Opportunities in nanochemistry exist in the areas of theoretical and basic research, applied research, and commercial product development. An inclination for problem-solving and work with early-stage processes and products is an advantage.

Typical Job Functions

Nanochemists use a variety of methods to prepare and assemble "little pieces of matter" with novel electronic, magnetic, optical, chemical, and mechanical behaviors that can be attributed to their tiny size. Nanoscience impacts many technology and industry sectors, from information technology, to pharmaceuticals, to transportation, to environmental science, and more.

Examples of advances made through nanochemistry include:

  • Sunscreen lotions that absorb ultraviolet light without giving you a white nose
  • Clear coatings for cars that protect paint colors
  • Material that protects airplanes from lightning strikes

Nanochemists may also study the health and safety effects of airborne and water-borne nano-sized particulates or use nanoparticles to clean up or neutralize pollutants.

Typical work duties of a nanochemist include:

  • Synthesizing and characterizing new nanomaterials
  • Developing new applications for existing nanomaterials
  • Developing the theoretical foundations for the properties of nanomaterials
  • Developing and supporting commercial products using nanomaterials
  • Studying the health, safety, and environmental effects of nanomaterials
  • Teaching courses and training students
  • Communicating research results to funding agencies and the general public

Nanochemists often work in academic, industrial, or government laboratories. They may present their work at conferences and symposia and publish it in scientific journals or general-audience publications.

  • Theoretical nanochemists - Do most of their work in computation and work in an office.
  • Environmental nanochemists - Often work outdoors collecting samples and data. They work indoors to analyze data and write up their results.
  • Industrial nanochemists - Work in factory settings, or travel to customer sites to advise, troubleshoot, or train customers.
  • Academic nanochemists - Teach classes and confer with students during office hours.

Career Paths

Nanochemistry careers offer a wide variety of entry points: basic or applied research, product development, customer and user support, or environmental impact monitoring.

Nanochemistry researchers generally gain increasing independence and larger budgets for their work as they gain more work experience. They may supervise research teams consisting of undergraduate and graduate students, postdocs, or technical staff members. Some experienced nanochemists move into program management or administration, where they spend much of their time preparing budgets and schedules and obtaining funding, in addition to overseeing researchers and research programs.

Getting Started

Nanochemists require a solid background in chemistry or a related scientific field. Students and recent graduates may pursue internships in industrial, academic, or government laboratories to see if the field is a good fit for them.

  • Research assistants and technicians typically require bachelor's or master's degrees.
  • Some program managerial and administrative jobs may require master's degrees.
  • Instrument specialists and customer service specialists typically require master's degrees.
  • Academic positions typically require a Ph.D.
  • Research director positions typically require a science Ph.D.

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