UC Merced students majoring in Materials Science and Engineering (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.
Materials Science and Engineering applies fundamental principles of physics and chemistry to designing materials with desired combinations of mechanical, optical, electrical, magnetic, electrochemical and other properties.
Increasingly, innovative materials are being developed with the benefit of lessons that have been 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.
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.
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, 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.