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Materials Education: Feature Vol. 62, No.3 pp. 34-70
Undergraduate Materials Education 2010:
Status and Recommendations

Lyle H. Schwartz


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Materials science and engineering degrees from 1970 to 2003.



Table I



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Distribution of employment paths for students.6



Table II.



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Undergraduate curriculum as suggested in COSMAT, vol. III.4



Table III.



Figure 4
Materials tetrahedron from COMSE.5



Table IV.



Figure 5
Undergrad MSE curriculum at the University of Florida.6



Table 5



Figure 5
Future materials engineers will have access to many education providers.16



Table 6













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© 2010 The Minerals, Metals & Materials Society

In discussing undergraduate materials education in engineering schools, I begin by reviewing the historical development of today's array of materials departments and the progress toward a true materials science and engineering (MSE) discipline. I then go on to explore the range of implications for the undergraduate curriculum that are incumbent upon these departments being situated in engineering schools, schools that are themselves undergoing great change as we enter the 21st century. Turning to the specifics of undergraduate curriculum I am able to draw on recent data compilations of others to give a reasonable picture of the developing commonality in "core" curricula in the MSE degrees that now constitute the majority of undergraduate materials degrees offered. I explore briefly the issues of continuing education demanded by an undergraduate curriculum that is increasingly broad, not deep, and then look (with some envy) at the extensive efforts to address these issues by our colleagues in the UK. The paper closes with recommendations targeted at the individual departments, their collective leadership in the University Materials Council, the professional societies, and finally the newly formed Undergraduate Education Coordinating Committee, a joint committee of several of the leading materials societies.


Undergraduate engineering education necessarily evolves to ensure that a graduating engineer is adequately prepared to address most common problems that s/he will meet in the field. Recent studies by the National Academy of Sciences identify new instructional methodologies and offer new means for assessing engineering graduates' academic development. Will there be a systematic process for incorporating these and other new advances specifically into undergraduate materials education? What other challenges are affecting the nature and viability of the undergraduate materials education process and the educational readiness of graduates from this system of higher education?

Changing workforce needs are driving all engineering departments to add content on design, business, communication, and other non-technical areas, while the technical landscape is simultaneously expanding in each of these fields. In the four-year undergraduate curriculum, this new content is introduced at the expense of more traditional subjects, leading many engineering leaders to suggest that the professional engineering degree and certification be moved to the Master's level. While workforce needs continue in many traditional areas, faculty expertise evolves, driven largely by research opportunities that trend toward new, cutting-edge topics.

Limited local faculty expertise and limited curricular flexibility suggest the need for alternative approaches in education. In response, the way in which engineers are educated is changing. For example, there has been increased attention to continuing education opportunities for practicing engineers, addressing the need for content beyond that available in the four-year program. Additionally, advances in communications technology have opened up opportunities for distance learning, which could enable more depth in topical coverage for students in departments without local faculty expertise.


…describe the overall significance of this paper?
This paper provides a comprehensive view of the current status and needed improvement in undergraduate materials education.

…describe this work to a materials science and engineering professional with no experience in your technical specialty?
This paper reviews the status of undergraduate education in materials departments in U.S. engineering schools and makes specific recommendations for improvement targeted for action by these departments and their collective leadership (the University Materials Council) and societies and the newly formed Undergraduate Education Coordinating Committee.

…describe this work to a layperson?
This paper reviews the status of undergraduate education in materials departments in U.S. engineering schools and makes specific recommendations for improvement targeted for action by these departments and their collective leadership (the University Materials Council) and societies and the newly formed Undergraduate Education Coordinating Committee.

The development of a workforce that has an appropriate background to quickly and effectively respond to pressing materials issues is critical to the economic and defense security of the United States. Materials—which are fundamental to any physical object—by their very scope encompass a broad field of study that naturally interacts with, utilizes, and has impact on many academic disciplines. In the sciences, the scope of the materials research agenda includes some fractions of the effort in chemistry, physics, and—increasingly—biology departments; in engineering the study and application of materials extends to almost every field, including chemical, civil, electrical, mechanical, bio- and aeronautical.

Many engineering schools include departments specifically dedicated to the study of materials. The education provided by a degree in materials prepares graduates for career options that include either industrial practice or advanced study leading to research. Traditional materials topics such as metals, ceramics, polymers, and electronic materials have now expanded further to include nano-materials and bio-materials. As research areas broaden, some topics move from graduate to undergraduate curricula, displacing traditional subject matter and ensuring an undergraduate experience that is typically quite broad, but with little depth in any particular materials subject. At the same time, computational and communication tools have become available that are creating a new materials-design paradigm, opening new avenues for research and application, but requiring new educational experiences as well.

Organized into the University Materials Council (UMC), U.S. materials departments and their counterparts in Canada share best practices and generally agreed upon, broadly defined undergraduate curricula. When developing these curricula, it is important to consider not only what should be taught, but also who will teach it. These departments face several limitations in structuring a comprehensive undergraduate program including:

  • Many smaller schools have a correspondingly smaller, materials-focused faculty, limiting the available range of technical expertise.
  • As the materials field becomes more diverse, it becomes more difficult to employ more than one or two faculty members with a particular specialization.
  • Research, usually sponsored by federal agencies, is intentionally targeted at "cutting-edge" new materials and processes. Departments, responding to research opportunities, replace retiring faculty knowledgeable about industrial materials usage with those focused on the potential funding opportunities, creating a mismatch between the undergraduate needs for background in mature technologies and the graduate-level research programs.
When materials education is provided in other, non-materials-based engineering departments, the process of educating students about materials can be inconsistent. At some schools that have a materials science and engineering department, that department has the responsibility for providing a basic materials education to non-materials undergraduate students. This is done by means of either a single course with many sections or through several courses, each tailored to some degree for the particular engineering specialty. At other undergraduate engineering schools, either because there is no separate department of materials, or because the other departments choose to do so, other engineering departments assume the responsibility for materials education. Topics and philosophy for materials education of other engineering students may be expected to vary quite widely from school to school.

In most engineering fields, the principal professional society (American Society of Civil Engineers [ASCE], American Society of Mechanical Engineers [ASME], Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers [IEEE], etc.) assumes the responsibility for pulling the community together and providing oversight over the educational enterprise. In the materials field, the breadth of topical coverage and historical patterns of professional society organization have led to no clear leadership by a single society. Issues of accreditation are addressed by a joint effort (TMS, The American Ceramic Society [ACerS], and the Materials Research Society [MRS]) but curricular content, methodology, and interaction with other engineering educational entities are left to the local departments and, to the degree the departments elect, the UMC.

National Academies studies of the MSE enterprise in both the 1970s and 1980s included the educational environment as one element of broad "decadal" studies. However, there has been no comprehensive materials study since the 1980s, nor has a focused study of materials education been made since that date by the Academies.

In short, the state of U.S. undergraduate materials education is relatively unknown, its implication for the future workforce is unclear, the responsibility for the enterprise is unfocused, and opportunities for improvement remain undefined and unaddressed.

In 2007, the National Academies National Materials Advisory Board (NMAB) began an effort to find federal agency support for a comprehensive study of undergraduate materials education. While considerable interest was expressed by leadership in various agencies, none could place this topic high enough on their agendas to fully fund it and attempts at joint funding have not yet succeeded. In the interim, activities by the professional societies to form collaborative coordinating committees, including one on undergraduate education, have moved me to take individual action.

This study presents my personal views on the issues identified above, focusing almost exclusively on the undergraduate experience of a materials student in an engineering school department, but extending to issues of continuing education and the Master's level degrees. Much of the documentation assembled here is pulled from referenced publically available resources, but some original data gathering is also included. The opinions and recommendations are mine alone unless otherwise referenced. I have focused this paper on the background and information that I believe relevant to subsequent actions by the academic departments, the professional societies, and their coordinating bodies. Several areas of materials education are not covered in this paper.

I make brief mention of some of the wide array of informal and K–12 education and outreach efforts based on aspects of the materials field, but go into almost no detail. I have recently given some considerable attention to this topic in an address I presented at the recent Materials Science and Technology 2009 (MS&T'09) conference, and draw from that only a few examples.

I mention, but do not explore in any detail the materials education provided to undergraduates and post-graduates in the sciences, chemistry, physics, and biology. The enormous transitions in the research agendas of these fields over the last 50 years must certainly have induced profound changes on the education experiences of the newcomers. We must undoubtedly have much to learn from them about teaching content and methodology. However, these departments reside in schools of Arts and Sciences, are not therefore encumbered (or encouraged?) by the evolving engineering education revolution. Each of these fields also benefits from extensive networks of supportive professional society support for teaching at all academic levels.

I allude to, but do not discuss in any detail the path to the Ph.D. in materials within the engineering schools. Unencumbered by accreditation issues, the M.S. and Ph.D. education evolves within each department. Entering students at this level arrive with backgrounds including materials, other engineering, and all of the sciences, and degree requirements include some combination of self-study or course work to reach capability to pass a candidacy exam. However, graduate degrees with thesis at both the levels of M.S. and Ph.D. continue to be enormously sensitive to the local environment, the thesis advisor, the laboratory facilities, and the degree of collaborative, group effort involved in the study. Such local programs are not readily studied and certainly not by me, now 25 years away from university life.

