What is Materials Science and Engineering?
Materials science is the study of the relationship between the structure of matter and its properties. This field asks the question: why do materials behave the way they do? Materials engineering is the application of materials science knowledge to design and fabricate materials with specific properties. Materials engineering is an applied field which seeks to answer the question: how do we create a material that has some desired physical property?
Why is Materials Science and Engineering Important?
All of the physical objects that surround us were designed with some particular function in mind. Materials scientists and engineers are responsible for creating the materials that enable objects to serve their particular function. As an example, a materials engineer may be involved in designing a new lightweight alloy (which is light, but simultaneously strong and tough) to improve vehicle fuel efficiency. Another materials engineer may be involved in developing new electronic and optical materials and deposition processes which improve speed and energy efficiency while reducing the size of computer processors. Even a sculpture or painting, created to elicit an emotional response in a viewer, is designed to interact with light in very specific ways, resulting in what we perceive as color hue or saturation brightness; these visual aspects result from the interaction of light with pigments, coatings, glazes, or other physical materials.
How would a minor in Materials Science and Engineering help my career?
Materials science is a broad multidisciplinary field, that traditionally draws strongly from chemistry and physics, among other disciplines. On the other hand, nearly all engineering disciplines interact with materials in some form or another. A petroleum engineer may be considered about metal alloy and coating selection to limit pipeline corrosion. A civil engineer may rely on concrete with very specific physical properties for a new structure. Mechanical and Industrial engineers may focus on the process of creating some structural component, and its resulting mechanical properties. Chemical or Electrical engineers may be interested in developing new particles or thin films with very specific electronic properties for computing applications. A Biomedical engineer needs to be concerned with materials selection when designing stents or artificial grafts, while a Nuclear engineer or Aerospace engineer faces similar challenges when considering materials selection and design for their particular fields. In general, any engineering field that works with designing, manipulating, or manufacturing physical objects will face the question of how to optimize these materials for a specific function and how to meet specified levels of performance. Materials science and engineering embraces these challenges and works to design materials to solve a wide range of important challenges.
Materials Science and Engineering at Texas A&M University
The face of materials science and engineering is continuously evolving. Currently, there is massive interest domestically and internationally in new manufacturing processes (3D printing, additive manufacturing, etc.) and in utilizing computational and informatics approaches to intelligently and rapidly design new materials. Here at Texas A&M, our faculty embrace these new aspects, while maintaining vigorous educational and research efforts in the classical core tenants of materials structure, thermodynamics, and kinetics.
The Department of Materials Science & Engineering minor degree program is designed to provide a strong materials science educational program for undergraduate engineering majors and to integrate a materials focus into their undergraduate training. It is intended for students who are interested in broadening their undergraduate major program of study to incorporate a fundamental understanding of materials processing and structure–property relationships to complement their major degree. For more information and a complete description of the minor, please click here.