Materials Science & Engineering

Materials are everywhere! That’s why materials engineers are essential in many job fields: Energy, Medical Devices, Manufacturing, Semiconductors, Advanced Textiles, Aircraft, and Automotive…and the list goes on. In addition to learning mathematical, scientific, communication, and problem-solving fundamentals, students in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering will also elect to take core courses covering topics such as nanomaterials, biomaterials, materials forensics, nuclear materials, netallics, ceramics, and microelectronics. The Department of Materials Science and Engineering has 5 research focus areas, which include: Nanomaterials, Electronic/Optical/Magnetic Materials, Theory and Modeling of Materials, Structural Materials, Soft Materials/Biomaterials, and Energy Materials.

What is Materials Science and Engineering?

Materials science and engineering deals with the behavior of any material and its relationship to structure on all levels: atomic structure, nanostructure, microstructure, and macrostructure. Structure determines the properties of matter: how materials act, how materials react, and how materials function in different environments. Through an understanding of these structure-property relationships, materials scientists and engineers can develop new materials or adapt existing ones to meet the design and economic requirements that ultimately advance industry, technology, and society.

Why study Materials Science and Engineering?

Our world is driven by the materials that are presently available. Millions of everyday objects and machines are made better because of new and improved material. The automobile industry has lighter, impact-resistant car bodies. Textile companies have stronger, brighter fibers. Of course, we’ve all benefited from the versatile, inexpensive polymeric materials commonly known as plastics. In fact, many of today’s industrial problems await materials solutions: electrical engineers ask for better semiconductors, and computer technology demands materials systems that store more and more information. Even parts of the human body are being replaced by specialty designed biologically compatible materials. Materials Science and Engineering faculty and students at NC State are working on these and related problems right now.

Is Materials Science and Engineering a New Field?

In the 1960s it became apparent that the traditional classes of materials (steel, ceramics, and polymers) were being pushed to their limits and a new approach was needed to satisfy the materials needs of society. No longer could the metallurgist work without the knowledge of what the ceramic and polymeric engineers were doing. Materials Science and Engineering is the result. Although materials science and engineering offer an integrated approach to the study of materials, the traditional divisions and classes of materials (metals and alloys, ceramics and glasses, plastics and rubbers, composites) are still required to describe our interests and the materials upon which we depend.

Is Materials Science and Engineering a Good Career Choice?

Government studies show that one of every six hours of professional engineering work directly involves materials and their use. These materials-based careers cover the spectrum from basic research, to research and development, to consulting, management, production, and sales. Materials scientist are often asked to: develop new materials, develop new ways of producing materials, assist with materials selection for parts or systems, conduct failure analysis to determine what went wrong and why, conduct a structural analysis of new materials to determine their properties, determine how a material responds to an external stimulus.

What is the curriculum like?

The materials scientist and engineer must understand the wide range of phenomena that occur in all classes of materials: metals, polymers, composites, and electronic materials. The MSE curriculum includes fundamental courses in thermodynamics, kinetics, and structure, followed by more applied courses that cover the mechanical, thermal, electrical, magnetic, and optical properties of materials. Two laboratory courses introduce students to analytical methods used to characterize the structure of materials at all length scales and to measure properties of all classes of materials. Cutting-edge technologies in materials science and engineering such as nanotechnology, biomaterials, computer modeling, and forensics (materials degradation and failure analysis) are covered. Five technical electives are included which allow students to select from a broad range of courses in materials processing, engineering, chemistry, physics, mathematics, and other disciplines. The flexibility afforded by these technical electives allows students to customize their education to prepare them for careers in industry or for graduate school.

The two-semester capstone senior design sequence provides a bridge between concepts learned in the classroom and the practical application of these concepts in an industrial setting. Teams of students work on real-world materials problems submitted by local industrial sponsors. A minor is available (see below under Minors).

Additional Information:

A Closer Look at Engineering

In’s and Out’s of Engineering CODA

Video-Engineering Majors Exploration

Video-The Creativity of Engineering at NC State

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