Anyone interested in taking a non-traditional route to a degree should be familiar with the benefits and drawbacks of online degree programs. Perhaps the greatest benefit of an online nanoengineering degree is that it allows the student to complete coursework relatively flexibly. Those with full-time employment or with young children may find the ability to study from home appealing. Though students in these programs must still follow the yearly schedule associated with the physical campus, coursework can be completed remotely, allowing individuals to earn a degree without relocating or dropping other responsibilities.
Despite the schedule flexibility and physical freedom, there can be certain drawbacks to an earning a degree in nanoengineering online. Perhaps most significant drawback is that students don’t have have the constant face-to-face support and motivation from professors or classroom peers. Individuals who require this type of atmosphere to succeed in a course may not thrive in an online setting. Additionally, successfully pursuing an online degree in nanoengineering requires the ability to set a schedule and work with very little oversight, which may make completing an online degree difficult for some students.
There may be additional pros and cons to an online nanoengineering degree that become more apparent as a student researches individual programs. Before making any final decisions, it is recommended that students have full understanding of the scope and expectations for the program in which they hope to enroll.
Dr. Lew Reynolds, Jr. is a nanoengineering professor within the Department of Materials Science and Engineering at North Carolina State University, where he also serves as the director of graduate programs. His interests include compound semiconductor materials and devices, epitaxial thin film growth, heteroepitaxy, and strain relaxation in misfit systems. Since 2004, Dr. Reynolds has co-authored and published more than 40 articles in peer-reviewed scientific journals.
Dr. Alexander Balandin is a professor of electrical engineering and the founding chair of the materials science and engineering program at the University of California at Riverside. Dr. Balandin’s areas of emphasis include Raman spectroscopy of solids and nanostructures. In 2013, the Materials Research Society Foundation (MRS) awarded Dr. Balandin the MRS Medal for exceptional achievement for his work and discoveries regarding the thermal properties of graphene.
Dr. Shyam Aravamudhan is an assistant professor of nanoengineering at the Joint School of Nanoscience and Nanoengineering, a collaborative project of North Carolina Agricultural & Technical State University and the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. In addition to holding two patents, he has published numerous articles, and his research interests include nanobioelectronics and 3D system integration. Through his research, Dr. Aravamudhan seeks to better understand how the biological system functions by observing the phenomena at micro or nano-length scales.
Similarly to traditional undergraduate or graduate programs, those attempting to enroll in an online nanoengineering program will be expected to submit various materials. Common admissions requirements derived from the programs profile below include:
Aspiring students generally are required to follow the same admissions timeline as traditional students. Those who wish to begin school in the fall should expect to submit applications by January, while anyone hoping to start in the spring may need to submit materials by the fall. As the specific timeline will vary based on each institution, prospective students should search diligently to understand all relevant admissions information before starting the process.
As of early 2018, Louisiana Tech University and the University of California at San Diego are the only nanoengineering programs that have received accreditation through the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET). Both of these programs are only offered in an on-campus format, meaning that it is currently not possible to attend an online nanoengineering program accredited by ABET. This lack of ABET accreditation for online nanoengineering programs may serve as an obstacle for some seeking a Professional Engineering (PE) license following graduation. In some states, graduation from an ABET-accredited engineering program is a mandatory prerequisite to apply to sit for a PE licensing exam. In other states, graduates can use work experience in lieu of graduation from an ABET-accredited program, but the experiential requirements generally are higher than if a student attended an ABET-accredited institution. Overall, having a PE license is not a requirement to work as a nanoengineer, so an online degree can still allow the student the opportunity to obtain employment in the field.
In general, students in a nanoengineering undergraduate program take courses covering engineering computation, properties of materials, nanoengineering foundations, biochemical and physical principles of nanoengineering, molecular modeling, synthesis and fabrication, probability and statistical methods, and system design. In addition, undergraduate students may be required to take a number of general elective credits in pursuit of their degree, and graduate students may need to complete a thesis.
In some online degree programs, students may have the opportunity choose a speciality within the field of nanoengineering. For example, a student pursuing a degree in online nanoengineering may also be able to focus on microelectronic devices and materials or biotechnology.
