Friday, November 24, 2006

Kissing Cousins

I have felt for quite some time that the greatest overlap between nanoscience and any other discipline is the large border it shares with materials science. The central dogma of materials science is that there is a complex interplay between the properties of a material, its microstructure, and how it was processed. Perhaps a fitting definition of nanoscience, or at least one that effectively separates it from chemistry, is the study of things that have precisely and artificially controlled features on the scale of nanometers. This is essentially the same as materials science, except that there is a much greater emphasis on standalone particles in nanoscience. Many of the same tools, scanning tunneling microscopes, scanning electron microscopes, atomic force microscopes, photolithography, organic synthesis, and diffraction are used by materials scientists and nanoscientists. While the most practical applications of this that have reached the consumer are almost exclusively found in eletronic products, and thus nanoscience could be labeled as a subdiscipline of electrical engineering, one could also argue that it is the processing of semiconductor materials that all of these innovations rely upon. Perhaps the most important reason to identify this relationship is so that students with an interest in nanoscience will know what major to choose in college. In the absence of nanoscience undergraduate programs, there are several options on the table. While electrical engineering would be a good decision, materials science or biochemistry may have a much greater overlap with what they want to learn.

4 comments:

  1. I believe Aaron is largely correct. When I was an MSE student, I recall one of my profes saying an materials scientist was "a chemist who could read a phase diagram." And, of course, the discipline of MSE has historically evolved from a range of craft-based practice to metallurical departments at universities to the much more diverse range of activities we see today. An interesting question is therefore - how is nanoscience different from MSE? MSE deals primarily with inorganic materials - polymers, ceramics, glasses, metals, etc.. What are we to make of the research at the nano-bio interface? Does nano provide the bridge between MSE and the biotech-rerlated sciences?

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  2. good insight and advice

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  3. I cast my vote for "applied physics". Nanoscale research is at the core of almost all engineering and science disciplines. Materials sounds too bulky for me :)

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  4. Find more about kiss here! Really lovely post! It will make you smile!

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