I make no mention at all in the body of the paper of the important and parallel field of materials technology. Technology, the T in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics), has evolved from the vocational technology of years ago into a mature and robust educational effort at high schools and beyond. Technicians and support personnel are sometimes trained on the job, but increasingly come to that job with two to four years of post-high-school education, often at a community college. ABET, the accrediting body for the engineering departments serves the same function for the technology departments in these various schools. The field of materials technology has evolved in parallel with that of MSE, uses overlapping sets of information and lab tools, demos, and experiments in teaching, and has become a major source of employees for many manufacturing corporations and fields. In the materials field, it is probably the American Welding Society that is most deeply involved in this level of education as it strives to supply the next generation of welders and welding machine technologists. To learn more about this important aspect of our broad field visit the web site managed for the National Science Foundation (NSF) by Edmonds Community College:

And finally, also missing from this study is the discussion of federal agency roles that would certainly have been included in an NMAB study. One very important point should be made, however. There continues to be a strong link between availability of funding for research and faculty selection in academic departments. As funding for research on large-scale structural materials such as metals, ceramics, and polymers has waned, replacements of faculty retirees have been made in the new, cutting-edge areas of soft materials and nanotechnology. This evolution in the research agenda is inevitable, but its consequences for undergraduate education need to be understood. I would have expected an NMAB study to explore these implications for federal funding decisions more fully than I do here.

In discussing undergraduate materials education in engineering schools, I begin by reviewing the historical development of today's array of materials departments and the progress toward a true MSE discipline. I then go on to explore the range of implications for the undergraduate curriculum that are incumbent upon these departments being situated in engineering schools, schools that are themselves undergoing great change as we enter the 21st century. Turning to the specifics of undergraduate curriculum I am able to draw on recent data compilations of others to give a reasonable picture of the developing commonality in "core" curricula in the MSE degrees that now constitute the majority of undergraduate materials degrees offered. I explore briefly the issues of continuing education demanded by an undergraduate curriculum that is increasingly broad, not deep, and then look (with some envy) at the extensive efforts to address these issues by our colleagues "across the pond" in the United Kingdom. The paper closes with recommendations targeted at the individual departments, their collective leadership in the UMC, the professional societies, and finally the newly formed Undergraduate Education Coordinating Committee (UECC), a joint committee of several of the leading materials societies.

My credentials for writing this paper include 50 years in the materials field in various capacities (see Appendix A) and an abiding interest in the subject of materials education. This paper is intended to address the issues discussed by the NMAB in preparation for a study, but clearly represents one person's perspective only.


Undergraduate education in engineering is influenced by many factors including the needs of industry, research trends and environment, and anticipation that a B.S. in engineering may lead to employment in industry, to a research position, or to one of many careers in which the engineering education is only a stepping stone (e.g., medicine, law, business, etc.). The complex task of offering an educational experience in four years that will satisfy all of the goals implied by this array of future options is made even more complex for the field of MSE that is lodged in engineering schools but intellectually located at the interface between science and engineering as well as at the interfaces with the several other engineering departments. Before beginning to explore aspects of the undergraduate curriculum and its evolution, it will be useful to look at the environment in which that curriculum developed. First turn to the research agenda.

It is no novelty today to find cooperative group research efforts in virtually every arena of science and engineering. We don't marvel at the interdependency of such teams and their willingness to share the glory of discovery and the agony of defeat. Thesis topics may not be readily characterized as coming from one discipline or from another, and the most exciting areas for future work are commonly recognized to lie at the boundaries between traditional disciplines.

It was not always that way. In fact only 50 years ago no enterprises of that kind could be found anywhere in academia. It was then more common to think in terms of single investigators with their small groups of students and postdocs, pursuing a task suited to such environments and wary of change. Academic research was measured by one's peers in a given discipline. The "preferred" future was to become a professor in the same discipline as that in which your Ph.D. thesis was done. One of the test beds for the transformation from then to now was created in the Materials Research Laboratories, funded first by the Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA) as Inter-Disciplinary Laboratories or IDLs and then by the NSF.1,2

When the Soviet Union launched Sputnik in 1957, the world was shocked and the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) deeply concerned that our enemies had achieved superiority in critical technologies, including materials. Taking lessons from some of our most successful government enterprises, the Manhattan Project and other military development programs of the World War II era, and from such industrial giants as Bell Telephone and General Electric Laboratories, the DoD's ARPA (now Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, DARPA) set out to transform the organization and content of materials research done in academia and thereby to influence the development of new technology and a new generation of scientific leaders. They began at a time in which one could find research on materials in chemistry and physics departments and in some engineering departments, mostly in departments focused on mining, metallurgy, or ceramics. Communication amongst those researchers from different disciplines was rare, as each sought colleagues within their own professional communities. The Advanced Research Projects Agency funded 12 institutions with large multi-investigator grants, gave considerable autonomy to local management, encouraged the development of multi-user facilities, and stimulated the transformation process.

In those days, and throughout the 1960s, the research of the IDLs became internationally recognized, but remained readily describable as "equal to the sum of their parts." Many disciplines were represented on the rolls of faculty numbered as IDL members, and the breadth of topics covered grew with each year. However, each faculty member created a research group wedded to the technical programs of his own discipline (almost no women faculty then!), leading to theses of the same character. The Advanced Research Projects Agency had stimulated great centers in which many disciplines thrived (multidisciplinary centers), but it had fallen short of its goal of interdisciplinarity. However, although it wasn't fully appreciated at the time, seeds were being sown for something very different yet to come. Among the seeds were meetings in which the faculty of the IDL gathered to hear of the progress being made by their colleagues and their students. These learning sessions often led to cross-disciplinary ideas, a fertilization of mutual understanding and even occasionally to new, collaborative research efforts.

Other seeds came with the several facilities established and maintained with IDL funds. These well-equipped laboratories opened up a wide range of characterization and materials preparation capabilities to every member of the faculty, greatly multiplying the knowledge base on which each particular study could draw. They also created a spirit of sharing which would become one of the linchpins of the new collaborative world to come.

Things might have gone along that way for many years, but the U.S. Congress in its collective wisdom came to the conclusion that the DoD should only fund that research which could be clearly linked to its mission of national security. The IDLs didn't fit this picture since their research agenda was so general that impact on DoD needs could be seen as coincidental rather than planned. Yet, the research then being funded at these universities was recognized as groundbreaking and the high-quality graduates they produced were needed at the industries that defense and the nation demanded. The "solution" for maintaining the program would be to transfer the funds and management responsibility to the NSF.

On the face of it, that should have been simple enough, but these new responsibilities raised a fundamental dilemma for the NSF. In these block grants, a single large proposal would be funded and then the decisions about which members of the faculty would actually receive funds, and how much they would get in a given year would be decided by a committee of the local faculty of the university. To make matters worse, the NSF was funding many of these same faculty members through single investigator grants. These grants seemed to be for rather similar work in the minds of the NSF management. How could the NSF peer-reviewed funding of single investigators be reconciled with the block-grant nature of the IDLs?

The answer proposed was to become profoundly important in terms of its impacts on the future of materials science, the NSF, and in many ways all of the federally funded science enterprise. Its influence on modes of education is still being absorbed. The block grants to these universities would be continued, the name of the program would now become the Materials Research Laboratories (MRL's), but most importantly, the program at each university would be constituted as a number of research thrusts. These thrusts were to combine the expertise of several faculty members from differing disciplines and to attack problems of such complexity that no single investigator could address them.

Well, as is so often the case when funding agencies present fundamentally good ideas embellished with a significant offering of research funds, we academics put our objections on hold, applied our creative minds, and discovered a new way of doing business. The thrust groups that formed first tended to be initiated in one department and were then populated with collaborators from other departments. These first starts were often rather artificial. The topics evolved as faculty learned more about one another's skills and interests and added new key young faculty to the rolls of the MRLs. However, aided by their perseverance and the continuing encouragement from the NSF, within a few years something profound had happened. This new way of doing business enriched both the research and graduate teaching environments.

Research thrust groups varied in content and structure. They reflected the character and experiences of the members as well as the nature of the subject being explored. These early groups had some common features that are frequently found in many interdisciplinary groups today. Theory and experiment were carried out side-by-side. (Modern groups include computation as a third, critical element.) Faculty members with degrees from several disciplinary backgrounds were involved in the common endeavor. New, never before synthesized materials and/or new, never before available experimental tools stimulated the group efforts. Frequent meetings were held to discuss results, to hear from invited colleagues, to plan next steps and, most importantly, to develop a community spirit with common vocabulary.

Faculty quickly learned that great strides in technical accomplishments would be enabled in such a dynamic research environment. More subtle, and perhaps much more profound, were the changes produced in the learning environment for students. These students learned from each of the faculty as they always had, but they also learned from other faculty in the group and they learned from each other. As graduates, they would become the foundation for what has become the modern field of materials science and engineering. Their ability to break down barriers between disciplines has been critical in the materials developments which continue to drive the electronics and optical industries, and has now led us to an array of exciting opportunities in the fields of soft materials, nano-technologies, and biological systems.

The success of interdisciplinary groups in the MRL led to imitation in all manners of ways. Other universities quickly mobilized to form their own materials programs, frequently hiring their new faculty members from these leading MRLs. The NSF assisted this development by offering medium size, multi-investigator grants for small, stand-alone, thrust groups. The leadership in NSF recognized the value of this mode of funding as a supplement to, never a substitute for, the traditional single investigator mode of support. Other funding agencies followed suit and academic research groups funded by NASA, the Department of Energy (DOE), National Institutes of Health (NIH), and DoD became common in universities. As in the case of the early learning experiences in the MRLs, the benefits of these new organizational forms have been both the creation of new knowledge and a new educational environment for students.

