Materials Science and Engineering is a rapidly growing, multidisciplinary activity that has emerged as a recognizable field in recent decades.

Overview

Scientists and engineers in this field lay the basis for understanding, developing, testing, and applying materials that form the foundation for present and future technologies—such as ceramic engines for the automotive industry, semiconductor devices for the microelectronic industry, and polymers and composite materials for various industries, including sports and automotive industries. More significantly, the choice and power of future human endeavors will depend critically on the development of improved and environmentally sound materials, whether as inexpensive and highly efficient solar cells for clean power generation or as radiation-resistant alloys for fusion reactor walls.

Although over half a million scientists and engineers currently are working in the materials field, only about 10 percent of them hold materials-designated degrees. (The remainder include chemists, physicists, electrical engineers, chemical engineers, and mechanical engineers). As such there is demand for—and the field will benefit from—scientists and engineers, who take the multidisciplinary materials science approach from the start of their professional careers.

It turns out that virtually every industry you can think of employs materials scientists and engineers. Specifically, they are involved in working with one or more of the major classes of materials for various companies (materials include metals, ceramics and glasses, polymers, semiconductors and other electronic materials, and composites). A degree in materials science and engineering will enable you to be involved in jobs concerned with producing, selecting, testing, and developing new materials with desirable properties, lower cost, or lower environmental impact. Incidentally, students with BS degrees in Materials Science and Engineering, along with Chemical Engineers, typically enjoy some of the highest starting salaries among the established engineering fields.

Education

MSE focuses on understanding, designing, and producing technology-enabling materials by analyzing the relationships among the synthesis and processing of materials, their properties, and their detailed structure. This includes a wide range of materials such as metals, polymers, ceramics, and semiconductors. Solid state science and engineering focuses on understanding and modifying the properties of solids from the viewpoint of the fundamental physics of the atomic and electronic structure.

The undergraduate and graduate programs in materials science and engineering are coordinated through the MSE Program in the Department of Applied Physics and Applied Mathematics. This program promotes the interdepartmental nature of the discipline and involves the Departments of Applied Physics and Applied Mathematics, Chemical Engineering and Applied Chemistry, Electrical Engineering, and Earth and Environmental Engineering (EEE) in the Henry Krumb School of Mines (HKSM) with advisory input from the Departments of Chemistry and Physics.

Students interested in materials science and engineering enroll in the materials science and engineering program in the Department of Applied Physics and Applied Mathematics. Those interested in the solid-state science and engineering specialty enroll in the doctoral program within Applied Physics and Applied Mathematics or Electrical Engineering.

The faculty in the interdepartmental committee constitute but a small fraction of those participating in materials research, who include Professors Bailey, Barmak, Billinge, Chan, Gaeta, Gang, Herman, Im, Marianetti, Noyan, Pinczuk, Venkataraman, Wentzcovitch, Yang, and Yu from Applied Physics and Applied Mathematics; Brus, Durning, Flynn, Koberstein, and O’Shaughnessy from Chemical Engineering; Park, Somasundaran, and Themelis from Earth and Environmental Engineering; Lipson, Osgood, and Wang from Electrical Engineering and Hone from Mechanical Engineering.

Materials science and engineering uses optical, electron, and scanning probe microscopy and diffraction techniques to reveal details of structure, ranging from the atomic to the macroscopic scale—details essential to understanding properties such as mechanical strength, electrical conductivity, and technical magnetism. These studies also give insight into problems of the deterioration of materials in service, enabling designers to prolong the useful life of their products. Materials science and engineering also focus on new ways to synthesize and process materials, from bulk samples to ultrathin films to epitaxial heterostructures to nanocrystals. This involves techniques such as UHV sputtering; molecular beam epitaxy; plasma etching; laser ablation, chemistry, and recrystallization; and other nonequilibrium processes. The widespread use of new materials and the new uses of existing materials in electronics, communications, and computers have intensified the demand for a systematic approach to the problem of relating properties to structure and have necessitated a multidisciplinary approach.

Solid-state science and engineering uses techniques such as transport measurements, X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy, inelastic light scattering, luminescence, and nonlinear optics to understand electrical, optical, and magnetic properties on a quantum mechanical level. Such methods are used to investigate exciting new types of structures, such as two-dimensional electron gases in semiconductor heterostructures, two-dimensional transition metal dichalcogenides, superconductors, and semiconductor surfaces and nanocrystals.

We invite you to contact us and interact with our faculty, academic and research staff, and diverse undergraduate and graduate student bodies. We are a lively and coherent group of active scholars, heavily involved in research and education, and connected to and benefiting from numerous other parts of the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, the University, and the scientific community at large.

Careers in Materials Science

Below are a few of the well-known companies within which materials scientists and engineers work as a vital part of the manufacturing of products:

Electronic Materials: GlobalFoundries, Apple, Intel, IBM, GE, Motorola, Texas Instruments, Xerox, Western Electric, Western Digital Company

Metals: Alcoa, U.S. Steel, International Nickel, General Motors, Ford, Boeing, General Dynamics, Western Electric

Polymers: Exxon, Phillips, Dupont, Dow, Gore, Glice, Polyglide

Ceramics and Glasses: Corning Glass, Pilkington, Norton, major steel companies, electronic components industrial companies

MSE Career Resources