Masakazu Aono obtained his doctoral degree from the University of Tokyo in 1972, and was subsequently a research staff member of the National Institute for Research in Inorganic Materials (NIRIM) until 1986, during which time he spent two years (1978-1980) as a visiting professor at the University of Wisconsin, USA. He moved to the Institute for Physical and Chemical Research (RIKEN) in 1982 and organized/managed the Surface and Interface Laboratory until 2002 as the chief scientist at the laboratory. From 1996 to 2005, he was concurrently a professor of Atomic Precision Technology at Osaka University. In 2002, he moved to the National Institute for Materials Science (NIMS) as the director-general of the Nanomaterials Laboratory. In 2007, he assumed the director-general of the International Center for Materials Nanoarchitectonics (MANA) organized in NIMS by the sponsorship of the World Premier International Research Center (WPI) Initiative of the Ministry of Education, Culture, Science and Technology of Japan (MEXT).
His main research interests lie in nanoscale science and technology, surface physics and chemistry, and nanoelectronic materials and devices. He has been the director of several large research projects, such as the Aono Atomcraft Project in the ERATO (JST) Program (1989-1994), the Novel Functionality of Artificial Nanostructures Project in the CREST (JST) Program (1995-2001), the Novel Atomic Switch Project in the SORST (JST) Program (2001-2003), the Nanoscale Quantum Conductor Array Project in the ICORP (JST) Program, and the Application of Atomic Switch to Next-Generation Logic Operation Devices Project in the Key Technology Program (MEXT).
He has been awarded various prestigious prizes including the Minister of Science and Technology Agency Award (1983), the Norio Kumagi Prize of the Vacuum Science Society of Japan (1983), the Nikkei Publishers' Award for Advanced Technology (1992), the Japan Surface Science Society Prize (2004), and the Minister of Education, Culture, Science and Technology Award (2007). He is also a Fellow of the American Vacuum Society (USA), the Institute of Physics (UK), the Japan Society of Applied Physics and the National Institute for Materials Science (Japan). He has served as the chairperson of several international conferences, such as the Toyota Conf. on Dynamic Phenomena on Surfaces (1986), the Intern. Conf. on Nanoarchitectonics Using Suprainteractions (2000), and the Intern. Symp. on the Functionality of Organized Nanostructures (2004), and as an organizer of more than twenty international conferences such as those on ion beam analysis, atomic collision in solids, structure of surfaces, nanometer-scale science and technology, solid films and surfaces, advanced materials and devices, trends in nanotechnology, and thin films. He has also served on the editorial board of various international journals, such as the Japanese Journal of Applied Physics, Nuclear Instruments and Methods, Journal of Physical Society of Japan, Surface Review and Letters, Probe Microscopy, Nanoscience, Small, and ACS (American Chemical Society) NANO.