How did this interdisciplinarity influence education options? Not surprisingly, the diverse character of the several universities involved and the creativeness of university faculty led to diverse responses. Certainly both chemistry and physics departments greatly expanded their attention to the solid state and their interactions with their colleagues in the "more applied" engineering schools, but the most dramatic changes took place within the engineering schools. While some departments continued to focus on ceramics or metals, many quickly broadened their range of materials coverage from metals only. Faculty were added who had expertise in ceramics and polymers, and, in later years, functional materials including those valuable for their optical, magnetic, semi-conducting, and superconducting properties. Faculty additions in these areas naturally led to graduate courses in all of these specialty areas.

What held these disparate interests together? What common threads were identified that would describe the materials research field that was growing? In the first broad study of the materials field carried out in the 1970s by the National Research Council (the operating arm of the National Academies), the Committee on the Survey of Materials Science and Engineering (COSMAT),3 the link between structure and properties of materials was identified as the central unifying principle. Engineering materials departments molded themselves to address this principle and as they grew in size and in numbers, they organized their educational programs to address this unifying principle. Beginning in the mid-1950s, departments began to identify as "Materials Science" and by the 1970s the name "Materials Science and Engineering" appeared on many engineering school rosters.

Educational programs evolved in a natural manner as the interests of faculty broadened. At the graduate level, education continued to focus on depth of understanding and independent research. Each materials department developed its criteria for broad background knowledge in structure/property obtained from undergraduate preparation, course work, or self-study. However, the primary activity for each Ph.D. student remained the thesis. In a multi-disciplinary environment, the thesis could break new ground at the boundaries between disciplines and this rich bounty of new opportunity helped to make U.S. graduate study the envy of the world. The range of research grew ever broader but the size of faculty per department was commonly limited by other factors including undergraduate registration numbers, laboratory space, and government funding for research. In this environment, departments recognized that they could not cover the entire range of materials study and specialization developed.

In this evolving environment, undergraduate education in materials was not always first priority. Indeed, many materials departments began as and some remain sites for graduate study only. As they developed, undergraduate programs were typically based on the historical precedents of metallurgy and ceramics. Courses on phase equilibrium and transformations, quantum mechanics, solid state physics, thermodynamics, structure, and compositional characterization and mechanical behavior were typical offerings. Course content was slowly enriched by the introduction of information about other materials and the flow-down of newly learned concepts from the rapidly expanding materials research agenda. Migration of Ph.D.s from one department to become faculty at others led to the development of a common core of expected content for undergraduate study, enriched by advanced coursework that was often unique to each department as it derived from the specialized research interests of the local faculty. This process continues today, but there are many reasons to be concerned about whether it will be a sustainable model in the 21st century. This paper will explore some of these issues, raise questions, and in some instances offer suggestions for improvement.


Previous Studies

Many individual reports and workshops on materials education have appeared over the 50 years since the launch of the ARPA-sponsored IDL program in 1960. Specific references to some of these will be made at appropriate times in the following text, but it is convenient to single out four specific examples that will be referenced frequently due to their comprehensiveness and/or timeliness. The first of these, Materials and Man's Needs, was a National Academies report, published in 1974 and authored by a study group headed by Morris Cohen of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and William O. Baker, vice-president of Bell Telephone Laboratories, Inc. The study committee was named the Committee on the Survey of Materials Science and Engineering and the report would forever be known as the COSMAT report. In this, the first and by far the most comprehensive study of the field, the subject of education and workforce development was one of many chapters that would clarify the importance of materials to societal needs, characterize this rapidly developing field, and establish baseline data about the study of materials at an early state of its growth as a recognized field of endeavor. A fuller discussion of education was published as Volume III of the supplementary materials of this committee and will be referred to here as COSMAT, Vol. III.4

A second comprehensive National Academies study of MSE was completed in 1989. No convenient acronym has attached itself to this study entitled "Maintaining Competitiveness in the Age of Materials" and authored by a Committee on Materials Science and Engineering co-chaired by Praveen Chaudhari of the IBM Watson Research Center, and Merton Flemings of MIT.5 For convenience this document will be referred to here as the COMSE report. In this updated look at the field, the committee once again dealt with education and workforce issues while bringing strong focus to the subjects of synthesis and processing of materials and a changing world in which international advances in MSE would now be increasingly important.

No subsequent comprehensive National Academies study of materials research has been made, although many of the sub-elements discussed in both the COSMAT and COMSE reports have been revisited in stand-alone studies carried out under committees of the National Research Council (both the NMAB and the Solid State Sciences Committee (SSSC) have been and remain active in this regard). While no subsequent peer-reviewed discussion of materials education is available, two relatively recent workshops have led to careful analysis of various aspects of materials education and will be frequently referenced.

In the first of these workshops, the NMAB invited presentations from educators and industrial representatives at a workshop entitled, "Workforce and Education in Materials Science and Engineering: Is Action Needed?" Hosted at the Beckman Center of the National Academies in Irvine, California, the workshop was held in October 2002.6 No proceedings are available (in accord with National Academies rules), but publically available presentations reflecting the views of the authors will be quoted by name with the reference to the "NMAB Workshop." A summary by NMAB of the presentations made at the time is reproduced here as Appendix B.

The second workshop, sponsored by NSF in September 2008, was quite broad in nature, covering public awareness of the materials field (informal education), K-12, undergraduate, and graduate education all within a brief two-day meeting. Nevertheless, the reports prepared for this workshop and the final, publically available document offer excellent information on the current state of the materials education enterprise. Identified as "Future of Materials Science and Engineering Education," this report will be referred to here as "NSF Workshop."7

Origin of the Materials Departments

In his Distinguished Lecture on Materials and Society in 2000, Flemings outlined the history of development of MSE departments in U.S. universities and explored some of the issues facing these departments as they mature.8 A second comprehensive history of the development of MSE as a teaching discipline was written by Clive Ferguson and published by the U.K. Centre for Materials Education.9 (A shorter version of this same history with more specific references to U.S. universities may be found in COSMAT, Vol. III, pp. 123–126.) While written about and targeted at the school system in the United Kingdom, Ferguson's article appropriately traces the history of this development to the U.S. and the ARPA focus on interdisciplinarity in the study of materials. These detailed discussions of the history of materials use in manufacturing and the development of education departments focused on mining, metallurgy, and metallurgical engineering subjects set the stage for the discussion of the evolution of the modern materials departments. They make fascinating reading, but need not be repeated in detail here.

Flemings and Ferguson each describe how these departments evolved over the years, beginning at a time when empirical observation of macroscopic and optical microscopic evidence was all that was to be had for the metallurgist. Slowly, new experimental tools and understanding were introduced into the research portfolio and the curriculum. Thermodynamics, kinetics of reactions, diffusion theory, quantum mechanics and solid state physics, dislocation theory, x-ray diffraction, transmission and scanning electron microscopies—these and many other elements of the metallurgy courses of the late 1950s were readily traceable to their first appearance in chemistry and physics research. The impact of science on the more applied area of metallurgy was already being felt in these years, but collaborative efforts among the disciplines were few.

Suffice it to say that when ARPA initiated its call for the proposals for Inter-Disciplinary Laboratories of materials research, academic departments in the materials fields were primarily focused on metals with only a few targeted at ceramics or polymeric materials. We should recall that government sponsorship of research was not yet significant, with small grants available primarily from DoD and also from NSF, then in its early years of growth. Research was strongly influenced by perceptions of industrial need and undergraduate education in these separate fields was focused on meeting those same industrial needs for engineers. This was now to change, stimulated by the ARPA funding and the several other government programs that followed in the 1960s and later.

One convenient way to judge the evolution of technical focus of these materials departments from afar is to examine the names they used to advertise themselves to the world. (This next paragraph is extracted and edited from COSMAT, Vol. III.4) In 1970 there were 89 U.S. universities with their degree programs designated as in the materials area. The degrees included metallurgy, metallurgical engineering, ceramic engineering, metallurgy and materials science, solid state science (interpreted as materials science), materials science, and polymers. Of these 89, at least 45 had graduate or undergraduate programs with the word materials in the title, as part of a phrase such as materials science, materials engineering, solid-state science (taken to be equivalent to materials science). There were 31 programs with titles involving only metallurgy, though eight of the 14 materials and solid-state science programs had evolved from those in metallurgy. In contrast, there were only 14 degree programs in ceramics and four in polymerics (not including degrees in chemistry with specialization in polymers), in spite of the wide use of the latter materials. These program titles had changed significantly over the previous decade; in 1960, there were virtually no programs with the word materials in the title. Table I lists the titles existing in 1964 and 1970 as direct evidence of this change. Another reference point for comparison with today is the fact (COSMAT, Vol. III, Table 7.294) that of these departments in the United States in 1970, 78 schools with "materials" departments offered bachelors degrees in 89 departments, seven of them including mining or minerals in their names.

Current Technical Focus
The pattern begun in the 1960s has continued to today. First the individual departments of ceramics and polymers mostly disappeared or merged with metallurgy departments. Other metals departments added faculty with expertise in these areas. In parallel, pulled by funding and research opportunity and pushed by the reduction of mining jobs, some mining departments morphed into metallurgy and then materials departments. Encouraged by the development of industries dependent on the functional properties of materials (conductivity, optical and magnetic behavior, etc.), faculty with such expertise were added. And then, stimulated by transformations in understanding and characterization tools, the areas of biological-, soft- and nano-materials demanded still further expansion to include these topics as well. Federal funding for materials research grew rapidly during the 1960s and 1970s and with it, so did the number of materials departments. By 1993 the ASM Materials Handbook listed 107 materials departments (not all of these offered undergraduate degrees).

