Materials science and engineering (MSE) is a cross-disciplinary field that underlies all the engineering disciplines. Most advances in technology have followed advances in materials. New metallic alloys, for example, lead to more efficient improved jet engines and lighter weight alloys for automobiles. Improved polymers underlie the ten-fold increase in tire life since the first balloon tires. New ceramic materials are the basis of the fiber-optics communication industry. Flat screen TVs are possible because of advances in electronic, polymeric and ceramic materials.
MSE majors are in high demand in all industry sectors and non-majors are increasingly expected to make materials selection decisions that require knowledge of material properties.
The most fascinating characteristic of Materials Science and Engineering, which distinguishes it from all other engineering disciplines, is the role of fundamental science. MSE students learn to use the tools of basic science (chemistry, physics and biology) both to understand the properties of materials and to synthesize new materials. Atomic and molecular structures are known to dictate the properties of materials in a variety of forms including metals, composites and semiconductors. Materials engineers use their knowledge of the relationship between synthesis, molecular structure and properties both to select materials for particular applications and to formulate new materials to meet new needs.
Materials have been traditionally classified as metals, ceramics and polymers based on the atomic-level bonding. Emerging materials, however, often employ more complex structures, such as metal matrix composites and ceramics toughened with polymers. Properties of these new materials depend not only on atomic-level bonding, but on larger-scale structures in the range 10 – 100 nm, which has lead to a new discipline called nano-materials engineering.
Soft materials are another emerging class of materials that includes gels, colloids, liquids, foams, and coatings. The soft materials approach uses the tools of organic chemistry to synthesize new artificial materials that often mimic the properties of bone, skin and other biological structures. Soft materials typically display properties that are distinctively different from those of classic bulk materials. So called smart materials, for example, are environmentally responsive such as self-darkening sunglasses and self-cleaning windows.
Electronic materials are classified broadly by their conductivity: conductors, semiconductors, and insulators. Other important electronic properties include superconductivity, ferroelectricity and photoelectricity. The modern microelectronics revolution is built on manipulation of the electronic and magnetic properties of materials. Equally important are optically responsive polymers used to create the masks used in the semiconductor processing industry.
The Materials Science and Engineering (MSE) program at the University of Cincinnati is at the frontier of the materials research including fundamental polymer characterization methods, synthesis of polymer composites, surface science and adhesive thin films, nano transducers and sensors, surface-engineered alloys, nanostructured materials, energy devices, and nanotechnology applications in biomedicine. The faculty consists of experienced educators prominent in diversified materials-science fields. The faculty collaborates with major US universities and national laboratories, as well as the top research groups in around the world. The MSE faculty includes secondary appointments held by professors from other engineering programs and from Colleges of Arts & Science and Medicine.
The Materials Science and Engineering program at the University of Cincinnati offers graduate degrees of MS and Ph.D with focuses on polymers, metallurgy, and ceramics. Core and elective courses courses range from fundamentals to newly developed courses on emerging materials. These are rigorous classes covering all materials science disciplines such as Diffraction Theory, Advanced Thermodynamics, Phase Transformation, Fundamentals of Polymer Science, Physical Properties of Solids, and Soft matter.
The MSE program also offers undergraduate minors in Materials Engineering and Nano Engineering, with several major lab courses that focus on hands-on materials engineering skills.