Thursday, May 21, 2009

Why Materials Science and Engineering is the Best Major

Well first of all look at the title "Science and Engineering". I can't think of another major that combines basic sciences and engineering so well. Chemistry is similar as many chemists spend time trying to understand how molecules interact and form new compounds, but it only applies on such a small scale. Materials science covers everything from atomic material activities (chemical potentials) or how atoms interact with each other to macroscopic problems like heat treating distortion. We spend a lot of time trying to figure out on an atomic or microscopic level how things happen so that we can apply that knowledge to industrial problems. In many engineering disciplines they design something then look at several materials to decide which is the best for that application. For us it is a questions of how to make whatever material someone else chose last longer. We can study the material and determine how it will most likely fail and they try to engineer a solution to over come the problem.

It is also a huge field. Every engineering field uses materials. Civil engineers even take a class on wood and another on dirt. Electrical engineers have problems with conductor loss due to the angle between the conductor and insulator on circuit boards which they don't even really know about yet. Mechanical engineers just throw some kind of metal in there and hope it works. All sorts of companies chose a plastic because it should work in some specific application better than another plastic. Everything is made out of something and it all takes effort to make. From a solo cup to a computer to a bridge someone had to create a material. 

So the next time you design something and choose a material or use some product think about all those hours that some materials scientist spent engineering that material or the process to make that product meet your specifications. 

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