In his presentation to the NMAB Workshop in 2002, Abaschian took a look at the continuing evolution of materials departments. His survey of the ASM Education handbook in 2000 identified 69 departments offering undergraduate degrees in materials, with an additional nine materials majors available in other engineering departments (ChE, ME, EE, and CE). He noted that the total number of departments listed had decreased from an apparent high of 107 in 1993 as 15 were "consumed or merged" with other engineering departments. He also noted an increase in average number of faculty/department, from 16.4 in 1993 to 18.3 in 2000. (Similar data have been presented by others including Flemings.10) Abaschian and others have described this disappearance of small departments and growth of the larger ones as the "Ostwald Ripening" of MSE departments. Thus after the peak in numbers of departments in the late 1980s or early 1990s, the number decreased through mergers and consumption but the names and technical programs of the remaining programs became more "materials" oriented.

There are two convenient metrics to use to explore the current status of these two trends. In his remarks to the UMC meeting on November 30, 2009, Peter Davies focused on the organization and names of departments. Several of his charts are included here as Appendix C. Davies emphasized that the number of independent (standalone) MSE departments which offer undergraduate degrees is 46 with six additional departments of that name offering only graduate programs. It is important to note that all of these departments are in engineering schools. In addition, there are a variety of other departments that offer undergraduate degrees in materials areas from faculty located in combined departments (ChE & MS [11] and ME &MS [6] dominating) and other programs of various sorts. (Note: I located an ABET-accredited undergraduate degree at the University of Akron named Mechanical-Polymer Engineering in addition to the graduate programs noted by Davies.) Davies compares his current data with that summarized by Flemings in 1999 (last chart in Appendix C) to emphasize the significant changes that have occurred in the past decade.

This compilation of department names and organizations tends to focus attention on organizational and management issues. One may speculate that the trend toward joint departments will be followed by no replacements as faculty retire and is but a first step toward the eventual disappearance of degrees in materials at those schools. On the other hand, one may also speculate that in at least some instances the joint departments will result in further rich development of the field at the natural interfaces between the disciplines. Time will tell, but this may be an interesting subject for further investigation.

A second way to look at the data about materials departments and degrees is to focus on the degree names. Davies identifies those schools with ABET accreditation, but his compilation does not contain the names of degrees nor does it identify those instances in which a department (or school) has elected to accredit more than one degree. I carried out a review of the data from the ABET web pages in 2009 producing the data summarized in Appendix D. Note that ABET categorizes degrees under three general headings, Materials Engineering, Metallurgical Engineering, and Ceramic Engineering with somewhat different criteria applied by the evaluators selected with the insight of the participating professional societies. The names of these 70 accredited undergraduate materials degrees are directly from ABET and represent degree names designated by the schools seeking accreditation. Cross comparison of these data and those of Davies makes it clear that many of the combined departments continue to seek degree accreditation for their materials undergraduate programs and that many of these are using MSE (40 total) or materials (19 total) in their titles. Thus fully 82% of the undergraduate programs include a broad range of materials. (The number of ABET-accredited mining and minerals degrees is a significant 13, actually greater than the number listed with such names in 1970, for a total of 83 accredited mining and materials degrees.)

Thus, over the 50 years since the IDLs began, there has been a great shuffle. Many new departments have emerged, some successful, others not. Many mergers and some disappearances have now produced a net result not really much different in numbers of accredited degrees from the 1970s. The resultant academic content and professional orientation of these degrees, however, is profoundly changed and it is on those changes and their impacts on undergraduate education that this paper focuses. In parallel with this historical view of the numbers and names of departments, it is interesting to look at historical trends in enrollment, or more conveniently at numbers of graduates. In the COSMAT report a chart of numbers of materials degrees vs. year appears for the first time. For the departments included in that study (which included mining), graduates numbered as follows: B.S. degrees roughly constant at ~900, ± 100, for the entire two decade period of 1950 to 1970; M.S. degrees starting at ~200 in 1950, gradually increased to ~400 in 1970; Ph.D. degrees increased dramatically from only ~45 in 1950 to ~200 in 1970.

Direct comparison with the COSMAT data is problematical as mining may or may not have been excluded from current data sets. Consider the more recent data shown in Figure 1. This figure is drawn from Heckel11 who states: "The primary sources of data for U.S. universities were the annual surveys of the Engineering Workforce Commission (EWC) of the American Association of Engineering Societies (AAES). These surveys began in the late 1960s and have been a credible source since that time." It might be prudent for UMC to contract with Heckel and his consulting firm Engineering Trends to gain access to consistent data on this and other topics of future analyses.

During the period since COSMAT appeared, the number of undergraduate degrees has not varied much from the average of about 900/year. The downward trend in the 1980s may be readily interpreted as due to students' (and parents') recognition of decreasing job opportunity in the metals areas with little knowledge of future job opportunities yet to be revealed in the application of other materials. The continuing increase in Ph.D. degrees from this same field reflects the expanding federal funding for other materials areas, the expanding and broadening faculties in materials departments, and the enrichment of the field in general. Of course, as federal funding for materials leveled off and then fell in fixed dollar amounts through the 1990s, so did the number of Ph.D. degrees. These same factors may account in part for the transitions in departments described earlier. Recent expansion in funding as a consequence of dramatic increases in NIH (bio-) and NSF (nano-) have more than restored the numbers of Ph.D.s.

More interesting for the purposes of this paper is the numbers of B.S. degrees. Heckel speculated that department sizes, already beginning to grow in 2005 would continue to do so. Data from another reliable source,12 the AAES annual statistics about engineering education, confirms Heckel's expectations as the number of B.S. degrees in the materials fields increased from a stated 875 in 1999 to 1,095 in 2008. Anecdotal observations noted by those in UMC meetings are that their undergraduate enrolments are continuing to increase, with some departments exhibiting substantial growths. Based on these observations, one may expect the number of BSE degrees in materials to continue to grow well beyond 1,100. It isn't clear what all of the drivers for this trend may be, but certainly one of these is pressure from engineering deans. Recent revised procedures for apportioning revenues based on tuitions received have dramatically increased the pressures on departments with small undergraduate enrollment. One consequence of this is the trend already noted that some small departments have disappeared or merged with other engineering departments. The other, quite clearly, is enhanced attention to recruiting and retention. These latter subjects are of sufficient interest that they will be covered in greater depth in a separate section. Closing this discussion, one would be remiss in not noting that the limits to undergraduate enrollment are closely tied to available laboratory space and faculty who have expertise in and can teach the core courses of the department as well as those in their specialty.

In principal the wide breadth of a typical materials department should not cause problems for the undergraduate educational curriculum, but it does because of limits on faculty size. Balance in size with competing departments within the engineering school, finite classroom and laboratory space and modest interest on the part of undergraduate enrollees has kept the department size of many successful departments near 20 for some years. As the breadth of the research agendas increases, so the number of faculty with any particular area of emphasis decreases. Many departments address the desire for breadth in research areas by joint appointments, but this does not necessarily satisfy the needs for undergraduate teaching. Where is one to find the expertise to teach the varied courses desired for the modern undergraduate engineering curriculum? This subject was clearly on the minds of the committee members who wrote the 1989 COMSE report:

"The historical roots of materials departments are evident in the background and interests of the faculty now teaching in those departments. Of the estimated 1000 faculty members in materials departments in the United States, about 70 percent have metallurgy as a primary research focus. This group includes scientists and engineers specializing in extractive, processing, mechanical, and physical metallurgy, as well as those who have traditionally worked with metallic systems to understand general phenomena that can apply to many types of materials. Of the remaining 30 percent of the faculty members in materials departments, about 12 percent specialize in ceramics, 9 percent in polymers, and 9 percent in semiconducting, magnetic, or optical materials.

The growing importance of materials classes other than metals could undoubtedly lead to a different distribution of research interest among materials department faculty in the future. Already, many former metallurgists and chemists are broadening their research and teaching and are pioneering in the development of the new field of materials science and engineering.

In the future, the hiring policies of materials-designated departments, particularly materials science and engineering departments, should reflect the goal of a comprehensive, generic educational program. This can best be accomplished by achieving a faculty balanced in background and research interests and of sufficient size to adequately address the burgeoning materials area, and by seeking faculty members whose interests extend to more than one materials class. Of necessity, smaller programs must create effective links with other departments to ensure adequate coverage."

A comprehensive update of this data on faculty expertise would certainly be interesting, though gross figures of the research interests of the faculties of all departments is not the most relevant data set. Rather, to fully explore this question of faculty expertise available for undergraduate teaching, one would need to know not only the academic training of the faculty, but what they have learned since, clearly an unlikely accomplishment and not one I'm prepared to pursue as an individual. In lieu of that, this brief examination of the diverse faculty backgrounds in MSE departments will be limited to graduate academic background. Planning ahead for the discussion of undergraduate curriculum to come in a subsequent section on Undergraduate Curriculum in MSE, the focus will be on the 15 materials departments chosen for study by Kevin Jones in his preparation for the NSF Workshop in 2008.

