Special Feature: Sizing Up Nano

The single hardest aspect of starting a career in nanoscience may be just figuring out what it is. That’s because, as Robert F. Service observes in the lead story in this week’s feature, “nano” isn’t an industry or a scientific field. It’s a scale–one where interesting things are happening in a wide range of scientific disciplines, from microbiology to microprocessors. It’s also a scale at which scientists have learned, in recent years, how to manipulate matter. And that’s why nanotechnology is hot.

So just how hot is it? For one thing, it’s one of very few emerging scientific topics that frequently pass the lips of people who aren’t scientists. In the first 6 months of this year, the word “nanotechnology” occurred in 32 different articles in The New York Times, for example. Over the same 6-month period a decade earlier, the word appeared in the Times just three times. So how many times will the term occur, say, 5 years from now? And more to the point, how many of those mentions will be in the newspaper’s employment section?

In , Service concludes that there are indeed opportunities in nano for people with scientific training. The field may well be overhyped, but money is pouring in, and it seems to be at a stage in its development where many of the jobs are for researchers instead of, say, people who work on production lines. Service also asks–and answers–whether it’s best to pursue interdisciplinary training or to earn your chops in an established discipline.

Travis, meanwhile, a recent nanotechnology skills survey and concludes that, although there’s no detailed consensus on what skills the industry is looking for, there are some broad themes. She tells us what they are.

Finally, in, Swarup concludes that, although industry may have been a little slow to catch on, government funding for nanotechnology is generous, and the career prospects for current and future European nanotechnologists seem strong.

A strategy for the future

How Will Nanotech Fare in Europe?