Date: December 2004
What is a materials scientist?
Material science is developing into a separate but multi-disciplinary
occupation that encompasses engineering, physics, and chemistry. Usually a
material scientist is a specialist in some fairly narrow discipline -- for
example, fabrics, semiconductors, paints and coatings -- to mention just a
few. The job of the material scientist is to design a material that has
certain desired properties. What the properties are depends upon the area
of specialization. So starting with some chemical substances the material
scientist designs and fabricates a device or product that has certain
performance properties, depending upon the application.
A materials scientist looks at problems having to do with substances that
are used to produce items that we tend to use in our daily lives. There are
many fields of materials science. Among them include: plastics, ceramics,
metals, wood, asphalt, cotton . . . you will notice that all of these
substances are materials in that the starting substances used to make
Greg (Robrto Gregorius)
A Materials Science is a relatively new area and hybrid of biology,
chemistry, physics and engineering that studies and creates new
materials. The general categories of materials are:
nanotechnology and films
---Nathan A. Unterman
The human world is made up of engineered materials. We do not use wood,
or rocks to build stuff much anymore, we use plastics, metals, composite
materials etc. So a material scientist learns how to make such
materials, and their properties. How strong is iron? How can it be
made stronger by adding various other things to turn it into steel?
Fancy materials are found in magnetic storage media, like your hard disk
drive, or cassette tape. Fancy materials are found in the electronics
that runs your computer, or TV set. The space shuttle has fancy
material tiles underneath it to shield it from heat as it comes back to
earth. A material scientist could tell you why the Titanic sank 100
years ago, because the steel in the ship became brittle in the cold
ocean water, and then cracked like glass when the ship hit the ice berg.
A fancy material being studied these days is material for high
temperature superconductors, to carry electricity around with tiny
little wires, essentially made out of a ceramic, like a tile is.
Material scientists are not too far from chemists, especially chemists
that work with solids (rather than pouring liquids). Also not that far
from physics. You can major in it in college.
Click here to return to the Material Science Archives
Update: June 2012