Data from the web sites of these 15 MSE departments was searched (in a few instances aided by direct contact with departments) and compiled in the table included as Appendix E Ph.D. Data for 15 Top MSE Departments. The size distribution of these departments is displayed in the figure in Appendix E. While there are three rather large departments (two at the Institutes of Technology), most are in the 20–30 range. This is certainly larger than 20 years ago, but quantitative comparison is hard to make, since data on these specific departments is not readily available for that time period. (My own recollection of the Northwestern MSE Department is that FTE size was ~18 in the mid-1980s and it has now grown to ~23.) It's important to note that the data in this Appendix represent faculty listed, not FTE. Thus, in some instances the quoted "size" of the department may be greater than that counted by the department budget data. Nonetheless, this list is valuable for determining expertise available, as in general each department may draw from joint appointees for undergraduate teaching as well as graduate and research responsibilities. Certainly, we see in this size growth some evidence of consolidation (ceramic and polymer departments merging with MSE departments), but also some growth to include other areas of research as funding sources broadened their scope.

While a direct comparison with COMSE data is not readily made, it is clear from the tabulated data (and from looking at all of the young male and female faces pictured on the web sites) that these 15 MSE departments are vastly more diverse in every respect from those of the mid-1980s. Specifically, only 15% cite degrees in metallurgy, polymers, or ceramics. While 38% have MSE degrees, many of these are certainly focused on technical activity other than structural materials (functional materials, "soft" materials, bio- and nano-materials, etc.). This is in stark contrast with the observation of COMSE that only 9% of the faculty interests were focused on non-structural materials.

Even more interesting to me in the context of a discussion about undergraduate degrees in an engineering school, is the fraction of these faculty members with degrees other than from engineering schools. More than 30% have degrees in chemistry, physics, or other sciences. I hasten to add that individuals bring many things to undergraduate instruction in addition to the experiences of their academic training, but there is no question that the make-up of these MSE departments differs dramatically from that of their counterparts in the other engineering departments whose faculties are, by and large, educated and experienced in engineering, not science.

While these "top 15" departments have changed dramatically, that is certainly not true for all materials departments. I have not taken the time to explore all departments (a task that might be avoided by a centrally managed web site with encouragement for each department to display this and other data), but I did take a look at several departments that offered more traditional undergraduate degrees in metallurgical and/or ceramic engineering. Typically these departments are quite small of order 8–10 faculty. [The one major exception to this is the Missouri Science and Technology University (formerly University of Missouri-Rolla). Here departments of metallurgy and ceramics have been merged to form one 23 member MSE department. ABET-accredited degrees are still offered in each material area with an MSE "option" also available.] While these departments include an occasional member with some other engineering degree, none that I looked at had any faculty member with a Ph.D. degree from physics or chemistry. In some instances (e.g., University of Alabama-Birmingham-MSE, the course listings and curriculum requirements look rather like that displayed by the top 15 (see section on Undergraduate Curriculum in MSE). In most cases, however, the curriculum superficially looks much as it might have looked 20 years ago, with the presumption on my part that the actual content in each of the topical areas is fully up-to-date.

Does this distribution of faculty backgrounds really matter to the issue at hand, undergraduate education? Well, yes and no. Since ABET is flexible, each department is really being judged against its own clearly articulated goals and metrics. Thus the undergraduate experience at each department is molded collectively by the entire local faculty and is what it is. No comparison with other engineering departments is made by ABET. Furthermore, if the program is successful in recruiting and retaining undergraduate students as well as maintaining a successful research program, most engineering deans will be satisfied.

My own concerns are focused at the undergraduate experience received by the students and the way this meshes with future employment opportunities and continuing education needs. I don't presume to have answers here. I'm too far away from the day-to-day undergraduate instruction and only see what's going on as an outside advisor to one department and an adjunct member of another. I do have concerns that the focus of the undergraduate programs in many departments may be too heavy on science and too weak on engineering and that this may be reflected in a workforce that does not meet industrial needs. I expect that this deficiency can be made up by a robust postgraduate continuing education with many varieties of formats, but worry that as a community we are failing to give sufficient attention to this aspect of materials engineering education.

Professional Associations
As science, engineering, and technical employment developed over the last century, professional associations were a natural complement. Offering arenas for exchange of technical information, networking for jobs, education accreditation service, and continuing education for professionals, and in many instances opportunities for socialization, these societies strengthen the disciplines and assist in the acculturization process for young professionals. For most academic departments, the choice of primary society is obvious and common to all members of the faculty. Physicists join the American Physical Society, chemists the American Chemical Society (ACS), mechanical engineers, ASME, civil engineers, ASCE, and so on. For many members these are their only professional organizations, while for most it is their primary one of several. Those organizations in the case of the engineering societies are the prime caretakers of the accreditation process and the home for discussion of the curricular needs of the professionals in training.

The materials field has grown up in the evolutionary manner described above, and with it has developed an array of professional societies. Even an incomplete list will make the point: ASM International (formerly the American Society for Metals), TMS, Materials Research Society (MRS), ACerS, Association for Iron and Steel Technology (AIST), Society for the Advancement of Material and Process Engineering (SAMPE), National Association of Corrosion Engineers (NACE), American Welding Society (AWS), and for many faculty in materials departments, ASME, APS, ACS, etc., etc., etc. Clearly there is no single organization that provides the home for the faculties of materials departments and just as clearly there is no one place to seek the society benefits described above. Only through collaborative efforts amongst the societies can many of these issues be addressed, and unfortunately until recently, such collaboration has been rare.

Two examples of independent activity in materials education serve to make this point most clearly. Many professional societies support publications designed to display the pedagogical aspects of education as does the American Society of Engineering Education (ASEE), which serves all of the engineering disciplines. Papers on materials education have appeared at one time or another in many of these publications, but the only continuing format for such publications is an independent organization formed solely to publish such work and affiliated with no society at all. The Journal of Materials Education is published by the International Council on Materials Education ( According to its web pages, this organization, devoted solely to materials education, is "the continuing agency of the Materials Science and Engineering Community. It deals with all aspects of education in the field of Materials Science & Engineering, organizes workshops and symposia, cooperates with other organizations involved in materials educations and also publishes the Journal of Materials Education (JME)." The Journal of Materials Education began publication in 1979 (as the Journal of Educational Modules for Materials Science and Engineering). The 31st volume of this journal was published in 2009. JME is now published three times a year, and is the vehicle for distribution of instructional information about the expanding world of material science. Papers found in JME range from those of very specific technical nature and detail to broad discussions of accreditation and education principles A brief survey of the council web pages shows little activity beyond the publication of JME although a brief report of the 16th meeting (in 2001) of another independent activity "NEW" is posted.

The National Educators Workshop (NEW) was the brainchild and constant focus of Jim Jacobs of Norfolk State University in Virginia. Jacobs, with the financial and local site assistance of several DOE, DoD, and DOC labs and funding agencies, has organized independent educational symposia (NEW: Update) where materials educators share demonstrations and experiments that they have used in classes. Many of these examples have subsequently been published in JME, on a NASA-maintained web site, and in some instances (with the help of the ASM Materials Education Foundation, MRS, or others) on CDs or on-line. Jacobs is no longer leading this effort, but it continues to be maintained by faculty at Edmonds Community College in Lynnwood, Washington, and is supported by NSF in a large grant focused on the development of materials technology education, largely at community colleges (

This section was entitled "Shaping the Discipline" with the intention of being deliberately contentious. There has been much discussion over the years as to whether MSE is a "field," a research area, a discipline, all of these, or something else. These rather tedious discussions will certainly continue, but I come down strongly in favor of "discipline" when referring to the academic degree by that name. Over time, academic departments have assumed the name and the breadth of content consistent with the full spectrum of materials. Forty two (including non-accredited Stanford University and University of Virginia) of the undergraduate degrees now have the title MSE on the diploma and 20 others include the word "materials." It will be seen in the section titled Undergraduate Curriculum in MSE that the curricula of 15 of the leading undergraduate departments with titles of MSE share a common core. All of the 74 undergraduate departments would accept the idea that their common underpinning is the structure, properties, processing, and performance relations of the many materials of interest to engineers. What more is required to affirm the existence of a discipline?


Engineering vs. Science
Materials departments are located in engineering schools. That statement comes as no surprise recognizing the evolutionary path their development followed. If the metallurgical engineering department of yesterday had become the materials engineering department of today, there might be no issue here, but instead we are faced with an array of departments within engineering schools that increasingly are identified as materials science and engineering. Historically, the first step in the renaming process was from metallurgy to materials science. This focus on science was a natural consequence of the strong ARPA focus on interdisciplinary research and the general trend in engineering schools in those days to emphasize the scientific underpinnings of each of the engineering disciplines. With that change in focus came a dramatic increase in Ph.D. production from ~45 annually (COSMAT) in 1950 to 617 in 2008 (see Reference 12). It was only later that the word "engineering" was added to these departmental names, and with it the continuing need for clarification of what should constitute an undergraduate education. As discussed earlier, 42 undergraduate-degree-granting and six graduate-degree-only departments are now called Materials Science and Engineering.

What is a materials scientist and engineer? When phrased that way, it does sound a bit silly. How can one person be both a scientist and an engineer? It seems clear what is a physicist or chemist or biologist. It is straightforward to distinguish between a "chemist" and a "chemical engineer," though once individuals leave the university, they may morph one into the other. Similarly the distinction between "electrical engineering" and "physics" is clear at the B.S. level, though research by Ph.D.s with these titles may be rather similar. And so on for many other so-called disciplines. Distinctions between science and engineering are not always readily made, but one particularly attractive definition was offered years ago by Theodore von Karman (among other major distinguished positions, once Director of the Jet Propulsion Laboratories):

". . . Science is the study of what is . . . Engineering is the creation of what there never was . . ."

