences, a career in nanoscience is at the cutting edge of research and applied science and offers enormous scope for dedicated science buffs with big opportunities for those who think small!

Alternative job titles for this role

  • Nanotechnologist
  • Nanotech researcher
  • Materials scientist
  • Physicist

Introduction

Nanoscience is the study of the sometimes strange world of the infinitely small – the atoms and sub-atomic particles that go to make up all matter in the universe. To give an idea of the scales nanoscientists work with, think of the width of a human hair, which is 100,000 nanometres thick. So, a single nanometre is as if you take the width of one human hair, and divide it into 100,000 slices. Nanoscientists study and seek to exploit the weird and wonderful properties of substances on this scale to create new types of materials to make extraordinary advances in materials science such as laptop screens you could roll up or a mobile phone that never needs to be charged or materials that can withstand a rocket’s re-entry to earth.

What the job involves

  • Research and lab experiments
  • Conduct peer reviewed research
  • In medicine, nanoscientists conduct experiments, for instance making tissue repairs at the cellular level
  • Design experiments to use nano-sized particles, devices, and perhaps someday robots to repair the human body
  • In the food sector, nanotechnology is used to identify any potential diseases or other contaminants
  • Conduct research to find ways to use nanotechnology to keep food fresher for longer
  • In engineering, research to design ever-smaller components on microchips with greater electrical resistance or conductivity to vastly improve performance and “brain” power
  • Research and develop nanofibres to create lightweight, super-strong materials for a range of uses
  • Research and develop minute sensors that can remotely detect trace amounts of dangerous chemicals or radiation

How your career can develop

Prospects are huge for those who work and study and probe into the world of the infinitely tiny. Qualified and experienced scientists often specialise in either the industrial or engineering fields or pure research or medical nanotechnology. They often move on to nano techniques and instrumentation, nanomaterials, nanotechnology in manufacturing, microbiology and nano fabrication. Postgraduate study to doctorate level is common and is essential for medical nanoscience.

Why nanoscience matters

To give you an idea of the unbelievably small dimensions with which nanoscientists work, the average page of printed A4 paper is approximately 57,000 nanometers thick.

Skills

  • Passionate curiosity about the make-up of the universe itself
  • Meticulous approach to work
  • Excellent analytical and problem-solving skills
  • Ability to interact and communicate effectively with a wide range of people
  • A systematic approach to tasks
  • Excellent IT skills
  • Good interpretative skills
  • Ability to work in teams
  • Good at maths

Typical employers

  • Universities and research institutes
  • Industry
  • Electronics sector
  • Hospital and health research
  • Medical device manufacturers
  • Defence sector
  • Aviation and aerospace

Typical salary

  • Graduate €30,000 to €40,000
  • Senior/Specialist €50,000 to €100,000 at doctorate level and depending on specialism and experience

Typical qualifications

For nanoscientists who want to work in applied or research jobs in industry or engineering a bachelor’s degree is essential. Medical nano researchers need education to doctorate level. Degrees in the following professions can act as gateways to the science:
  • Engineering
  • Electronics
  • Physics
  • Applied physics
  • Medicine
  • Microbiology
  • Maths

The strange new world of Nanoscience, narrated by Stephen Fry