What is Materials Science?

The stone age, bronze age, iron age and silicon age remind us that the history of our civilization goes hand in hand with materials science. Understanding the behavior of materials has given rise to countless innovations and breakthroughs ranging from stone tools, which led to the discovery of fire in the prehistoric period, to silicon chips and silicon solar cells in our modern era. In a broad sense, materials science involves studying the synthesis, processing, structure, properties and performance of materials. Properties of interest can be mechanical, electrical, magnetic, optical and quantum mechanical. The outcome of such a study can directly impact the society in which we live and work, by benefiting to industries involved in electronics, communications, medicine, transportation, manufacturing, recreation, energy and environment.

While the field of materials science has evolved from materials formed from metals, ceramics, polymers and their various composites, in recent years there has been increasing focus on creating novel nanostructured materials, for instance by taking inspiration from nature. The new fields of nanotechnology and biomaterials are providing materials scientists with an entirely new palette of molecular, organic, biological and inorganic building blocks to design and assemble nano-engineered materials with unique functionalities. The research and academic programs in MSE at Penn Engineering reflect these exciting new developments and our goal is to provide students enrolling in our programs with a broad and multidisciplinary training so that they can be part of this materials revolution and contribute to solve some 21st century challenges.

What is Materials Science?