One must wonder whether an undergraduate curriculum can really adequately prepare its graduates for both of these paths and if not, what suffers in the attempt. In any case, since these MSE departments are lodged in engineering schools, they must seek accreditation should they wish it (and most departments certainly do) from ABET, Inc. Accreditation and its implications for the undergraduate curriculum will be explored in the next section.

While some students may think they know what they plan to do immediately following their undergraduate study (graduate school in materials, graduate study in other fields, or a job, likely in industry), the faculty must plan for all alternatives for each student and offer an undergraduate experience that will satisfy all options. This inevitably leads to a broad, rather than deep education . . . one that focuses on how to learn more at a later date. This is not unlike the liberal education that precedes further education for most other professions, and is understandably closely linked to issues of continuing education and discussion of a professional, accredited Master's degree for all engineers.

Engineering as a Profession
Accreditation of undergraduate engineering degrees is in the hands of ABET and its examining boards. Professional societies represent their engineering disciplines on these boards and actively select the ABET evaluators who visit departments as part of the process of accreditation. This society oversight leads to some uniformity of undergraduate programs across the various schools in most disciplines. The materials field with all of its many sub-elements and professional societies has a more difficult path in achieving this uniformity. TMS as primary member (ACerS through its engineering division, NICE, participates on the TMS accreditation committee) and MRS as associate member, represent the field on ABET and strive to keep requirements open enough to allow for the diversity in the field. This has become easier recently as ABET's new EC2000 criteria are analogous to industry's use of ISO standards. Just as with ISO, the criteria drive each of the programs to demonstrate that the programs: state what they want to accomplish; show evidence that this has been accomplished; and describe what is being done to effect continuous improvement. Accreditation is done primarily at the level of B.S. in all engineering disciplines including materials; however, the recent decision by the ASCE regarding professional education for civil engineers has encouraged CE departments to seek accreditation of a professional Master's Degree in CE.

This ABET approach does not require uniformity of course work at materials departments; however, inevitably common features are encouraged by this process. Most notably, the ABET process has been extremely influential over a period of years in increasing attention to design activity in engineering education in general and in materials education in particular.13

ABET criteria specific to materials programs apply to engineering programs including "materials," "metallurgical," "polymer," and similar modifiers in their titles. All programs in the materials related areas share these criteria, including programs with materials, materials processing, ceramics, glass, polymer, metallurgical, and similar modifiers in their titles.

The program must demonstrate that graduates have: the ability to apply advanced science (such as chemistry and physics) and engineering principles to materials systems implied by the program modifier (e.g., ceramics, metals, polymers, composite materials, etc.); an integrated understanding of the scientific and engineering principles underlying the four major elements of the field: structure, properties, processing, and performance related to material systems appropriate to the field; the ability to apply and integrate knowledge from each of the above four elements of the field to solve materials selection and design problems; the ability to utilize experimental, statistical and computational methods.

The faculty expertise for the professional area must encompass the four major elements of the field. Note the phrase I've underlined. It is these major item subject matter identifiers that define the discipline, not the specific materials focused on by each of the departments or emphasized in the degree curriculum.

For more information about ABET see ( and for a general description of the evaluation process, see (

ABET is one source for common criteria in engineering, but there are others such as the ASEE and the National Academy of Engineering (NAE). In 2005, the NAE released a major study of education in engineering schools entitled Educating the Engineer of 2020: Adapting Engineering Education to the New Century,14 referred to here in as NAE Education 2020. No discussion of undergraduate education in materials departments should proceed without understanding this context. Several important elements of this study are listed below and others have influenced discussions that are found elsewhere in the text. This NAE Education 2020 study is probably on the reading list of all deans of engineering schools and therefore will be dismissed at their peril by department chairs and heads. The report:

  1. Endorses idea that the undergraduate degree is becoming a "pre-engineering" degree and should be thought of as preparation for a professional degree at the Master's level; however, it encourages accreditation at both levels. [When this concept was discussed at the recent NSF Workshop and at a UMC meeting, the overwhelming sentiments of department chairs seemed to be against accreditation at the Master's level, however there is anecdotal evidence of increasing numbers of non-thesis Master's programs developing.]
  2. Defines an interesting new role for NSF: "The National Science Foundation should collect or assist collection of data on program approach and student outcomes for engineering departments/schools so that prospective freshman can better understand the "marketplace" of available engineering baccalaureate programs." [This would appear to be an opportunity for materials departments to join their sister departments in a project of information gathering and sharing that will benefit their students and aid in the recruitment process. Note: NSF is already supporting the development of the National Science Digital Library (NSDL) to provide "educational resources for science, technology, engineering and mathematics education." See]
  3. Provides a set of Guiding Strategies that may well enter the ABET system as underlying principles for judging undergraduate education.
  4. Clarifies the importance of professional societies: "Membership in professional societies and adherence to professional codes of ethics codified by such societies provide a means to achieve these (educational) ends. Professional societies are seen as the primary avenues through which engineers support their identities as professionals, identify opportunities for continuing professional education, and collectively communicate their views on issues affecting their profession to the policy community. Professional societies are also key portals through which knowledge is diffused to members of a profession. It is through this close connection to their members that professional societies can play an important role in advising on changes in the engineering education system."
  5. Emphasizes that the quality of teaching is critical: "The American Institute of Chemical Engineers, the American Society of Civil Engineers, the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, and the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers are collaborating to offer "Excellence in Engineering Education" teaching workshops for engineering faculty."
  6. Provides an extensive discussion and references to developing an understanding of how engineering practice is changing and how education should change to adapt.
  7. Offers a good discussion about retention. [Most previous discussions of MSE education have focused on recruiting, not retention. Kevin Jones does address this issue in his NSF Workshop presentation. He points to significant positive impact on retention through early introduction of Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU). How prevalent is retention as a problem for MSE departments? Is REU the answer? How about early design courses? See the next section for more on this topic.]
  8. Introduces a much needed discussion on diversity. [This topic has received considerable MSE attention in recent workshops and publications.]
  9. Provides an extended discussion about developing entrepreneurial and communication skills, [further elements broadening the undergraduate experience in a positive sense, but reducing the opportunity for depth and specialization].
  10. Carries out a comprehensive discussion of the issues associated with life-long learning, alternatives such as sharing or swirling with many institutions involved, and alternatives such as B.A. in Engineering as preparation for general societal knowledge in a tech based world . . . the B.A. of the 21st century.
  11. Describes outstanding experimental programs at Drexel, Olin, Purdue, and other universities that have turned the nature of the undergraduate experience upside down in preparation for new working environments in industry.
Recruiting and Retention

It has been common knowledge among academics since the advent of materials as a title for departments that high school students (and their influential parents and teachers) were generally ignorant of the term or of the career opportunities awaiting graduates with degrees in materials. Few students entered engineering schools with plans to major in materials. Most of those who did eventually select the materials field did so after some process of recruiting. Every department engages in one or many of the following recruiting practices: participate in freshman orientations describing the department and the field; offer special courses for freshman to attract them; invite freshman to special events hosted by the department (with the usual complimentary pizzas); teach the introductory course on materials that was once required of all undergraduate engineering students and lure some of them to transfer their major; visit local high schools (and sometimes community colleges) to attempt to reach students before they make their major selections at the nearby university (or to encourage transfers from the community college). One common feature of most of these activities is that they were deemed a chore by most faculty members, a required but somewhat frustrating part of being in the university scene. A brief further discussion of this topic may be found in Appendix F, which excerpts a paper describing my views on undergraduate education at Northwestern University's MSE department in 1978. (The full paper is available from the author upon request.)

The last ten years have witnessed significant changes in the recruiting scene, bringing with them opportunities for significant growth in undergraduate enrollment and intellectually more stimulating opportunities for faculty engagement. Stimulated by funding from several federal agencies, most significantly NSF, and by some private sources, and encouraged as part of general concerns about decreased interest in science and engineering careers, a host of outreach programs targeted at all pre-college age groups has arisen. Within this array of activities are three noteworthy areas of focus that have dramatically increased the ability to reach young people with the message about exciting fields of endeavor and related career opportunities. What follows is a brief description of these: general outreach to the public and K-8, links to specific high school students and teachers, and materials courses in the high schools. Reaching young people today is a multi-media exercise. Museums, TV, the Internet, podcasts, etc., etc., are ubiquitous. One may find examples of use of all of these media to reach young people (and their parents) and excite them about the wonder of materials. Most of these efforts involve single universities and nearby museums and schools. A few are truly national in character and are reaching thousands to millions of viewers. In a presentation made at the recent MS&T'09, I reviewed many of the most widely available examples of these efforts, including:

  • Penn State's museum exhibits ( are now available at 20 museums across the country, provide materials demos for young people;
  • RPI's "Molecularium" ( is a wonderful cartoon show about molecules and nanotechnology exhibited in 17 planetaria and museums and soon to be seen in an IMAX version;
  • Cornell's "Nanooze" ( is a web site with extended answers to student and teacher questions about nanotech, games to play and links to other sites;
  • MRS's "Strange Matter" ( is both a museum exhibit and a web site. The exhibit, hands-on and interactive, has been seen by more than 2 million visitors at 25 science museum sites from 2004 to 2008. The accompanying and yet independent web pages was accessed by ~1/2 million viewers during this same period, providing downloadable material for students, parents and teachers;
  • ASM's "City of Materials," (, provides games, lesson plans for middle school teachers, podcasts downloadable to mp3 players, and important links to other materials education information including the materials camps described below.
Direct contact with local high school students and/or teachers is made by all universities in one form or another. Several major examples, now common in the materials community, are Research Experience for Teachers (RETs) and camps.

