Imagine this. You stand on the edge of a field. You look across and see a huge sculpture of tilting make-up mirrors all stuck together like a giant movie screen reflecting the field, the crowd, you, the buildings, the sky and the trees. This arrangement of glass, similar to those used to project pictures in HDTV and movies, is what Vladimir Aksyuk designs, but on a "nano" scale-small enough to fit inside a computer chip. At Bell Labs at Lucent Technology, Vladimir, 33, is a technical manager, doing research in micro and nanotechnology and designing "a tiny chip with a million micro mirrors flipping back and forth" to be used in the next generation of computers. Vladimir went to high school in Russia and now lives in Westfield. He earned a BS in physics in Russia and a PhD in physics from Rutgers University.
Now imagine this. You go into a supermarket to buy hamburger for a barbecue. You pick up a package and see that some of the cellophane is blue. A chip-so thin it fits inside the meat's wrapping-reacted to growing E-coli bacteria by turning blue. You don't buy it and are saved from the bacteria's devastating effects. This is nanotechnology. Nanotechnology allows businesses to manufacture products at the molecular level, creating products that are stronger, lighter and more effective. The applications range from health care to architecture to national defense.
It is used even in preventing flat tires and flat soda. InMat, Inc. in Hillsborough makes coatings on rubber and plastic to keep the air in tires and the fizz in soda. They take apart clay on a molecular scale and insert it into the materials as a barrier. Right now they are making rubber gloves and boots to protect our soldiers from chemical warfare. It is lab assistant Alaina Plytynski's job to search the web for companies who make materials and substrates that InMat might use. She contacts them, receives their product samples and tests them. Although Alaina, 23, who went to Hillsborough High, is pursuing a degree in psychology, she likes hands-on laboratory work. Prior laboratory experience, attention to detail and being computer literate got her the job. She is launching a career in nanotechnology.
Design of the Techie Times
Erik Terry, 31, is a member of a team who designs research and development (R&D) facilities at CUH2A, an architectural, engineering and planning firm in Princeton. After he graduated from Lacey Township High School, he earned a BS in historic preservation at Roger Williams University in Rhode Island.
Erik may have thought he would preserve old buildings, but he's involved in creating new ones. As senior laboratory planner, he interviews clients to discover their requirements and preferences so the firm can design a custom facility exactly for them- how they work, what they need, and then translating that into a plan. "The fun part is meeting with people and seeing the passion for what they're doing," says Erik. "There is no degree or course for lab planning. You learn the craft at a firm that designs R&D buildings. Sometimes you end up somewhere completely different than what you went to school for. I never thought I'd end up doing R&D buildings."
Erik is the main contact with clients. He brings the information back and works directly with designers. He oversees the details to make sure the client's needs and vision are met. Erik works on roughly six projects at once-some take up to two years. Important skills for Eric's job include being able to talk with people, understanding their needs, budgeting time and working with a team. "The computer really influences my job," he says. "Being connected, AutoCAD final drawings, 3-D drafting..." Eric recommends taking AutoCAD, mechanical or architectural drafting, and science courses in high school to get a job in his line of work.
The Ultimate Telecom Tech Support
Jose Martinez, 27, was the fourth person to get a job at Vonage in 2001 when he was a mere 23 years old. His entrepreneurial spirit helped create an exciting outlook on his job. "When I came here there was nothing here and that's what attracted me-a lot of potential to move up and grow. My goal in college was to be senior engineer and I could do that because the company was so new," he says. Now, 1,200 people work in this high-energy technology hub that offers telephone service worldwide over the Internet.
Jose is Director of Call Processing Engineering. His department creates and services software that runs the company's phone service and, as the ultimate tech support, they troubleshoot when no one else has the answers. He also tests devices bought by Vonage to make sure they work with their servers. "The most fun is interacting with all the people in the company. This was my dream job." After Perth Amboy High School, Jose graduated from Stevens Institute of Technology with a bachelor of engineering. As with other technology careers, his job blends disciplines. He interviews technical job applicants and troubleshoots in other areas besides his own. His advice? "Do your work. Don't cheat. It's a waste of your own money if you just go to college to get a degree. Try to learn as much as you can." Be versatile, he adds. Jose had experience with Cisco development programs and UNIX Systems.
Nanotechnology Is Important in the Following Fields:
Defense and Aerospace
Want a Career in Technology? You need to...
Take a summer job in a high-tech company to get your foot in the door. "Instead of being a lifeguard or delivering pizza, get relevant hands-on experience. I don't care if you have to pay them to get in." - Maxine Ballen
Develop good communications skills. Join a speaker's club or debate club. Develop broad eclectic tastes. Internships help provide a focus. "Have a passing familiarity with physics, chemistry, electrical engineering, computers, metallurgy, but still be good at something." - David Bishop
"Capitalize on breaks that you get. If you get an email from someone looking to fill a job, don't sleep. Go and get it." - Jose Martinez
"Think about how things are related. Extract basic principles." - Vladimir Aksyuk