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What does a materials scientist do?

  1. Aug 28, 2010 #1
    I've heard a lot of good things about the field of materials science, and the work being done seems really cool to me. But I'm wondering what a working materials scientist actually does. Does it use a lot of math and physics? Is it mostly lab work? Is it more qualitative? The reason I ask is that I've been looking at some of the assignments handed out in materials science classes at my school, and they seem to involve very little math and frankly seem quite "fluffy" to me. I want a job that will be intellectually challenging.
  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 29, 2010 #2


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    Hi trklbrkl, welcome to PF. A cornerstone of materials science is understanding the commonalities and differences between classes of materials. That might explain why the class focus has been more concept-oriented and less equation-oriented to this point (e.g., it's important to understand crystal structures, phase diagrams, and the origins of material properties). Rest assured that continued study would lead to as much heavy-duty math as you desire. :smile:

    Just like any other type of science or engineering, there are a variety of jobs out there that include everything from lab work to calculation to endless meetings. A particular advantage of material science is that its practitioners get a broad experience in many types of materials and material processing and can work in many possible industries.
  4. Sep 1, 2010 #3
    I am a second year Materials Engineering student in the UK.
    As a discipline, it is taught in 3 major streams: Metals, Ceramics, and Polymers.

    In industry, a lot is done with improving metal corrosion and fracture strength (e.g. crystal sie and nucleation), ceramics to produce hydrogen storage, nuclear waste management, polymers, composites, a HUGE amount on medical implants as the body is such a corrosive environment, sports equipment (big money there), etc.

    I'm currently on a placement at a synchrotron, pummelling x-rays at crystals.

    So, it is broad and there is a lot of room to maneuver into an area you are suited to.

    At my uni, it is one of the only departments that have been unaffected by the economic crisis as they are still seen as giving a good return on research funding by industry.
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