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Is material Science & Engineering more science than engineering?

  1. Apr 11, 2014 #1
    I'm double majoring in Chemistry / Materials Science & Engineering undergrad and I'm wandering yes it has engineering in the title but it also has Science as well. Is this engineering say more theory based than others? I read descriptions saying it designs metal alloys and everything like that. I'm assuming this field is big into nano technologies too. I'm just at a loss at what a person with a MatSci degree would actually be doing. I mean my Chemistry advisor told me you can work for IBM, intel, NASA and stuff like that but also having work like helicopter blades etc. However that just seems a bit broad for me I would like information on what exactly do you do and if there's a lot of theory in it. Like yes you're designing new materials so hypothetically will I be the person that's say designing a material to use for motherboards cpus/gpus then a Computer Engineer puts it together or something like that? I mean my Engineering advisor told me that I made a good choice but I do want other opinions :(.

    I mean picked MatSci over Chemical Engineering because it seems a lot more interesting.

    Also some advice would really help me xD
    Idk maybe with a bigger picture I can see it for myself I guess listing what I like someone would interject here and recommend something else? ( ik this is a bit more than a simple question).
    -I like math and calculus
    -I like more theory based areas in science
    -I like chemistry because it deals with elements and particles.
    ^^ (Although I wish I can take particle physics classes at some point the problem is yes, I like learning about electron entanglement and all that stuff from YouTube lectures (esp. Leonard Susskind's) but I hear the job market for physics is bad. I mean what would a degree in higher energy physics get you? A teaching job? Maybe so CERN research hear and there?)
    -I like computers and I've even "built" or more like assembled my own computer.

    I have a lot of stuff going on in this post I hope you the reader don't mind I'm just over thinking atm xD
  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 13, 2014 #2


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    One asks some good questions.

    Materials Science and Engineering is a broad discipline, as are other branches of engineering. It combines theory and application, perhaps with different degrees of mix according to the problem or challenge being addressed. Such a problem might be designing/selecting a material system, analyzing/predicting a materials performance, analyzing performance or failure, etc.

    Design or analysis of a material can encompass a broad range of scales. MSE folks can employ studies/analysis at the atomistic level (angstroms) up to a large scale cm to m or 10s of m.

    Large scale analysis may involve continuum mechanics/dynamics based on empirical models. Those empirical models are often based on large (laboratory) scale experiment, however they can be improved/supplemented by mesoscale or atomistically informed experiments and models/simulations, particularly for materials in high temperature or high stress environments.

    For example, in gas turbines of jet engines or power plants, in rocket propulsion or in other power systems, one deals with creep of the high temperature material, so understanding creep as it relates to atomic diffusion or dislocation movement requires an atomistic understanding of the material/alloy system. Protective coatings for corrosion mitigation or corrosion behavior requires an atomistic understanding of the interaction of the protective/passive coating between the environment and material/alloy system.

    Materials scientists and engineers are using tools like Density Functional/Phase Field Theory (DFT/PFT) and Molecular Dynamics (MD) to better understand material behavior, and then employing improved models/simulations using computational physics in finite element/volume analyses.
    Last edited: Apr 13, 2014
  4. Apr 13, 2014 #3
    I have an B.Eng in Materials Science and am currently doing a PhD in materials, so I have come across loads of people doing loads of different things,
    Metallurgist I have met work on (for example):
    * Alloying making in bulk alloys like steel and aluminium
    * Ni-based super alloys for single-crystal plane engine blades
    * Corrosion of pipelines and nuclear waste storage
    * coatings to prevent high temperature oxidation in PWR nuclear plants
    * work on Ti-implants for biomaterials (heart stents, etc)
    * rare earth magnets

    Functional materials
    * piezoelectric and magnetostrictive projects
    * bioglasses
    * investment casting shells
    * Hydrogen storage
    * superconductive elements
    * fuel cells

    * All sorts of interesting things with PEI/PEEK mixtures
    * bulk polymer manufacture
    * sensors

    On top of this I know a lot of people who do Finite element modelling on systems like casting and functional ceramics

    materials engineering is rad and there are lots of different projects.
  5. Apr 14, 2014 #4
    Thank you guys I have a better understanding of it. So my thought of it seeming broad is true which isn't a bad thing that means you'd have a lot of stuff to do xD
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