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September 20th, 2007
At 23 years old and as a part-time bass guitarist in a rock band, Bregt Verreet seems an unlikely pioneer, in science at least. But today he is among the first graduates from the Erasmus Mundus Master of Nanoscience and Nanotechnology programme, a joint master's degree offered by several leading European institutions. The programme is one of several that have cropped up across Europe to train scientists in this specialized, transdisciplinary field.
"Nanotechnology is an incredibly interesting and broad field," says Verreet, who is now pursuing a Ph.D., working on organic solar cells at the Catholic University of Leuven (KU Leuven) in Belgium, where he also earned his master's degree. "It undoubtedly has a great future and not only helps us to understand the world at this intriguing dimension but also enables us to control, modify, and optimise it for specific applications."
Indeed, nanotechnology has garnered the attention and support of leaders, politicians, and scientists around the world. Projections are rosy: According to a 2006 report by Lux Research in New York City, the industry will directly employ more than 30,000 "white-coat" nanotech developers by the end of 2008. An additional 2 million blue-collar jobs in areas such as manufacturing will follow within a decade. In Europe, the European Union (EU) Seventh Framework Programme will contribute about €600 million per year to nanotechnology research until 2013, with an additional, similar amount being provided by individual countries. That gives Europe a larger yearly spend on nanotechnology than the United States or Japan.
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