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September 20th, 2010
Who Needs a Nano Scientist?
by Geoffrey Ozin, University of Toronto
Indeed maybe one of the greatest contributions of nanoscience is its success at encouraging bands of scientific specialists from disparate disciplines, to work together as integrated and harmonious units on big problems that require more than a single speciality for their solution. Together we are strong!
This new found interdisciplinary approach to solving research problems in information technology, biotechnology and nanotechnology is something of a recent development for the majority of university researchers who traditionally have felt more comfortable working alone or only with their closest coworkers in the speciality in which they feel scientifically secure and strong. To best take advantage of the nanoscience approach to research, one must be willing to expose their weaknesses in a multidisciplinary team environment, and this is not every scientist's cup of tea! However, those with the confidence to do so usually benefit enormously from the experience of working in a stimulating multi-expert environment with the free-flow of ideas directed to solving a problem of mutual interest that is far beyond the capability of a single expert, or even a single discipline. Of course, having teams of scientists from different disciplines collaborating on the same problem is nothing new: it took scientists from many disciplines working together to put a man on the moon. What is new, however, is that we now have a new breed of scientist who, when faced with such a problem, aims to understand not just his small section of it, and those to which it is directly related, but also to understand the nature of the entire problem itself. For this reason, the nanoscientist is ideally positioned as a central player in these interdisciplinary problems. Accordingly, nanoscience degree programs need to evolve from the "nano for the sake of nano" philosophy to one where nano is a means to an end within a well-defined future technology. This is what students and employers recognize.
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