The RETs, funded by NSF and implemented locally by each participating department or research center, leads to personal relationships with small numbers of local high school teachers who spend time at the university (summer and follow-up academic year visits) carrying out research in collaboration with the faculty and students. These high school teachers return to their classrooms with knowledge and appreciation of opportunities in materials and may then communicate these to their students in formal and informal ways.

"Camps" is a convenient shorthand for workshops, training sessions and lab experiences that may last from several hours to several weeks, may be residential or commuting, and may target students (usually high school, primarily 2nd and 3rd year students) or their teachers. The intention is usually to provide the attendees with hands-on experiences with materials and to excite their interest in learning more. Many individual academic departments or centers run such camps as do several federally funded laboratories. The undisputed leadership in materials camps goes, however, to the ASM Materials Education Foundation that developed a camp program for high school students in 2000, added a program for teachers in 2002, and during 2009 ran a total of 52 camps. During the past decade, nearly 5,000 students and 2,400 teachers have shared the wonder of materials in a one-week "camp" session. For further information see:

These informal ways to reach students and encourage their interest in careers in the materials field are now being supplemented by two programs designed to bring the subject of materials into the classroom in a formal manner, Materials World Modules (MWM) and ASM materials courses.

Materials World Modules is a series of self-contained one- to three-week modules of materials topics (e.g., composite materials, sports materials, food packaging), developed at Northwestern University with NSF funding and tested in local high schools as insertions in regularly scheduled science classes. When teachers have flexibility to introduce their own choice topics or where there is an appropriate substitution to make, these excellent modules are available with both student and teacher manuals and suggested experimental supplies, etc. The MWM web site ( indicates that ~40,000 students have been exposed to one or more modules.

The ASM materials courses are traceable to program development at the Pacific Northwest National Lab (PNNL) in the 1990s. Working with local teachers and faculty at the University of Washington and Edmonds Community College, the PNNL staff developed inexpensive labs and taught them to local high school teachers who began to organize them and offer full, elective courses in materials at their schools. The ASM Foundation Teachers Materials Camps are based on this material and use the Washington teachers (and increasingly others) as Master Teachers. This program has now led to teachers in other states electing to offer one semester or full year elective courses. ASM Foundation data now records 73 high school teachers in 14 states who offer some variant of this lab-based course with 41 additional teachers who intend to do so in 2010. This bottom-up approach is receiving significant support from ASM's many partners, and is anticipated to reach many thousands of young people through their teachers. For further information, see:

Retention has always been an issue in engineering schools but is a relatively new concern for materials departments as they increasingly encounter students who elect materials as they enter the university. Who among us engineers cannot recall an event when some member of the faculty looked out at freshman engineering students assembled in a large auditorium and said something like: "Look at the student on your left and the one on your right. One of the three of you will not be around here next year!" What a terrible waste! All of those students had shown aptitude and interest for engineering, but we faculty had a plan to discourage 1/3 of them before their sophomore year. The plan, of course, was to keep them far away from engineering experiences and immerse them in calculus, chemistry, and physics. Those who did not drown were passed along to the second year where introductory engineering topics picked off a few more while those who survived that far usually lasted long enough to complete their BSE.

Engineering faculties have finally awakened to the foolishness of this approach and in many experimental venues have radically transformed the freshman year. Early exposures to design, to group learning, and to research experiences are having major impact on retention throughout engineering. Several successful examples of these approaches are included in the NAE Education 2020 report. Kevin Jones in his presentation at the NSF workshop spoke in some detail about the extremely positive impact on retention of undergraduate MSE students at the University of Florida when they were brought into the department's research laboratories and exposed to research challenges. There the Research Experience in Materials Program is designed to address attrition in the first two years. It is open to 20–30 freshmen and sophomores who are placed in a lab and join graduate students working on a project. Students are paid $10/hour for 10 hours/week. The program is supported in large part by private donations from corporations and individuals, although additional funding may be available from NSF and its program of Research Experiences for Undergraduates.

Continuing this section on elements of engineering affecting undergraduate education, it will be fruitful to look next at the anticipated industrial opportunities that await those who will leave the university to go directly to industry. What does industry expect of these graduates?

Employment Paths for a B.S. in MSE
There is a natural curiosity about what occupations are being filled by graduates of materials departments and whether this is being appropriately reflected in their preparation. Another way to address this same issue might be to ask whether a different preparation for students would make them more attractive to industries. Consider the following fact (from Marilea Mayo in NMAB Workshop6): MSE grads are fully employed at salaries comparable to the middle to best received by all engineers. Hence the product is selling. What about feedback from industry? It is anecdotal, but the buzz is that when metallurgists are desired, MSE grads are hired and then their particular knowledge is expanded by either intra- or extra-company continuing education experiences. Thus, while industry is a proponent of specialization in the undergraduate curriculum, it is coping by looking beyond the baccalaureate for development of specialized expertise.

The appropriate mix of coursework for an undergraduate degree cannot be properly assessed without examining the likely future career paths of these graduates, but unfortunately the data is not readily available for several reasons.

First, graduates generally take one of three paths: on to graduate school in materials related fields, on to graduate school in quite different fields (medicine, law, business, etc.) and on to some form of industrial activity. The proportion of students following one or the other of these paths varies from year to year with the economy and from school to school as the emphasis on application or research varies (not to mention the local industrial opportunities presented to students "near home"). Data from the ASEE suggests that about 1/2 of materials undergraduates eventually obtain graduate degrees.15 The remainder of this section will focus on those of the graduates that go directly to industry, while recognizing that their educational demands might be thought to be quite different than for the other two groups.

Second, the evolution of the field from decade to decade means that any given industry list will no longer be comprehensive enough in future years. Third, and most confusing, is the inevitability that industries will hire from a broad technical field and mold and fit the individual to the job with continuing education of some type or another. Thus people performing "materials jobs" in industry have quite often earned degrees with some other name attached. This latter situation has been further exacerbated in recent years as other departments take on materials education responsibilities.

Both the COSMAT and COMSE studies and the NMAB Workshop addressed the issue of workforce and since these were spaced at intervals of ~10–15 years give a useful, if fuzzy picture of the industrial workforce issues.

From COSMAT: "Existing data on scientific and engineering manpower generally are not categorized along the multidisciplinary lines of materials science and engineering. We have used a list of specialties characterizing the field, therefore, to extract manpower data from prime sources. On this basis it appears that materials science and engineering involves some 500,000 of the 1.8 million scientists and engineers in the United States. We estimate that there is a full-time equivalent of 315,000 scientists and engineers in the field, including about 115,000 full-time practitioners. Within the latter group are approximately 50,000 professionals holding materials-designated degrees.

Engineers, even without counting the materials-designated professionals, constitute the largest manpower group in materials science and engineering; they number 400,000 individuals, and constitute a full-time equivalent of 200,000. The situation with respect to women and minority groups in the materials field appears to be no different from that in science and engineering generally. The current state of manpower data for materials science and engineering, and our knowledge of the relevant patterns of manpower flow, do not permit reasonable comparisons of the field with the traditional disciplines.

However, as the role of materials science and engineering in meeting societal needs becomes more widely understood, it is quite possible that there will be an increasing demand for scientists and engineers in the materials field.

It should be emphasized that the boundaries of materials science and engineering are blurred and continually evolving. The central disciplines and sub-disciplines include solid-state physics and chemistry, polymer physics and chemistry, metallurgy, ceramics, and portions of many engineering disciplines. In a broad sense the field also includes segments of mechanics; of organic, physical, analytical, and inorganic chemistry; and of chemical, mechanical, electrical, electronic, civil, environmental, aeronautical, nuclear, and industrial engineering (Table II)."

When COMSE turned its attention to this same subject using data from 1986, they observed: "The multidisciplinary nature of materials science and engineering complicates any assessment of personnel levels in the field, but rough estimates are possible (Table III). According to a report issued by the National Science Foundation (NSF), U.S. Scientists and Engineers: 1986 (Surveys of Science Resources Series, NSF, 87–322, NSF, Washington, D.C., 1987), there were 53,100 individuals employed in the United States in 1986 who identified themselves as materials scientists and engineers and had backgrounds in metallurgy, materials, or ceramics. There were also 72,600 physicists and astronomers and 184,700 chemists employed in the United States in 1986. By analyzing the sub-disciplines of physics and chemistry, the committee has estimated that 30 percent of the former group and 33 percent of the latter group have specialized in materials science and engineering. Therefore, for the purposes of this analysis, 21,800 materials physicists and 61,000 materials chemists can be considered to have been working in the field of materials science and engineering in 1986. By combining these estimates, the committee concluded that a core population of approximately 136,000 individuals were involved in materials science and engineering work in 1986. Many engineers other than materials engineers regularly use materials or encounter materials-related problems. For instance, engineers who design electronic devices or are involved in aspects of their assembly regularly confront complex materials fabrication problems. However, a relatively small proportion of such groups are involved daily; most of the individuals are using the fruits of, rather than contributing to, materials science and engineering. Within the large and expanding population of life scientists, some individuals specialize in biomaterials. There is no way at present to estimate the contributions to the materials science and engineering community from these disciplines, so contributions from these groups also were not included in this analysis. An important feature of the personnel statistics arises in their portrayal of work activities. Among materials engineers, nearly twice as many individuals work in R&D as in production or inspection (Table IV), and the relative proportions are much greater for materials chemists and physicists. This is another indication of the relative lack of emphasis accorded synthesis and processing within materials science and engineering. Changes in educational programs and industrial management will be necessary to involve more materials scientists and engineers in production-related activities. These changes must involve raising the perception of the intellectual level and value of these areas."

