Be part of the materials science revolution
Be part of the materials revolution at these 4 North American institutions

It’s an extraordinary time to be part of the materials science and engineering field. If we were to make a smartphone in the 1980s, it would cost over US$110 million and require nearly 200 kilowatts of energy. The device would also be 14 meters tall. Today, it only requires 2kW of energy per year and our phones fit into our palms. Then there are metamaterials becoming more inexpensive, making it possible to turn what was once deemed the realm of science fiction into reality. Engineers can now use structures finer than the wavelength of visible light, radio waves and other types of electromagnetic radiation to build new ultracheap sensors and even augmented reality glasses that overlay digital images in the real world.

More than just being the centre of nearly every advanced technology you can imagine, this field is also one that’s key to solving various global challenges. It’s more crucial than ever for us to use and sustain natural resources in a way that doesn’t burden future generations and the planet. Discovering a substitute for plastic, fossil fuel and other damaging substances can lead us to a more sustainable future.

To be part of the solution, an advanced degree is necessary — many of which can be found at the universities below that are home to materials science and engineering research that are changing the world:

University of Connecticut

The University of Connecticut’s Materials Science and Engineering (MSE) Department is home to the #1 public MSE programme in the Northeastern United States — with 2023 set to be its biggest year yet. “We’re building on an unprecedented 11-point jump in our national programme ranking last year, record levels of research funding with more than US$50 million in current grants, faculty and students in key leadership roles across the campus (including the University president), and major awards like our student-led NASA Big Idea Challenge team,” says Bryan Huey, MSE Department Head. “And best of all, we just moved into the newest and biggest STEM building on campus. MSE is helping students materialize their future.”

Demonstrating the importance of materials to the region, and the opportunities available to UConn students, the University of Connecticut (UConn) has invested over (US)$400 million over the last five years into materials. That includes seven new faculty and a brand new 200,000 square foot building for materials research and education. There are also two wings in UConn’s Tech Park which offer another 50,000 square feet dedicated to additive manufacturing and advanced microscopy, housing an unrivalled 12 electron and ion microscopes along with XRD, microCT, He/Ne microscopy, and more.

State-of-the-art facilities allow UConn’s MSE department to provide hands-on experience and a personalized education for its 100 graduate students and postdocs. There is a strong focus on professional skills, local to international collaboration, real-world problem solving, and industry application. Topical strengths include metallurgy and additive manufacturing, functional materials, biomedical materials, materials for energy and sustainability, materials design and processing, and novel materials characterization.

Alumni go on to meaningful positions at universities, national labs, startup companies, and industry-leading companies like Pratt & Whitney, Raytheon, Intel, Electric Boat, Pfizer, Apple, AMD, Lockheed Martin, Duracell, Blue Origin, and others.

University of Georgia

The School of Chemical, Materials, and Biomedical Engineering at the University of Georgia (UGA) welcomes engineers from various backgrounds to upskill in one of America’s “Public Ivies.” It is where students begin to solve a host of global challenges, including in healthcare and environmentalism. Think renewable energy, biomanufacturing, and advanced therapeutics — these are crucial milestones of human civilisation, and they can only be advanced by passionate experts.

Here, you can access accredited undergraduate and graduate degrees that cover biochemical, biological, and bioprocessing for a wide spectrum of applications. UGA is also known for its Double Dawgs programme, which allows you to earn both a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in five years or less. This places graduates on the fast track towards high-impact research and careers; it is perfect for the self-motivated learner eager to get a headstart in the industry.

Regardless of their discipline, graduates leave with the technical expertise, essential skills, and ethical sense necessary to build a better world. How do they gain these? Through meaningful student-professor interactions, engaging practical learning opportunities, and a well-rounded academic experience in Athens, Georgia. Visit the official website for further details.

Dalhousie University

The Faculty of Engineering at Dalhousie University has an impressive reputation and an exciting history. With a 100-year history, the school goes beyond traditional classroom education. Alongside Nova Scotia Technical College and Technical University of Nova Scotia, Dalhousie University has educated some of the best engineers in Canada. They offer a wide range of engineering programmes with hands-on co-op work experience. 

Dr John Newhook, P. Eng, Dean of Engineering, notes many new improvements to the department. “Our core faculty workshops are modernised and expanded to provide better support to student design projects, competition teams, and graduate student research, while updated research labs will facilitate excellence and growth in innovation,” he says. “We are excited to offer new space and programming where students can learn about engineering’s key role in the innovation ecosystem and where graduating students can explore their entrepreneurial ambitions based on engineering technology.”

The Materials Engineering programme, in particular, allows students to explore a wide range of topics. Current research includes powder metallurgy processing of light metals, intermetallics, and cermet materials, corrosion, electronic materials development, synthesis of intermetallic compounds, ceramic processes and properties, as well as composite materials synthesis. The programme combines strong fundamentals in research with direct commercial relevance. 

UC Berkeley

The  UC Berkeley’s MSE curriculum takes students through the timeless fundamentals while introducing modern-day approaches to materials problems Source: UC Berkeley

US News ranks UC Berkeley’s Engineering graduate programmes third in the nation. “Our campus is one of the best places in the world to discover and develop your academic passions,” says Carol Christ, Chancellor. “Our faculty — filled with dedicated teachers, thinkers, innovators, and explorers — is second to none. An exemplary team of staff members, committed to excellence in every facet of the university’s operations, works hard to support our academic mission.​ Our graduate students — whom you will know as mentors, researchers, and teachers — are among the best. And your classmates will be by your side to partner with you and challenge you throughout your intellectual journey.” 

The Materials Science and Engineering department is focused on innovation for the future. There are five main research areas: biomaterials, chemical and electrochemical materials, computational materials, electronic, magnetic and optical materials, and structural materials. The department also boasts many cutting-edge research facilities, both on campus and at partner institutions. These include Nanofabrication Lab, National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center (NERSC), The Molecular Foundry (The National Center for Electron Microscopy) and more. 

The MSE curriculum takes students through the timeless fundamentals while also introducing modern-day approaches to materials problems. Guided by world-renowned educators, students undertake coursework and are part of faculty-led research groups. Students may choose to be part of one of the school’s main research areas or opt for a sub-discipline tailored specifically to them. Those with a more competitive nature should keep an eye out for the MSE awards, which are selected by the department based on nominations gathered from MSE students, faculty and staff. 

*Some of the institutions featured in this article are commercial partners of Study International