The Fundamental Science of Nanotechnology


Particles and structures at the nanoscale demonstrate phenomena not seen at other length scales. This online course is designed to cover the science behind the phenomena that arise when considering materials at the nanoscale and will appeal to those requiring a solid introduction to the subject. It provides a good grounding in the scientific equations and principles that an understanding of nanotechnologies requires.

In this course we also consider some of the common nanostructures that are currently being developed and used in nanotechnology applications such as quantum dots, nanotubes and fullerenes, together with their applications including quantum computing.

The Fundamental Science of Nanotechnology online course can be taken:

The Fundamental Science of Nanotechnology is a part-time online course which introduces the fundamental science behind the phenomena that result from the nanometre scale. Such behaviour encompasses effects, structures, properties and processes that are quite different to those observed in bulk systems. In particular, the course examines the theoretical foundations of these phenomena and their applications by exploring:

  • The mathematical description of these nanoscale phenomena;
  • Common nanoscale structures, their fabrication, properties and applications, such as: quantum wires, quantum dots, carbon nanostructures and quantum computing;
  • The effect of the collective oscillation of electrons in metal nanoparticles.

It is evident that using the behaviours that arise from nanoscale structures have great potential for improving many existing applications. The course gives a foundation in the science and understanding of the principles that underlie nanoscale behaviour which are essential to optimising these desired effects.

Programme details

The Fundamental Science of Nanotechnology course begins in January and runs for ten weeks. The course is divided into ten units, each of which is designed to take approximately one week to study:

  • An introduction to the mathematical tools that will be required and common nanostructures;
  • The transport effects that are affected by the nanometre length scale;
  • The important mechanical effects that are modified at the nanometre length scale;
  • The effect of the nanometre length scale on various optical effects;
  • An introduction to quantum wires and dots, their structure and properties;
  • An overview of the applications in which quantum dots can be used;
  • The structure, variety, production and application of carbon and inorganic nanotubes;
  • The scattering effects that are observed with nanoparticles;
  • An explanation of the combined oscillation of electrons in metal nanoparticles;
  • A final module summary.

There will also be live online tutorials, normally once each week.

What to expect

Overall the course has been designed so that students can study it in the way that works for them. However you want to study, we are aware that this is easiest to do if you are given some idea of how to get the most out of the course. We advise that:

  • Most students should expect to spend between 10 and 15 hours each week on independent study in addition to the timetabled tutorials, including all reading, writing and thinking about the course;
  • Each unit should take approximately a week to study. The units will make the most sense if studied in the order in which they are presented but can be studied in any order;
  • There are a series of review questions designed to let students know whether they have understood a unit, whilst other activities make them draw their learning together;
  • Students should work on the module level activities in parallel with studying the main materials.


  • The course is taken part-time so students can complete it whilst continuing to work full-time;
  • The course is taught online and can be taken from anywhere in the world;
  • An induction course site helps to ease students into the course and familiarise themselves with the online learning environment, with the added benefit of enabling them to introduce themselves to other participants;
  • Tutors provide online support and replicate electronically the famed Oxford tutorial system;
  • The course has a dedicated tutor, course director and administration team accustomed to supporting students undertaking distance learning courses;
  • Students have access to staff at the University of Oxford’s Begbroke Science Park, particularly the Course Director, Dr Christiane Norenberg;
  • Throughout the course, students can use the University of Oxford’s unrivalled electronic library resources to enable them to complete the assignment tasks.


Short course participants who do not wish to undertake the assessed work required for academic credit, but who do satisfy the course participation requirements, will receive a certificate of completion. The pdf sample above is an illustration only, and the wording will reflect the course and dates of study.

Those successfully completing the course with academic credit can apply to receive a CATS point transcript.


Description Costs
22-23 & earlier enrolled - MSc in Nanotechnology for M&HC £2475.00
Standalone fee for 2024-25 (online module) £3685.00
Students enrolled on MSc in Nanotechnology for M&HC £2570.00


Details of funding opportunities, including grants, bursaries, loans, scholarships and benefit information are available on our financial assistance page.


The course fee includes:

  • Tuition;
  • Full online course materials through our bespoke virtual learning environment (VLE);
  • Access to the Bodleian Libraries e-Resources.

Before making your application for this short course, please ensure that you have read the terms and conditions which can be found to the right of this page.

Please see the Postgraduate Certificate in Nanotechnology page for more information regarding fees when taking this course as a part of the PGCert Programme.


Dr Victor Burlakov


Victor Burlakov is a Senior Research Fellow at Linacre College, Oxford, conducting research in applied mathematics at the Mathematical Institute in collaboration with colleagues at the Department of Physics. His current research interests are focused on modelling the fabrication processes and operation of new generation solar cells based on methylammonium lead halide perovskites. He is also interested in nanostructure self-assembly which includes the processes of phase separation, growth and coarsening (Oswald Ripening). His main concern in this area is understanding the role of particle-ligand and particle-solvent interactions in narrowing the particle size distribution. Victor's more general interests cover a broad area of modelling time evolution of amorphous structures and glasses, charge and mass transport in disordered systems, self-organisation in nonlinear dynamic systems, pattern formation and chaos. For about ten years Victor taught the course on Fundamental Science of Nanomaterials at the University of Oxford's Department of Materials.

