Materials Science and Engineering is an interdisciplinary field devoted to understanding and engineering the materials that drive the modern world. Advances in ceramics, electronic materials, metals, polymers, biomaterials, and nanomaterials are integral to solving technological, societal, and environmental problems. Materials impact all areas of our daily lives.
The goal of the Materials Science and Engineering undergraduate curriculum at Illinois is to provide an understanding of the underlying principles of synthesis, characterization and processing of materials and of the interrelationships among structure, properties and processing.
The program educational objectives of the MatSE Department and its faculty at the undergraduate level are:
- Our graduates will be successful in their chosen career through the foundational knowledge the program provides.
- Our graduates will set an example for their community through understanding and practicing engineering in a disciplined, team-oriented, ethical, and professional manner.
- Our graduates will advance upon and achieve their personal goals through a learned culture of leadership and innovation throughout their lives.
Student outcomes -- It is expected that the graduates will have:
- An ability to apply knowledge of mathematics, the sciences and engineering principles to materials systems.
- An integrated understanding of the materials science and engineering principles underlying the interrelationships between structure, properties, processing and performance of materials and material systems appropriate to their field.
- An ability to apply the knowledge obtained in items 1 and 2 to identify, formulate and solve engineering and design problems involving application and selection of materials.
- An ability to design, conduct, analyze and interpret results of laboratory experiments (including statistical and computational methods) involving the behavior of materials in applications.
- Familiarity and/or experience with modern techniques, instrumentation and other tools required for experimental and engineering design, data collection and data analysis in the practice of materials science and engineering.
- An ability to work in and provide leadership for teams in the solution of science and engineering problems.
- An understanding of professional and ethical responsibilities and their implications.
- An ability to communicate effectively through written reports and oral presentations.
- The broad education necessary to understand the impact of materials engineering problems and solutions in a global/societal context.
- A recognition of the need for and an ability to engage in life-long learning.
- A knowledge of contemporary issues in the context of engineering problems in materials science and engineering.
The program prepares students for professional careers in a variety of industries as well as for advanced study in this field. Design of materials with properties tailored for specific applications and the processes used to produce them are first introduced in the freshman year. This theme is developed throughout the curriculum in required and elective courses and culminates in a capstone design experience in the senior year. In the second year the student completes the basic courses in chemistry, physics and math and engineering (including basic circuits and electronics and the mechanics of solids and fluids) and is introduced to the microstructure and phase relationships of materials. The third year is devoted to a core series of materials courses, including thermodynamics; kinetics of processes; microstructure characterization; materials synthesis; and electronic, mechanical and thermal properties, complemented by a course on statistical data analysis and laboratories during both semesters. Selecting a focus area(s) by the second semester of the third year, the fourth year is devoted to in-depth study of the selected area(s), involving several elective courses plus processing, design and characterization (laboratory) courses, and culminating in a department-wide "capstone" senior design course in which the student integrates the knowledge obtained during his or her prior education. Students intending to continue with advanced study, in particular, are encouraged to undertake a senior thesis research project. The technical aspects of the curricula are complemented by composition, humanities and social science scourses and by material on leadership, ethics, team-building and environmental responsibility that are distributed throughout the curriculum.
With 8,000 square feet of dedicated laboratory space at their disposal, MatSE undergraduates are able to explore concepts in materials synthesis, characterization, and testing that will serve as a platform for their future careers as materials scientists and engineers. Each year the labs provide learning opportunities for a large number of students enrolled in all of the lab courses. The department’s flexibility in accommodating increasing enrollments means that each student can expect an optimal amount of hands-on experience in these lab classes.
Beginning in the junior year of the program, the student lab experience spans multiple disciplines in order to reinforce concepts learned in lecture-based theory courses. In MSE 307 and MSE 308, students are introduced to multiple methods in testing material properties in the areas of polymers, metals, electronic materials, and ceramics. Students use state-of-the-art equipment including Polarizing Optical Microscopes, Dilatometers, Differential Scanning Calorimeters, and Instron Universal test machines equipped with advanced software to gain hands-on experience in multiple materials fields. These two courses, in particular, also help develop each student’s ability to work effectively in teams in order to complete each assigned lab experiment. Furthermore, rigorous writing requirements expand the students’ abilities to express experimental results, data acquisition, analysis, and sources of error in a cohesive and meaningful way. These abilities are critical to their future success in both industry and academia.
MSE 405 focuses the students’ learning in the area of the fundamentals of crystallography, diffraction, optical microscopy, Raman spectroscopy, and nuclear magnetic resonance and how these methods are used to characterize the microstructure of materials. Instruments including a Mini-Flex II x-ray diffraction system and an Ocean Optics QE65000 spectrometer are used in this lab to enhance the data acquisition processes.
As students enter the senior year and declare an area of concentration, the senior instructional labs seek to provide a more in-depth look into the areas of Ceramics (MSE 423), Metals (MSE 442), Polymers (MSE 452), Electronic Materials (MSE 462), and Biomaterials (MSE 472). These lab classes are focused on preparing students to move forward in different areas of the materials field.
The Senior Design course (MSE 395) serves as a capstone, allowing the students to use the knowledge they have gained and all the facilities at their disposal to complete a design project of their choice.