What isn’t?

The world around us is built out of materials we know and understand. Materials science and engineering is the study of why materials behave the way they do, how we can use their properties to our advantage, and how we can manipulate them to behave in the way we want. Understanding materials at a fundamental level, whether in the smallest nano-wire or the longest steel bridge, opens the door to endless possibilities of what we can create, innovate, and make a reality. As William McDonough once said, “The Stone Age did not end because humans ran out of stones.” It ended because humans discovered new and better materials. Look at how far humanity has come since then. Materials scientists and engineers work to keep changing the world, one material at a time.

“The Stone Age did not end because humans ran out of stones.”
– William McDonough

The underlying principles of materials science and engineering have been explored for nearly the entirety of human existence. We have used the materials around us to improve our lives for millions of years. Our ancestors used materials such as stone, clay, and grass to build homes and tools. Over time, broadening our understanding of materials and their properties enabled technological advancements in every field, in the form spacecraft, microchips, vascular stents, and even skateboards.

Materials scientists seek to understand and manipulate materials on the atomic and microscopic scale. The microscopic arrangement largely determines the macroscopic properties of a material, such as its strength and conductivity. Therefore, by understanding how the atoms are arranged within the material and how those atoms interact with each other, we can predict how the material will behave and perform under different circumstances.

Materials engineering uses the knowledge obtained through materials science to design and determine the best materials for a given application, as well as assess why materials fail or degrade. In these situations, the macroscopic physical and chemical properties are not the only important aspects to consider. The cost and manufacturing processes required to synthesize the material are also crucially important, and a balance between property optimization and practicality must be found.

It is with this comprehensive knowledge that materials scientists and engineers design and develop the things that enhance our daily lives.

To find out more about MSE at Berkeley, check out www.mse.berkeley.edu/!