A nanosystems engineer is someone who works with material that is roughly 1/100,000 of the width of a single strand of human hair. The key to nanotechnology is that materials behave much differently on the nano scale (a nanometer is one-billionth of a meter) than they do on the larger macro scale. Nanosystems engineers study these differences and imagine new ways for these properties to benefit society.
This is a fairly new career, with The National Science Foundation projecting "the market for nanotechnology to be over $1 trillion annually within the next 10-15 years." With growth like that to look forward to, as well as the fact that over 95% of all people with this degree are employed, this is a solid career choice.
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The nanosystems engineer is a researcher and inventor on the cutting edge of science and engineering. He or she is the initial investigator into the microscopic interactions between various materials. Most of the nanosystems engineer's time is spent developing 3-D computer simulations based on the observed properties of materials, although hands-on work is also necessary to test theories in real world applications.
Some of the most prominent advances have come in the development of biomolecular injection systems that allow medicines to be delivered to areas of the body on a cellular level. Other areas that are at the forefront of nanotech are cosmetics, computer parts, green energy, digital imaging and textiles.
One of the most publicized applications of nanosystems engineering is the carbon nanotube. Carbon nanotubes are the strongest and stiffest materials ever discovered. They are currently being researched in almost every aspect of nanotech. The nanotubes are woven into carbon fibers to add tremendous strength to building materials. They are also being considered as an addition to lightweight armour that would be strong enough to deflect bullets.
Entry level nanosystems engineers will synthesize and characterize various new materials or identify new uses for nanotechnologies that already exist. They will create various reports detailing their findings and prepare invention-related disclosures for patent applications.
Senior engineers will often be responsible for procuring grant money or securing outside sources of funding for future research. They will also develop curriculum that advances the use of nanotechnology as a viable way to improve the performance or environmental impact of technologies that are currently in use.
Most of the people employed as nanosystems engineers work in office buildings, laboratories or college campuses, although a few will work on-site with oil and gas companies. Depending on the company that employs them, an engineer could spend a 40 hour work week in his laboratory or travel the globe to several different company-owned sites.