What Is Nanotechnology About?

Nanotechnology is the application of the science of the very small in order to produce new, interesting, and useful materials, devices, and systems that exploit the unique features of this small size. When things are small, their behavior can be governed by unusual physics, such as quantum mechanics or non-continuum mechanics, and this new physics can be used to cause and exploit behaviors that would not be possible at larger scales. Examples of this include so-called ‘low dimensional’ devices that can produce transistors that operate faster than silicon transistors, or quantum dots that have application ranging from video displays of remarkable color purity to assisting in the detection of cancers inside the body.

However, that is not all that nanotechnology can do. When things are small, they can be arranged into systems of remarkable spatial and functional complexity, even if their behavior is entirely governed by macroscale physics. An example of this area is microelectromechanical systems, or MEMS: these systems can range from millions of tiny moving mirrors on a silicon chip that digitally project Hollywood’s latest films in the movie theater, to extremely small scale gyroscopes and accelerometers that can fire the airbag in your car if you are in an accident to keep you as safe as possible. And keep in mind these few examples barely scratch the surface of this exciting field.

Nanotechnology is the interdisciplinary field that enables advances in almost every technology sector. Innovations in semiconductor, materials, health care, medical diagnostics, therapeutics, communication systems, forensics, food science, Nano-IoT, agriculture, computation, consumer electronics, energy efficient lighting and display technology, and low power energy saving electronics rely on advances in nanotechnology. Continuing on the Moore’s Law trajectory of silicon electronics, in which tomorrow’s electronics are cheaper and faster than today’s, and which underlies our modern world from scientific advances to business and finance to the Internet, will rely on advances in nanotechnology.

Nanotechnology Master’s Program at the University of Pennsylvania

Penn’s Nanotechnology Master's degree can prepare students for leadership roles, both technical and managerial, in emerging high tech industries as well as traditional industries that exploit nanoscale phenomena. Recent graduates of our program are working at semiconductor companies (Micron, Global Foundries, TSMC, ASML, KLA, Applied Materials), electronics companies (Apple, Microsoft), energy (bp), defense (Lockheed Martin, Raytheon Technologies), consulting (McKinsey & Company, Ernst & Young) and startups in technical or managerial areas such as development and exploitation of new nanomaterials, analysis of complex integrated circuits, and technology analysis. Some of our graduates continue on for PhD study.

Highlights of the Program

Diverse Curriculum

The curriculum allows students to match their background and interests while preparing for exciting new challenges. Nanotechnology is a highly interdisciplinary field and students are able to take courses from the Schools of Engineering, Arts & Sciences, the Wharton School of Business and the Law School. The flexibility of the curriculum and the diversity of the student body create a dynamic learning environment.

Hands-on Laboratory Courses

Students will opt for either ESE 5360: Nanofabrication and Nanocharacterization or MSE 5650: Fabrication and Characterization of Micro and Nanostructured Materials. Both courses offer hands-on laboratory experiences. ESE 5360 will allow you to access a world-class cleanroom and create devices independently

Research Opportunities

A research thesis is optional. Students can choose thesis or independent study for research project. Students desiring to do a thesis are responsible for finding a faculty member who will host their research. A good place to start is to look at the faculty who have nano-related interests.
Additionally, students may apply for the Graduate Student Fellow program, which offers opportunities to work on device fabrication in the cleanroom for a duration of 1 year.

Students Support

Diverse networking opportunities are available, including the career services offered by Penn Engineering. Furthermore, students will have the chance to connect with alumni for discussions about their future careers.

Who May Consider Our Program?

For students or professionals aspiring to:

1. Explore interdisciplinary science and technology at small scale
2. Gain hands-on experience in the fabrication and characterization of real-world devices
3. Pursue research career or apply to a PhD program
4. Transition to another major (e.g., from material science to electrical engineering or vice versa)
5. Pivot their career path (e.g., from engineering to consulting or vice versa)

Who May Be Admitted?

Students with science and engineering undergraduate degrees are eligible for admission to the Nanotechnology Master's Degree program. A bachelor's degree in any of the following fields is encouraged: physics, chemistry, bioengineering, materials science, electrical engineering, systems engineering, mechanical engineering, engineering and applied science. In addition, students with technology-oriented business backgrounds who have strong analytical skills and have taken science and engineering courses prior the application may be admitted.