As a relatively new branch of engineering, materials science is an interdisciplinary field that applies principles from chemistry, physics and engineering to the study and design of new or custom materials.
Materials scientists dive deep into the structures, properties and performance of products made from metals, ceramics, polymers and other natural or synthetic components. They might develop new varieties of paints and other coatings, design implantable biomedical devices or improve fuel cells. As specialists in their field, materials scientists are increasingly important in the design and manufacturing of emerging technologies and often work on joint projects in space science, energy systems, biotechnology and geosciences.
Materials Science and Engineering is one of CU Boulder’s newest engineering degree programs, accepting its first students in fall 2013. More than 50 faculty members from nine departments are involved in this exciting area of study.
As an interdisciplinary program, materials science offers students access to world-class instrumentation, facilities and infrastructure from across the campus. Students benefit from collaborations with CU’s Nobel-winning Department of Physics, the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, the Department of Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology, and all six engineering departments.
With nine CU Boulder departments invested in the program, graduate students in materials science can pursue a broad range of research topics. Students may choose from six tracks of study: electronic, magnetic and photonics materials; soft materials; structured materials; materials for energy; biomaterials; and computational materials science.
Students in materials science work on projects of global significance, ranging from the development of new biomaterials to improve human health to using advanced composite materials to design never-before-seen technologies.
Graduates in materials science and engineering are equipped to work in research labs, pilot plants or manufacturing facilities. Others work in government or academia. Because materials science is so broad, many scientists specialize in a technique or material type, such as ceramics, polymers, nanomaterials or semiconductors, as their expertise grows. They often work in teams alongside technicians, engineers and chemists.
Employment of materials scientists is projected to grow 3 percent from 2014 to 2024, slower than the average for all occupations, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Many of these jobs are dependent on manufacturing industries that are projected to decline. However, demand is expected to increase for cheaper, safer and better quality materials for a variety of purposes such as electronics, energy and transportation.
Chemists and materials scientists with advanced degrees, particularly those with a PhD and work experience, as expected to have better opportunities, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
The median annual wage for materials scientists (at all levels) was $91,000 in May 2015, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Because CU Boulder’s Materials Science and Engineering program is relatively new, we do not yet have data available on our graduates’ starting salaries.