The study of stuff
Humans first dabbled in materials engineering as far back as 3000 B.C., when people began producing bronze hunting tools. Ever since, the predecessors of materials engineers have worked to create newer and better materials to help us in daily life.
Metallic and nonmetallic
Traditionally, materials engineers have studied the structure, properties and performance of metallic alloys, investigating the best ways to craft strong metal components from raw ore. Today, new materials like ceramics, plastics and composites are helping make advances in areas like aerospace, computing and medical applications.
Processing and testing
Materials engineers rigorously test the properties of different substances, using both destructive and nondestructive techniques to see how a material will perform in a given circumstance. Often this investigation goes down to the nanoscale, looking into the molecular bonding and chemical composition that makes up a material’s structure. This understanding can help with processing the material and using it to construct components.
An expanding area in materials engineering is the study of materials for biomedical applications. Materials engineers are involved in the development of artificial tissues for skin grafts, bone replacement materials and the construction of artificial joints.
Several UK materials engineering students work on next-generation coatings for jet engine turbine blades with GE Aviation in Cincinnati, and recent graduates of the materials program now employed at Ceradyne in Lexington develop ceramic body armor that protects U.S. combat troops.