Foresight Nanotechnology FAQ for Students
Work related to nanotechnology falls into two broad areas: the study of nanotechnology itself (which will remain theoretical, for the time being) and research on enabling technologies leading toward assemblers and nanotechnology (which can be theoretical in part, but which also have an experimental, developmental component).
The theoretical study of nanotechnology involves exploratory engineering work in a number of areas. It includes basic studies in nanomechanical engineering (the study of molecular machines) and nanoelectrical engineering (the study of molecular and atomically-precise nanometer scale electronic systems). It also includes studies of complex systems, such as assemblers, replicators, and nanocomputers. More broadly, it includes studies of non-nanoscale applications, such as large systems built by teams of assemblers.
Inevitably, more resources will go into development than into theory, because technology development will yield practical, short-term results on the way to long-term objectives. It makes no practical sense to try to build an assembler today, but it does make sense to build tools today that will make it easier to build assemblers tomorrow. These tools are termed "enabling technologies."
Promising enabling technologies fall into several familiar categories. These include:
These approaches have differing strengths and weaknesses. Protein engineering can draw on a host of examples and prototypes from nature, and can exploit existing self-replicating machines (bacteria) to make products cheaply a major consideration, where short-term payoffs are concerned. General macromolecular engineering avoids the major problem with protein engineering (proteins, not having been designed for designability, are hard to design), but at the cost of moving away from natural prototypes and requiring more expensive chemical synthesis techniques for making near-term products (thus reducing the potential market). Micromanipulation techniques promise to ease design problems by allowing direct construction of molecular objects, but they suffer from higher costs: a chemical reaction typically makes many trillions of molecules at once, while a manipulator would make but one; hence, manipulator-made products can be expected to cost trillions of times more, dramatically reducing the potential market.
All the above areas bear watching, and all will be pursued to some extent, regardless of which ultimately proves to have the biggest payoff. Hybrid approaches, combining techniques from several of these areas (e.g., micromanipulation of molecular tools), seem promising. Finally, improved computational modeling of molecular systems is a generic enabling technology, relevant to all these approaches.
A growing number of universities are offering related degree programs, and it is difficult to track new additions. Keep in mind that this list may be incomplete, and you should contact specific universities for more information.
Academic Institutions offering Nanotechnology and related courses or degree programs:
Arizona State University
Delft University of Technology
Flinders University (Adelaide Australia)
Iowa State University
Kaunas University of Technology
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Michigan State University
Middle Tennessee State University
New Jersey Institute of Technology
New York University
North Carolina State University
Pennsylvania State University
Seoul National University
Technische Universitat Berlin
University of Chicago
University of Cincinnati
University of Connecticut
University of Greenwich
University of Hamburg
University of Lausanne
University of Leeds
University of Michigan
University of Nebraska
University of Newcastle
University of Southern California
University of South Florida
University of Texas at Austin
University of Tokyo
University of Toronto
University of Washington
Washington State University
Numerous avenues exist for pursuing a career in molecular nanotechnology, dependent of course on the fields of study selected. In order to provide you with information that is specific to your situation, we ask that you take the time to examine the materials listed below and let us know the particular areas that coincide with your interests.
Once you've familiarized yourself with the potential paths in the development of molecular nanotechnology, pick up a copy of the book Nanosystems: Molecular Machinery, Manufacturing, and Computation by Dr. K. Eric Drexler. You may order this online and make a small donation to Foresight as part of the Amazon Associates Program, which donates a portion of each sale to the referring organization. Please note: it is not necessary to read all of Nanosystems before proceeding to the next step.
Finally, we may be able to recommend specific individuals, who may be able to provide you with direct assistance in your search for career opportunities. You will need to know what path of development most suits your interests, and armed with that information, we may be able to assist you with your search. Contact Foresight when you are ready to proceed.
It is becoming increasingly difficult to manage the number of universities offering degree programs in nanotechnology. Foresight has often announced the creation of new degree programs in the quarterly Foresight Update, but has not yet undertaken the task of assembling these into a master document. Steve Lenhert of About.com has assembled some of this information. See specifically the sections on Nanotechnology Courses and Nanotechnology Centers.
You may also want to check out the University of Maryland's nanotechnology database.
If your university does not offer a specific degree program, it is possible to obtain an excellent grounding by studying some of the underlying aspects of this widely-disciplinary science (see the section above, How do I study the basics of nanotechnology?). You may also take a more proactive stance by encouraging your university to develop a nanotechnology degree program.
Scholarships are available, and we will highlight as many as we can in this space. We would like to caution you however, about scholarship searches that want money for their services. If you come across one that requests money, be sure to check it out first with the Better Business Bureau.
You may want to try http://www.salliemae.com. It is a good way to quickly and easily find information on scholarships, grants and other sources of financial aid for college.
There is also the Siemens Westinghouse Science & Technology Competition, which offers scholarships to eligible students. A successful showing in this competition may also lead to internship opportunities with the Siemens Foundation or any number of the collaborating universities, including: Carnegie Mellon University, Georgia Institute of Technology, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), University of California at Berkeley, University of Notre Dame and the University of Texas at Austin.
We would be hard pressed to assemble information related to the availability of internship programs, as they are popping up all over the country. We recommend that you check out the presentations of the Foresight Conferences on Molecular Nanotechnology for information on where research is being done. Perhaps in this list you will find a university or organization in your field of interest and in your area. We encourage you to contact these organizations directly for information on internships.
Information of this type may also be posted to Foresight's news and discussion forum, Nanodot.
These are just a couple of examples of how a student made a major breakthrough in the development of nanotechnology, and we look forward to bringing you additional cases as time passes. If you know of a student who has made a contribution to the development of nanotechnology, we encourage you to let us know the details. Send email to email@example.com.
Foresight Institute's web site (http://www.foresight.org) contains more general information about the medical applications and the development of the various aspects of molecular nanotechnology. In particular, refer to Engines of Creation and Unbounding the Future. Both are freely available on our web site. Additional information is available in some issues of the Foresight Update.
Nanomedicine is becoming an increasing important and exciting field. Much of this excitement stems from the recent publication of Nanomedicine, Volume I: Basic Capabilities. This is the first volume in a series of three, and should provide a solid foundation upon which to develop additional capabilities.
We also encourage you to visit http://www.nanomedicine.com, which includes a large number of sources for related material. The Institute for Molecular Manufacturing (http://www.imm.org) may also contain items of interest.
Additional sources of information are available on the web.
You may wish to read NanoLetters, a publication of the American Chemical Society. This publication is free until June 30, 2001!
You may also select relevant keywords and search these websites:
Meetings are held throughout the year, see:
Useful books on nanotechnology:
We encourage you to contact our office at firstname.lastname@example.org with your specific question, though we ask that you first exhaust the resources we provide in this document and the Foresight web prior to contacting us directly. Foresight's staff is quite small, and we receive a large number of inquiries on any given day. While we do our best to respond in a prompt and courteous fashion, delays often result. In order to receive the fastest possible execution of your query, please phrase all questions in as detailed a fashion as is possible.
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