Materials Science is a diverse and highly interdisciplinary area of study that deals primarily with developing new materials and expanding the horizon of existing materials by looking into their properties and applicability in various walks of life.
Unlike most other science and scientific streams that you might want to pursue after your high school graduation, materials science is diverse and happening in the sense that there are numerous angles from which materials could be analyzed. Most pertinently, it qualifies both as a science and an engineering discipline.
Being one of the most rapidly developing areas of research in the present time, materials science is an excellent choice of discipline both from a professional and research perspective. Opportunities in the industry, in the academia, and in the lab are endless.
How do I know if Materials Science is right for me?
If you pursue science, it’s likely that you’ll have to handle some materials science down the line in your career no matter which discipline you take – chemistry, physics, biology, engineering, all rely heavily on the material, the underlying substance, that theories, processes, and phenomena arise from.
A dedicated degree in materials science will, hence, help you to significant depths in every core scientific discipline. This makes it a great choice for you if you’re about to graduate high school and are equally interested in, say, physics and chemistry.
Pursue a degree in materials science and you’ll essentially be pursuing both! This also makes it easier for you to gradually incline towards one concentration or the other in your future years.
How to become a Material Scientist?
Luckily, materials science degrees are available around the nation in all shapes and sizes. A B.Sc in materials science will allow you to serve as a bridge between the chemical and often geological roots of materials to their applicability in several engineering disciplines, while a B.Tech or a similar engineering degree will allow you to expand on existing scientific knowledge to investigate and work on new applications of materials.
For a B.Sc, the primary focus of your admission to a materials science program would be how you fared in your high school boards. The three-year degree program would instill a basic understanding of the discipline and pave your way to taking up specific instances of it in greater detail in a postgraduate (master’s) degree.
On the other hand, B.Tech degrees require you to take engineering entrance examinations. While being highly competitive, a good engineering undergraduate degree would allow you to take upon the state of the art of materials syntheses and development while also offering you the opportunity to pick a specialization.
Eligibility criteria to become a Material Scientist
+2: Must graduate with Science in the curriculum
Bachelor’s Degree: Bachelor of Technology in Materials Science
Master’s Degree: Master of Technology in Materials Science
A Day in the life of a Material Scientist
Hi, I’m Anwita. I’m a materials scientist working on one of the nation’s most prominent space programs. It’s a delight to take you around my world for today. Today, most of my time is going to be spent characterizing newly-developed materials for fuel cells. Linger on for a hell of a time!
9:00 AM: I just arrived at the lab and am going to spend an hour or two at my desk dealing with email correspondences with collaborators around the world. When developing massively complex equipment such as spaceships, it’s very important for engineers to collaborate between the best minds of the nation from each of its corners. Mornings are usually when we sync between progress at our respective ends.
10:00 AM: The key substantive problem that I am trying to solve is that of energy. You may know that there’s an impending energy crisis in the world and that fossil fuels, due to their lack of abundance and their carbon dioxide production, are an unsafe source of energy to depend on.
A fuel cell is a device that converts hydrogen directly into electricity in a highly intricate but fascinating way. Challenges include producing the hydrogen and developing materials that facilitate chemical reactions that lead to the production of electricity (yes, they’re called electrochemical reactions!). You guessed it, I’m trying to develop those materials.
11:00 AM: A colleague in my group, Ayush, has been assigned the task of preparing various compositions of metal and ceramics. Loosely speaking, the process involves mixing a series of powders and heating them at high temperatures. I’m going to pay him a visit to collect this week’s batch.
1:00 PM: These newly-fabricated materials, when ready, need to be “characterized” i.e. their physical and chemical properties need to be accounted for. For this, one of the things that our group uses is a scanning and tunneling electron microscope.
This, primarily, is the equipment that I have to use on a daily basis. It’s a large and insanely expensive machine that can magnify objects to scales so high that a single strand of human hair would look wide enough to pass off as a football field.
2:00 PM: After calibrating the microscope for use, I’ve settled down to analyze a finely powdered sample of our latest batch of material. We’ll be varying the nickel composition of an existing anode material and analyze the change in its inner microstructure.
The microscope whirrs to live as I start operation, and I can see a fascinating assembly of atoms on the computer screen, patterns of which I have to record and compare with alternatives.
4:00 PM: My results are in, and I’m in the process of recording them into a composite inventory we’ve based on the cloud. The entire development unit, including my boss, will be notified of their generation in a few seconds, and Ayush will receive instructions for the next material composition by the end of the day. Fast work, eh?
5:00 PM: A team member has scheduled a thermogravimetric analysis scheduled for tomorrow – this is where we analyze how materials deform or experience the change in properties as they are heated gradually over a course of several hours.
That’ll be my task for the day, and I’m going to check the requirements and availability of equipment before heading home for the day.
We hope this article has added something valuable to your research about this profession. Have your say in the comment box below. Enjoy Reading!