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Materials Science vs. Materials Engineering

  1. Jul 4, 2012 #1
    I'm torn between the two options, and I would appreciate it if someone with experience could help me contrast materials science with materials engineering.

    From what I've heard, materials science ultimately leads towards research, and development of new material.

    Materials Engineers, on the other hand, apply existing materials for the development of products - they are not too concerned with developing new ones, just maximizing use of existing ones.

    Please expand, contrast and correct my views. :shy:

    As of now, I think I would be more inclined towards research of new products - that sounds far more fascinating in my opinions. However, I would still appreciate a detailed outline of both disciplines.
  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 5, 2012 #2
    To be honest, the biggest difference is the spelling, e.g. I've just finished a B.Eng in Materials Science, and there really isn't a distinction (at least at an undergraduate level).

    They are usually held in engineering departments because they are "applied", but Materials neatly straddles both science and engineering so separating them isn't really appropriate.

    I moved into the research side (doctorate starts in September) but I was equally qualified and got job offers for car manufacture, light alloy aerospace manufacture, solar power and wind power jobs/projects. During my degree I as drawn to certain research areas and worked to get placements in research, so by the end of my degree my CV was focused towards research. My classmates worked in foundries, etc, so they are very much focused on manufacture.

    This is just my opinion, but in truth I didn't really have to "choose" between research and manufacture until I started applied for jobs.

    Where are you considering applying?
  4. Jul 6, 2012 #3
    That's interesting, I was wondering why both the science and engineering are referred to simultaneously in descriptions. Thanks for the imput, it helped a lot.

    I live in Ontario so I'm choosing between the university of Toronto and university of Waterloo.

    It's also good to know that there are job prospects in the field. So what kind of research do you plan on pursuing during/after your doctorate? Are you happy with what you're studying? I have never really talked to anyone before who was in the field, so everything that you said was extremely helpful, thanks.
  5. Jul 7, 2012 #4
    I'm looking at corrosion in steels and aluminium. It's geared towards the nuclear industry, as these alloys are expected to last long times.

    I'm really happy with what I do, because I like the topic, have been given fairly free range, and I get on well with my supervisor and research group.

    Both Toronto and and Waterloo are great. Roger Newman at Toronto is a bit of a legend in the corrosion field, but that's more of a selling point for me than you.

    I can only speaking intelligently about the situation in the UK, but there are more jobs than good graduates here for materials scientists. Energy is the "new black" here at the moment, with a lot of companies hiring materials grads for wind power, and some for PV electricity. Metallurgy, e.g casting and forging, are also hiring for power generation and also chassis and engine manufacture.
  6. Jul 7, 2012 #5
    That sounds great, and I wish you luck in your area of research.

    I'm aiming for a specific research award offered by the university of Waterloo, for first-year honours chemistry students. If I get that award, I think I might just study general chemistry, honours, because it's what I like and undergraduate research is a great opportunity. Materials science is kind of a derivation from it, from what I understand, so it will still be keeping my options open. My alternative is the specialist UofT Materials Science program, but the only reason I'm considering waterloo is for the potential to do research at my first year (kind of unlikely).

    Anyway, was it hard for you to establish yourself in your research group? I mean, they don't just take everyone, so it must have been pretty hard to get there. The way you say that "you moved to the research side" makes it sound a lot more easier than I suspect it to be.
  7. Jul 7, 2012 #6
    Once you decide you want to do research, its not that hard. Just get good marks, go talk to researchers, get Summer placements, and show some interest.

    I did my summer placements in external research institutions (synchrotrons in europe), but universities usually have some also. It wasn't hard to establish myself, because I was an undergrad so expectations are pretty low. At the beginning all you have to do is what you are told and not screw up too badly.
  8. Jul 7, 2012 #7
    Alright, thanks for the advice, it helped a lot :)
    Good luck in your research
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