What is Materials Science and Engineering?

"Whatever is not ethereal is material!"

Everything we use in our daily lives is made of material or a combination of materials, including metals, ceramics, polymers, semiconductors and composites.

Materials science and engineering involves all the processes that turn natural resources into useful products that impact all facets of our economy... energy... transportation... communication... environment.

Materials science and engineering deals with all aspects of materials:

  • Extraction of materials from natural and recycled resources
  • Selection of appropriate materials for a given application
  • Manufacturing useful objects from raw materials
  • Assurance of quality of manufactured products
  • Study of the behavior of materials under various conditions
  • Research and development of new materials and new ways to process them into useful objects
  • Analysis of the performance of materials in service and investigate causes of failure

In short, materials science and engineering involves all the processes that turn natural resources into useful products that impact all facets of our economy, such as aerospace, electronics, energy, transportation, communication, construction, recreation, entertainment and the environment.

An Interdisciplinary Field with Promising Career Opportunities

Materials science and engineering is an interdisciplinary field. Our research and academic programs unify all classes of materials: metals, ceramics, polymers and electronic materials. We apply basic principles of chemistry and physics in order to understand the structure of materials and how a material's structure determines its properties. We design scientific processes to manipulate materials to meet the needs of modern technology.

A large and growing shortage of materials professionals exists in industry and in universities today, and the field is recognized as providing one of the most promising career opportunities for engineers and scientists. Materials engineers and scientists, generalists and specialists, are in demand by industry and government for jobs in research, development, production and management.

Smaller and faster devices in the electronics industry are almost entirely the result of materials improvements.

Many of our students go on to graduate school and more intensive study in materials, though the job market is also strong for Bachelor's degree graduates. The field also provides a natural preparation for further education and careers in medicine, law and business. If you are interested in pursuing a career in materials science, we offer a flexible, rigorous program with well-equipped labs.

Contact Us

UW Department of Materials Science & Engineering

phone: (206) 543-2600
fax: (206) 543-3100