Russell J. Composto

MSE: Letter from the Graduate Chair

The Department of Materials Science and Engineering within the School of Engineering and Applied Science at the University of Pennsylvania is recognized as a leader and innovator in Materials research and education. Our faculty and students have received many of the top awards in their respective research fields, our educational program has produced leaders both in industry and academia, and our University is ranked in the top five in the United States.

In 1960, we became one of the first universities to establish a center for Materials Research. This center, which is called the Laboratory for Research on the Structure of Matter (LRSM), is now one of the longest running and the largest inter-disciplinary Materials Research Laboratory in the country and is currently funded as a National Science Foundation (NSF) Materials Research Science and Engineering Center. Our faculty lead the Penn Institute of Computational Science (PICS), the State of Pennsylvania's Nanotechnology Institute (NTI) that focuses on the research, development and commercialization of nanotechnology's real-world applications, as well as interdisciplinary research teams in NSF supported Emerging Frontiers in Research and Innovation (EFRI), advancing frontiers of engineering research, and Designing Materials to Revolutionize and Engineer our Future (DMREF) as part of federal Materials Genome Initiative (MGI) program.

The research interests of our faculty span all types of materials and phenomena and joint research programs exist with many other schools and departments (physics, chemistry, electrical engineering, chemical engineering, mechanical engineering, bioengineering and the medical school). Visit our research areas page to learn more.

The cornerstone of our graduate program is flexibility and its hallmarks are excellence and collaboration. Our graduate students have undergraduate degrees in many different majors, and each student can tailor his/her education according to their interests and goals to create an individualized curriculum. In the first year Ph.D. students complete seven approved courses, three core courses (Structure of Materials, Thermodynamics, Phase Transformations) and four others, selected according to the background and area of interest of the student. These courses are chosen from offerings within MSE or other departments in Penn Engineering or the Physical and Biological Sciences.

The most important aspect of a student's selection of a graduate school is their choice of a research advisor. Advisor selection is conducted in September during the Fall Semester of the first year. You will have the opportunity to meet with the faculty in whom you are interested, as well as their graduate students or postdocs, and rank your top three choices. Typically students are assigned their first choice; the likelihood that you will be able to work with one of our selections is nearly 100 percent. In certain special cases, pre-selection of advisors prior to arrival at Penn is possible.

Because of our long tradition of support from the NSF, our on-site facilities have outstanding core techniques such as electron and scanning probe microscopy, as well as several unique capabilities in nano- and microfabrication,  and structural and compositional analysis. Because of our location, students have ready access to National Laboratories and their facilities, including synchrotron radiation and neutron sources.

In addition to the tradition of excellence associated with Ivy League universities, the University of Pennsylvania is particularly fortunate to follow the educational motto of our founder, Benjamin Franklin, who proposed an education that was both practical and fundamental. Our students are also attracted to the vibrant atmosphere of center city Philadelphia with its rich cultural activities, active nightlife, sports teams, and superb restaurants.

We hope you will apply to our program. Please feel free to contact us with any additional questions about Materials Science at the University of Pennsylvania.

Shu Yang
Professor and Graduate Group Chair
Materials Science and Engineering