Professor Peter J Dobson OBE


Peter has had a broad career covering a wide range of disciplines from physics and chemistry to materials science and engineering. He has also worked in industry (Philips) as well as academia (Imperial College and Oxford) and was responsible for creating and building The Begbroke Science Park for Oxford University. He has published over 180 papers and 30 patents. In 1999 he spun-off a company, now called Oxonica, that specialized in making nanoparticles for a wide range of applications, ranging from sunscreens to fuel additive catalysts and bio-labels. In 2000, with colleagues in Chemistry and Engineering, he spun-off Oxford Biosensors Ltd that made a hand-held device based on enzyme-functionalized microelectrode arrays. His latest company, Oxford NanoSystems was formed in 2012. He is currently on the advisory board of Bikanta a company set up by a former student in the US, that uses nanodiamonds for medical imaging.

He was (2009-2013) the Strategic Advisor on Nanotechnology to the Research Councils in the UK and sits on several EPSRC panels and committees. Peter sits on the EPSRC Strategic Advisory Board on Quantum Technology. He was awarded the OBE in 2013 in recognition of his contributions to science and engineering. He is currently a Principal Fellow at Warwick Manufacturing Group, Visiting Professor at King’s College London and also has part-time positions at UCL and Bristol University. Peter delivers courses at Graduate level in the areas of biosensors, nanotechnology, innovation, entrepreneurship and related topics and advises on innovation.

P J Dobson OBE, BSc, MA (Oxon), PhD, C Phys, F Inst P, Member of the ACS, FRCS. (The Queen’s College, Oxford).

Dr Christiane Norenberg

Director & Tutor

Christiane is the Nanotechnology Programme Manager at the University of Oxford's Begbroke Science Park. She received her DPhil in Materials Science from the University of Oxford in 1998 and continued with postdoctoral research. In 2001, Christiane was awarded the Royal Society Dorothy Hodgkin Fellowship for her work on the growth and characterisation of nanostructures on semiconductor surfaces. After a period as a lecturer at the Multidisciplinary Nanotechnology Centre at Swansea University, Christiane returned to Oxford in 2007 to take up her present post.

Her interests and expertise are in the areas of surface science, growth and characterisation of nanostructures on surfaces, and nanotechnology in general. Christiane also teaches nanoscience and materials science at undergraduate and postgraduate level.

Course aims

The overall purpose of the course is to:

  • Apply basic mathematical operations to nanoscale phenomena in order to solve practical problems;
  • Acquire a basic understanding of the principles underpinning phenomena that result from nanoscale structures;
  • Explain the collective effects that occur in nanostructures;
  • Explain the optical effects that occur with nanoparticles;
  • Highlight the major applications of nanoscale phenomena and structures.


Assessment methods

Assessment will be based on submission of written assignments, including a short essay and two written reports, totalling not more than 6,000 words in length. The assignments are submitted online.

Academic credit

Those wishing to may apply to take the course with accreditation. The University of Oxford Department for Continuing Education offers Credit Accumulation and Transfer Scheme (CATS) points for the course.

Students wishing to complete The Fundamental Science of Nanotechnology course with academic credit will satisfactorily complete the coursework assessments. Attendance of a minimum of 70% of the live online tutorials is required. Students also need to actively participate in the online conversations via the course forums to the satisfaction of the course director. Students fulfilling these requirements are eligible to earn credit equivalent to 25 CATS points which may be counted towards a postgraduate qualification.


Application deadline: three weeks before the commencement of the course.

This course requires you to complete the online application form (please press the 'Apply' button), including a brief statement of purpose explaining your motivation for attending this course (500 words maximum), and a copy of your CV as an attachment.

If you are applying to take this course for academic credit you will also need to complete section two of the reference form and forward it to your referee for completion, who will then need to email it to Please note that if you are not applying to take the course for academic credit then you do not need to submit a reference.


Selection criteria

To apply for this short course you should:

  • have a degree in a mathematical or physical sciences discipline, e.g. mathematics, materials science, physics, chemistry, or engineering; or
  • have a degree in biology, pharmacy, medicine or business and be able to demonstrate at least A-level (or equivalent) knowledge in mathematics and physics; or
  • have some practical experience in a related field; and
  • be able to demonstrate an interest in nanotechnology; and
  • be able to demonstrate a suitable level of English (if this is not your first language).

IT requirements

This course uses the Department’s online assignment submission system and online courseware. In order to participate in the course, and to prepare and submit your course assignments you will need access to the Internet and a computer meeting our recommended minimum computer specification. Students of this course may use the student computing facilities provided in Departmental buildings.