Document Type

Theses, Ph.D


Available under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial Share Alike 4.0 International Licence



Publication Details

Successfully submitted for the award of Doctor of Philopophy (Ph.D) to the Technological University Dublin, 2014.


Nanoscience and nanotechnology have been described as a research area that integrates many scientific and engineering disciplines. However, the integration of disciplines is so complex that the disciplinarity of nanoscience and nanotechnology remains undefined. As a result, the nanoscience and nanotechnology area is viewed as multidisciplinary, or interdisciplinary science, or even as a separate discipline and there is no consensus regarding its disciplinarity. The previous studies conducted in order to describe the disciplinarity associated with this area have focused mainly on political, institutional and external factors while the cognitive aspects of disciplinarity of nanoscience and nanotechnology are still less understood. As a consequence, what is needed from the curricula and training programmes to ensure the growth of this area is not fully understood. When there are strong predictions about the need for an extensive workforce in the nanoscience and nanotechnology area but the disciplinarity associated with it is less understood, it can have an adverse effect on the future of this area. This research fills the gap by aiming to achieve a greater understanding of the nanoscience and nanotechnology area and its associated disciplinarity. This research focused on examining postgraduate researchers’ experiences of nanoscience and nanotechnology research to explore the disciplinarity, knowledge, skills and competences associated with nanoscience research so that a deeper understanding of this area can be achieved. This research was conducted using hermeneutic interpretive phenomenological methodology to collect and interpret data from twenty five individual semi-structured interviews with postgraduate researchers working in the nanoscience and iii nanotechnology area. The research methodology was influenced by Max van Manen’s ideas of hermeneutic interpretive phenomenology and it was reshaped to best suit the research context and purpose. Examining the researchers’ experiences of nanoscience research made it possible to understand how postgraduate researchers perceive, understand and conduct nanoscience research. Further, the examination portrayed what knowledge, skills and competences the postgraduate researchers have applied when working in this area. The findings from this interpretive study revealed that the postgraduate researchers experienced the nanoscience and nanotechnology area essentially as a ‘boundary spanning’ experience which described their skills of crossing the disciplinary boundaries in order to understand nanoscience research. Furthermore, the researchers experienced mapping, i.e. their research was evaluated and judged by the researchers from other disciplines. The findings also indicated that the nanoscience and nanotechnology research displayed characteristics of both multidisciplinarity and interdisciplinarity and therefore they suggested that promoting any one particular approach and aiming to develop the researchers for either a multidisciplinary or interdisciplinary platform would not be appropriate for this area. The postgraduate researchers needed the skills to work together with researchers from other disciplines and become good at boundary spanning in the nanoscience area. The interpretive findings were taken back to the postgraduate researchers through a quantitative survey and their agreement with the interpretations further enhanced the credibility of this hermeneutic phenomenological study. The hermeneutic phenomenological research gave a new way to explore the complex nanoscience area by examining the postgraduate researchers’ experiences and this research provided an enhanced understanding of the nanoscience and nanotechnology area and its disciplinarity.


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