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Entering material science from an engineering background

  1. Nov 22, 2013 #1

    I know that material science lies at the interface of physics and chemistry and that any material scientist must have knowledge of chemistry, quantim mechanics, solid state physics,...

    The problem I face is that I am quite keen on entering material science with a mechanical engineering background. I did my undergraduate in mechanical engineering and I am now looking for a material science grad school.

    I realize that I don't have any knowledge whatsoever of the aforementioned topics. As a mechanical engineering study we did study things related to materials, like mechanics of materials, very very basic intro to material science, heat treatment, and so on so I guess that's a plus. What I lack of knowledge is what is bothering me since I see it as a big minus on my resume.
    Moreover I am worried about the grad school application interview where they regularly ask you about quantum mechanics and chemistry of materials.

    I know that mechanical engineers can study material science, but I wonder whether in my specific case that would be possible since I have no knowledge on quantum mechanics and chemistry of materials.

    What do you suggest me then to do, since I am determined to continue down that path?

    I appreciate any info, preferably from material scientists.

    Thank you.
  2. jcsd
  3. Nov 22, 2013 #2


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    Well, if you're determined to go down a path that requires knowledge of quantum mechanics, I suggest you take quantum mechanics.

    How's your linear algebra?
  4. Nov 22, 2013 #3


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    This could be different for different schools, different countries, and different institutions. But from my experience, the term "material science" is associated more with engineering than physics. I've seen schools that list such a department or major in the engineering college.

    https://www.engr.wisc.edu/mse.html [Broken]

    The less ambiguous terminology is condensed matter physics, which includes solid state physics. That is usually within the physics field of study.

    So it really depends on what you actually mean as "material science" here. I will also note that at the graduate level, the definitive line between the engineering field and the physics field is extremely blurred. You could easily dive into the physics aspect of it from the engineering side, or dive into the engineering aspect of it from the physics side.

    Last edited by a moderator: May 6, 2017
  5. Nov 22, 2013 #4
    I understand what you mean Zz. The schools I am interested in have material science listed under their engineering departments. And I know that any solid MSE graduate school requires the students to know quantum mechanics, albeit not on the level of a condensed matter physicist, unless someone focuses on semiconductors and such.

    Lisab, well I can take quantum mechanics on my own, but will that have any weight in front of the admission committee since I didn't take in my undergraduate years (tbh they don't even offer it since I am at the faculty of engineering, it's not like in the USA).

    Regarding linear algebra I am not familiar with certain topics like eigenvalues, but I should be fine with the rest. I took the griffiths quantum mechanics book and I understand the majority of the equations I saw.
  6. Nov 22, 2013 #5
    It is important that you re-learn linear algebra then. A large portion of graduate studies in QM require extensive knowledge of eigenvalues, etc.
  7. Nov 22, 2013 #6
    Well said. I'll have to do it. Thank you for your input!
  8. Nov 22, 2013 #7
    Seconded. Materials science implies an engineering context. Materials science done in physics departments tends to fall under condensed matter.
    Last edited by a moderator: May 6, 2017
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