Monday, May 23, 2005

Dear NanoBot: I'm sold on nano, but now what?


I've been a NanoBot reader for a while now. I'm in my late 20s and I've got a pretty good start on a career in software. I've been sold on nano. I think it's going to be an exciting ride, and I'd like to ride shotgun. The problem is, how does one get started in nano?

I'm a good software engineer. I know a lot about what it takes to take something from conception to reality. I'm sure that given my current experience and technical background I could be a great help to any nano company. Unfortunately, after poking around and looking at and some other places, I've come to the conclusion that these kinds of companies aren't having a problem finding computer techs. Even so, I'd like to contribute a little more directly.

I've talked it over with my fiance, she's prepared to help me make some sacrifices. I could go back to school if need be, but it's not like there's a night program at the local community college for nanotech. When I first decided to get into computers, a while back, there was a clear path to follow. There is none here. I could use some advice so that the investment I'm about to make can be as informed as possible.

Is going back for an advanced degree a good next step? Should I try to make a move directly to some other company? If I do go back to school for an advanced degree, what would be best? To continue with computer science? Or something more relevant like chemistry or physics?

I appreciate your taking the time to read my e-mail. Whatever advice you can share, I appreciate.



Hi, Sean,

Thanks for your note. I'm getting these kinds of questions more and more these days. Give it a year or so and your local community college will likely have nanotech courses available. I've made note of them in various places on this blog. Also, your local university, if it wants in on some of the new federal funding available, is likely reorganizing its departments right now and figuring out how to add the "nano" prefix.

None of this helps you right now, though (and I'm probably the last person to give advice on how to get a job in the nanotech world). But it really depends on what flavor of nano you want to go into. If you want to stick to your field, there's certainly a future in computer modeling and bioinformatics. But before I blab on too much, I think I will throw this one open to NanoBot readers, who will gladly tell you where to go (they certainly tell me often enough).



Anonymous said...

I've already got an advanced degree in a nano field and can't find a nano job (or a regular sized one for that matter). Good luck is all I can say!

Mr. Smith said...

One pices of advice I can offer is absorb any and all information that you can on nanotechnology. Look for companies that are working with nanotech and try and get your foot in the door as a computer tech. Mention in the interview that you have been studying nanotech and would like a chance to work in the field.

Or you could just get lucky (like me) and have the job fall in your lap.

Good luck.

Jack Mason said...


Howard's brother-in-atoms here. One area where your nanotech interests and software expertise may intersect is through a company like Accelrys, which makes arguably the most sophisticated commercial molecular modeling software. From what I understand, they often assign a smart young postdoc or someone like you to work with a specific client in implementing their solutions.

But I think you're on the right track...the convergence of software tools (and imaging equipment) is where the work will be at in a year or three.

So study some of the best product/company prospects--like NanoInk or Molecular Imprints--and figure out how you could learn how to operate or implement their technology or some ways I think its a little like the early days of the web, when anyone who could code an HTML page or write a perl script had a marketable skill.

Anonymous said...

Hello Sean,

I did exactly what you did about a year and a half ago. Learn all you can and take some classes at the local university as a part time graduate student. I did that with some Organic Chemistry and Molecular Bio classes and then this spring took a Nanotechnology System Design class through the Mechanical Engineering Department. Next thing I know, me - a CS guy with only basic knowledge of Molecular Bio - is in a state of the art biotech lab attaching gold nanoparticles to stuff using self assembling DNA strands and imaging them with SEM and AFM. So my advice is as Nike would say, Just do it!

Howard Lovy said...

And speaking of community college nanotech programs, this just in from the nano-cheeseheads on the other side of Lake Michigan.

Anonymous said...

Interesting. They're just a couple of hours up the road from my sister. I wonder if it's too early to get my 3yr old nephew enrolled?

Mr. Smith

Anonymous said...

Don't get sucked into the hype. If you're interested in nanotech, study physics.

Prefixing the word 'nano' doesn't alter the quality of the material, the coursework, or the degree itself. Nanotechnology IS physics. Study physics.