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Nanoscience is a relatively new branch of the physical sciences and is ideal for scientists who want to focus in on the small details. Nanoscientists often specialise in the industrial or engineering fields, pure research or medical nanotechnology.

What does a nanoscientist do? Typical employers | Qualifications and training | Key skills

Nanoscience is the study of the infinitely small – the atoms and sub-atomic particles that make up all matter in the universe. To give you an idea of the scales nanoscientists work with, there are a billion nanometres in a metre, so that’s ten million nanometres in a centimetre and a million nanometres in a millimetre. Nanoscientists study and seek to exploit the properties of substances on this scale to create new types of materials and make extraordinary advances in areas including biology, chemistry, materials science and physics. Possible developments could be a mobile phone that never needs to be charged or materials that can withstand a rocket’s re-entry into the earth's atmosphere.

The job typically involves conducting research, completing laboratory experiments and tests, and writing up reports, but a nanoscientist’s specific tasks will depend on the industry they’re working in.

In medicine, a nanoscientist might:

  • conduct experiments such as making tissue repairs at cellular level
  • experiment with using nano-sized particles, devices and, perhaps one day, robots to repair the human body

In the food sector, a nanoscientist might:

  • use nanotechnology to identify any potential diseases or other contaminants in products
  • conduct research to find ways to use nanotechnology to keep food fresher for longer

In engineering, a nanoscientist might:

  • conduct research to design ever-smaller components or microchips with greater electrical resistance or conductivity to improve performance
  • develop nanofibers to create lightweight, super strong materials for a range of uses
  • develop minute sensors that can remotely detect traces of dangerous chemicals or radiation

Typical employers of nanoscientists

  • Universities and research institutes
  • Electronics and semiconductor manufacturers
  • Aviation and aerospace engineering companies
  • Hospitals
  • Medical device manufacturers
  • Pharmaceutical companies
  • The defence sector
  • Food and drink manufacturers

Opportunities are advertised online, by careers services, by specialist recruitment agencies, in newspapers, in relevant scientific publications such as New Scientist and Science, journals published by the professional institutions, and their respective websites.

  • The recruitment process is likely to involve a technical interview. Read our article on technical interviews to find out what these involve and how you can tackle them.

Qualifications and training required

For nanoscientists who want to work in applied or research jobs in industry, a bachelors degree is essential. Relevant degree subjects include maths, physics, chemistry, engineering, microbiology and materials science. A postgraduate qualification such as a masters or PhD may be necessary. There are several nanoscience and nanotechnology courses available. To become a medical nanoscientist you will need a PhD.

Read our article on scientific postgraduate study to explore your different options.

Relevant work experience in a laboratory environment can also be beneficial when applying for jobs.

Key skills for nanoscientists

  • A 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

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In Partnership

This content has been written or sourced by AGCAS, the Association of Graduate Careers Advisory Services, and edited by TARGETjobs as part of a content partnership. AGCAS provides impartial information and guidance resources for higher education student career development and graduate employment professionals.

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