Materials science is a relatively new and very broad field. It involves applications from a number scientific disciplines that contribute to the creation of new materials. Chemists play a predominant role in materials science because chemistry provides information about the structure and composition of materials, as well as the processes to synthesize and use them.
The central theory behind materials science involves relating the microstructure of a material to its macromolecular physical and chemical properties. By understanding and then changing the microstructure, material scientists tailor the properties to create custom, or even brand new, materials with specific properties for
Materials scientists are employed by companies who make products from metals, ceramics, and rubber. They also work in the coatings (developing new varieties of paint) and biomedical industries (designing materials that are compatible with human tissues for prosthetics and implants). Other important areas are polymers (including biological polymers), composites (heterogeneous materials made of two or more substances), superconducting materials, graphite materials, integrated-circuit chips, and fuel cells.
Materials science spans so many different disciplines and applications that people who work in this field tend to specialize in a technique or material type. Students are urged to contact associations for ceramic manufacturers, synthetic rubber makers, paints and coatings manufacturers, and plastics makers to find out more about each of these areas and the opportunities that exist for
materials chemists in each of them.
Materials science covers a broad range of sciences; as a result, there is no average day. Materials scientists do everything from fundamental research on the chemical properties of materials to developing new materials and modifying formulations of existing materials to suit new applications. They work with engineers and processing specialists, in pilot plants, and in manufacturing facilities.
- Fundamental understanding of the structure, composition and properties of substances.
- Mathematics and computer science skills, especially the ability to understand and apply statistical techniques.
- Analytical instrumentation techniques to characterize properties and performance of materials.
- Critical thinking, problem solving, and analytical skills to determine which tests to conduct, and to interpret the results of those tests.
- Communication skills, both written and oral, to communicate findings to both scientists and nonscientists.
Material scientists generally gain more independence and responsibility as they progress in their careers. They also tend to become more specialized in a particular type of material—increasing their expertise and value, but restricting their job movement possibilities.
Original content at acs.org