Aspiring students who hope to obtain a high-quality online education have a number of choices among highly regarded institutions. The following is a list of respected online nanoengineering degree programs, featuring professors who teach online courses in each program:
North Carolina State University of Raleigh, NC affords students the opportunity to obtain a master’s degree in nanoengineering online. This 30-credit-hour degree program does not require a thesis, a final oral exam, or any in-person residency. Classes available within this program include nanoelectronics, nanophotonics, biomedical sciences in nanoengineering, defects in solids, thermodynamics of materials, and the chemical processing of electronic materials, among others. For a customized tuition assessment, check out the NCSU’s Distance Education Fee Tables.
Dr. Linyou Cao is an associate professor in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering at North Carolina State University. His research interests include understanding and engineering the fundamental properties of photons and charge carriers in nanostructured materials towards developing novel optical and optoelectronic devices.
Dr. Carl Koch is the Kobe Steel Distinguished Professor within the Department of Materials Science and Engineering at North Carolina State University. He previously worked as a research group leader with the Metals and Ceramics Division of Oak Ridge National Laboratory, and his was the first research to demonstrate that amorphous alloy metallic glasses could be made by ball milling certain elemental powder mixtures through the technique known as mechanical alloying.
Students at the University of California–Riverside have the chance to pursue an online master’s of science (MS) degree in engineering with a specialization in materials at the nanoscale. This program can be completed in as few as 13 months and has no on-campus requirements. Coursework covers a variety of high-level topics in nanoscience, including microelectromechanical systems and crystal structure and bonding, the thermodynamic foundations of materials, and microelectrochemical systems, among other areas of study. This program costs $833 per credit-hour.
Dr. Krassimir N. Bozhilov is an associate adjunct professor within the Department of Materials Science and Engineering at the University of California at Riverside. His general areas of focus include electron microscopy and microanalysis of nanomaterials, zeolite structure and properties, crystal chemistry, and crystallography of ino- and phyllosilicates.
Dr. Ashok Mulchandani is a professor of chemistry and chemical & environmental engineering at the University of California at Riverside. His areas of research include nanobiotechnology and biotechnology for the creation of bioanalytical devices.
The Joint School of Nanoscience and Nanoengineering based in Greensboro, NC offers an online MS in nanoscience and is currently developing other online degree programs in nanoengineering. The JSNN is a collaboration between the North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University (NC A&T) and the University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG). As of early 2018, the school provides four nanoengineering-related degrees: a professional science master’s (PSM) in nanoscience, the aforementioned MS in nanoengineering, a PhD in nanoscience, and a PhD in nanoengineering. Notably, it offers six nano-oriented research foci: nanobiology, nanometrology, nanomaterials, nanobioelectronics, nanoenergy, and computational nanotechnology.
Dr. Sung-Jin Cho is an assistant professor of nanoengineering at the Joint School of Nanoscience and Nanoengineering. He has published several peer-reviewed articles in high-impact journals and holds two patents. His research topics of interest include multifunctional nanostructured material design and synthesis for energy storage application.
Dr. Joseph L. Graves, Jr. is a professor of nanoengineering at the Joint School of Nanoscience and Nanoengineering, where he also serves as the associate dean for research. He has published a number of books on various subjects, including The Emperor’s New Clothes: Biological Theories of Race at the Millennium, and he was featured on the CNN Anderson Cooper program, “360.”
In addition to the degrees mentioned above, there are various certificate programs in nanoengineering as well. For example, the Penn State World Campus offers an online undergraduate certificate in nanotechnology, comprising 18 credits at $555 (or $596) per credit-hour. The Harvard University Extension School also provides a two-year, five-course online nanotechnology certificate, which costs an average of $13,500 to complete. Finally, Oxford University also has a distance-based postgraduate certificate in nanotechnology—a field closely allied with nanoengineering—which takes nine months to complete.
A significant consideration for anyone who is interested in pursuing an online degree in nanoengineering is whether or not campus visits are required. In some cases, a student may be asked to travel to the campus once or twice per year for exams, interviews, or orientation sessions. Because this is ultimately dependent upon the individual institution, it is important that prospective students fully familiarize themselves with the specifics of the program before beginning the admissions process.