Nanotechnology is an interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary field with many educational paths and even more career paths. As such, building real world experience is essential in defining your career as it will give you useful skills and insight into a particular niche in the nanoscience or nanotechnology field. Supplementing your nanotechnology education with a nanotechnology internship in your area of focus is an excellent way to be introduced to the field, as well as a way to determine whether or not you would truly enjoy a job in that specialization (before you spend valuable time and money pursuing that track). Luckily, there are several volunteer opportunities available for students and graduates.
Nanotechnology volunteer opportunities
Given the vast amount of ongoing research involved in nanotechnology, there are always volunteer positions available at labs and universities. Volunteer research positions are excellent ways to gain hands-on experience in the field of nanotechnology while contributing to developments within the field.
You can also find nanotechnology volunteer opportunities through various nanotech associations, such as the Foresight Institute (http://www.foresight.org/). These associations often host conferences, conventions and other programs that help facilitate the building of experience and connections.
Internships are advantageous because they often provide credit towards a degree and, occasionally, a small wage. Universities and research facilities often offer technician internships for undergraduates looking to be introduced to the application of nanotechnology, nanofabrication and nanoscience. Interns are typically selected by the staff or faculty and must be in good academic standing.
Other stellar opportunities for students include special projects run by faculty. Occasionally, prominent faculty members at universities will embark on a research project that will require the assistance of a handful of very dedicated interns or volunteers. The leader of the project will choose his or her assistants carefully, often submitting them to a rigorous screening process. Being included on the staff of a pioneering research project can help build invaluable connections to big names in the field and, if the venture is very successful, catapult your career before you even complete your degree.
Finding a nanotechnology internship or volunteer opportunity
Your greatest resource in finding nanotechnology volunteer opportunities and internships is the people you already know in the field: your professors and academic advisors. Because internships and research positions are such an integral part of a nanotechnology education, universities often provide services for placing nanotech students in volunteer and intern positions.
You may also want to check with a local manufacturing or research corporation or nonprofit in your area. For example, if a bioengineering or manufacturing firm such as Alcoa or Monsanto has a strong presence in your area, you may wish to inquire with their research or fabrication department for possible volunteer opportunities.
Internships and volunteer positions in nanotechnology can provide you with the experience that is vital to forging a solid career in nanotechnology. Real world experience, hands-on application and social connections and networking are valuable components of your education that you won't receive in the classroom. Reach out to your school or local industry in order to gain insight that only experience yields.