Materials Science and Engineering (MSE) applies fundamental principles of physics, chemistry and biology to the design and production of materials with desired combinations of mechanical, optical, electrical, magnetic, electrochemical, biocompatible and other properties.
Also encompassed in MSE are the methods by which particular atomic and molecular arrangements (nanostructures and microstructures) are achieved, the overall cost of the ingredients and processes used to produce particular materials, the effects of the environment on materials, the effects of materials and materials processing on the environment, and characterization of materials structure and properties.
UC Merced students majoring in MSE will be equipped for leadership in a field that dictates the pace of technological progress. Since the beginnings of civilization, technological progress has always relied on the materials people were able to acquire from nature, through trade or by innovation. Wood, stone, bronze, iron, steel, aluminum, cements, plastics, semiconductors, liquid crystals, nanomaterials and quantum dots all have unique properties that enable—but also limit—what humans can make and do. Nations continue to go to war over access to particular raw materials.
The construction of safe dwellings, the conveniences of rapid travel, the efficiency of telecommunications, the calculating and archiving power of computers, the life-prolonging gifts of surgical implants and the dazzling performances of athletes all require dependable materials. Future technological progress, of any kind, will always be driven by the available materials.
Innovative materials are being developed increasingly with the benefit of lessons learned from nature. Examples include armor based on the structure of abalone shells and rats’ teeth, optical materials that owe a debt to sea urchin spines and peacock feathers, high-performance ballistic fibers modeled on spider silk, self-cleaning surfaces copied from lotus leaves, and strong, reusable adhesives that emulate the behavior of gecko feet. In turn, nature (in particular, human health) is benefitting from innovative strategies in which cells are used together with advanced material scaffolds and substrates to direct the assembly of living tissues and organs.
Because MSE embraces skills from physics, chemistry, mathematics and biology, it is especially appealing to anyone who enjoys interdisciplinary studies and who seeks to apply such knowledge to solving practical engineering problems. MSE graduates are in demand in a great variety of fields, including manufacturing, energy, biomedical materials, utilities, patent law, the financial sector, construction, transportation, aerospace, computer industries, sports, consulting, public policy, education and research. Employers appreciate the ability of MSE graduates to relate to colleagues across a broad spectrum of expertise.
Recent surveys of employment prospects nationally point to a steady growth in the overall MSE job market over the next decade, at least. The growth will likely be focused in areas related to the development of new materials, including materials for nanotechnology and biotechnology, rather than traditional areas of materials manufacturing. The MSE major at UC Merced reflects this expectation, with an emphasis on materials issues that will ensure the long-term relevance of our MSE degree.
The Materials Science and Engineering program at UC Merced is accredited by the Engineering Accreditation Commission of ABET, abet.org.
Materials Science and Engineering Program Learning Outcomes
Upon graduation, our graduates demonstrate the following:
- An ability to apply knowledge of mathematics, science, and engineering
- An ability to design and conduct experiments, as well as to analyze and interpret data
- An ability to design a system, component, or process to meet desired needs within realistic constraints such as economic, environmental, social, political, ethical, health and safety, manufacturability, and sustainability
- An ability to function on multidisciplinary teams
- An ability to identify, formulate, and solve engineering problems
- An understanding of professional and ethical responsibility
- An ability to communicate effectively
- The broad education necessary to understand the impact of engineering solutions in a global, economic, environmental, and societal context
- A recognition of the need for, and an ability to engage in, lifelong learning
- A knowledge of contemporary issues
- An ability to use the techniques, skills, and modern engineering tools necessary for engineering practice.