Trying to get comparable data for later years is most difficult. One approach is to take a look at the NSF surveys of S&E Workforce Data. As this document is being written, the most recent compilation posted is for 1999 (Why?). Focusing only on those categories identified as materials, metallurgical and mining/minerals engineering, one finds ~80,000 in the workforce compared with comparable numbers for 1986 and 1968 of 53,000 and 50,000 found by COMSE AND COSMAT, respectively. Strangely the total number of other engineers tabulated in the 1999 survey is approximately the same as in 1986 (highly unlikely) while the numbers of chemists and physicists have each more than doubled in this period. At this point, I can only speculate about these apparent discrepancies as the 1986 survey is not available on-line. It is probably not worth pursuing this much further, as the critical issue is what fraction of other engineers should be considered materials science and engineering practitioners. As will be discussed later, there is no question that the fractions of interest have increased dramatically as small materials departments were absorbed into mechanical and chemical engineering departments and as the research agendas in many departments broadened to include many aspects of materials engineering. It would appear that the only way to be quantitative about workforce distribution is to look at surveys that identify actual activities of the S&E's, and trace back to original degrees. I'm unaware of any survey instrument that has done that.

Without quantitative data, what can one say in general about the nature of the employment future of undergraduates in materials departments? First, it is important to note that the fraction of materials undergraduates that pursue research oriented advanced degrees far exceeds that of the other engineering disciplines (Reference 4). Thus the student career paths diverge just as do the degree names of science and engineering although many of those who go to graduate school end up in industry and many who go directly to industry return for graduate study. Once again, much needed data is either lacking, or in need of aggregation from the several departments.

Next, looking broadly at the manufacturing base, it is clear that many of the primary metals companies have either gone offshore or have dramatically changed their business model so that they employ fewer people overall and far fewer scientists and engineers (Geiger, NMAB Workshop6). This decrease in opportunity was more than matched during the 1980s and 1990s by demands for experts in functional materials for the new electronics and optical industries. Correspondingly, funding sources and faculty hires adjusted to this changing reality. Are we now in further transition as bio- and nano-materials are taking over the research agendas in materials departments? Clearly the funding sources are moving in these directions (and the intellectual curiosity justifies these moves), but will the jobs follow?

One data base that might be interesting to study has yet to be aggregated. Each academic department makes some effort to identify where their graduates go. Understandably, tracking those graduates after first jobs is difficult and incomplete, but the first job indicators may be rich with information about trends. An example of the diversity of occupational paths followed by MSE grads is given in Figure 2 taken from the Abaschian NMAB Workshop paper. Other relevant data exist in co-op experiences of undergraduates, such as those at MIT cited by Flemings8 and repeated here in Table V. Unfortunately, while individual departments have such data it has not been aggregated and we all know the uncertainty inherent in the small number samples of a single department. Is this a task that should be assumed by the academic MSE community and its professional societies? Certainly, lack of clarity about future employment locale and job responsibility is one of the major factors that must be recognized in shaping curricula for materials departments.

Roles of Other Disciplines
We often say that "materials are the stuff that things are made of" so it is no surprise that every other branch of engineering that focuses on "making things" would also give serious attention to the "stuff" they use. A common practice in those other discipline curricula is a course on materials selection. Historically, in many schools, it fell to the metals and then to the materials departments to offer these "service" courses to students of other disciplines. In time, these other departments demanded more specific courses, targeted at their needs, rather than the general introduction to materials that was common to the curriculum for students within the materials department. In some instances, this led to specialized "service" courses, targeted to ME, CE, EE, ChE, etc. In many cases, though, these other departments began to teach these courses themselves. Their ability to do so was facilitated by the publication of a variety of introductory texts about materials science and engineering and by the employment in many of these departments of materials experts focused on the specific aspects of materials of relevance to their fields. Simplistically, one may expect to find experts distributed as follows: ME – metals and composites; CE &ndash: concrete; EE &ndash: electronic, optical and magnetic materials; ChE – polymers. Some of these individuals are listed in the MSE departments (joint appointments), while in other cases, these are other faculty members with strong professional ties to ASME, ASCE, IEEE, and AIChE.

What are the implications of these transitions in academia on materials education in engineering in general and on MSE undergraduate education in particular? Both COSMAT and COMSE noted that it is engineers trained in these other disciplines that dominate the numbers of "materials responsible" persons in industry. Where do they get their further information about materials as their careers mature? One need only attend the huge agendas on materials issues that are common at meetings of AIChE, IEEE or ASME to recognize that these societies are major players in "our" field. Are there opportunities for enhanced dialogue between the education committees of these disciplines and those of the materials societies? My limited current knowledge in this area will limit this section to observations that may, hopefully, whet the appetite of others to pursue the issues further.

Undergraduate materials education takes place in the milieu of all engineering education and is subject to all of the pressures and constraints imposed by the surroundings. Many of these pressures are enriching the undergraduate experience, bringing design squarely on to the scene, enhancing the first year and encouraging success, rather than anticipating failure on the part of as many as one-third of entering students. On the other hand, these factors strongly influence the curriculum flexibility and available time that may be devoted to specialization. How are materials departments adjusting? What are the impacts on curricula?


Over the years, many descriptions of the undergraduate curriculum have been published. In its 1974 report, COSMAT offered the overall picture of core materials science content shown in Figure 3. While the details change dramatically over the years, this figure would not be too far off the mark today. Many years ago, in another life, I produced a rather more detailed description of the status of undergraduate curricular development at Northwestern University in 1978 (see Appendix F). Two recent presentations on the subject of undergraduate education have been authored by Reza Abaschian and Kevin Jones, both chairs of the University of Florida's MSE department at the time of each document's preparation, and these will form the basis of much of the discussion in this section. Abaschian (NMAB Workshop) began by emphasizing as underlying principle the materials tetrahedron paradigm of synthesis/processing, structure/composition, properties and performance as described in COMSE (see Figure 4). He noted the expanded range of materials topics that need be covered and the inevitable shift toward greater breadth and less depth. He also raised the issues associated with the reduced number of courses required for graduation with a B.S. in engineering, of the need for a balance between science and engineering and the expanded focus on societal impacts. He examined the curricula of 11 peer schools, and summarized the results.

[Parenthetically, I feel compelled to repeat here the observation I made nine years ago while Director of AFOSR. I suggested that, as a community, we had done pretty well with the processing, structure, property plane of this tetrahedron, but still had a long way to go in delivering quantitative performance information, the information demanded by designers. In the ensuing years, great progress has been made in this direction, stimulated in part by DARPA programs such as Accelerated Insertion of Materials and Prognosis and related efforts by the ASOSR and ONR, and summarized in a recent NRC study of Integrated Computational Materials Engineering. The next task is to bring this aspect of our field into the undergraduate education arena. I am pleased to note that UMC will be sponsoring a spring, 2010 workshop on this and other aspects of including computation as part of the undergraduate curriculum. The bad news, of course is that this is still more content to try to fit into those few four years. Clearly integration into existing courses will be one of the guiding strategies.]

Based on his analysis, Abaschian identified the "core" topics found in most of these departments as:

  • Introduction to materials
  • Experimental techniques
  • Thermodynamics
  • Transport properties
  • Phase equilibria
  • Phase transformation
  • Kinetics
  • Structure
  • Characterization
  • Mechanical behavior
  • Electronic, magnetic, and optical behavior
  • Synthesis, processing, and manufacturing
  • Materials selection and design
  • Failure analysis.
At Florida in 2002, this led to the curriculum sketched in Figure 5. In an interesting footnote, Abaschian summarized a list of topics and courses that had been dropped since the undergraduate days of the 1960s: Analytical Chemistry; Physical Chemistry; Statistics; Statics; Strength of Materials; Mass and Energy Balances; Deformation Processing; Joining; Melting and Refining; and Thermal Processing. The practicing materials engineer is now presumably expected to either have no need of these concepts and facts, to learn them as part of continuing education, or, working in a team environment, to depend on others who will bring these skills to the table.

In his presentation to the NSF Workshop in 2008, Jones brought these same issues to the discussion and updated much of what Abaschian had explored years earlier. Jones selected the "top" fifteen undergrad MSE departments (U.S. News and World Report, for study, mined their web sites for data and exchanged emails with some for clarification. The following several paragraphs and figures are extracted from the PowerPoint presentation he made at the NSF Workshop in 2008. I take responsibility for any errors in interpretation.

The faculty members of these 15 departments have already been mentioned earlier in this paper, in the section titled Shaping the Discipline and Appendix E. They represent departments of MSE in engineering schools at: Carnegie Mellon, Cornell, Florida, Illinois Urbana-Champaign, Georgia Institute of Technology, Michigan, MIT, Northwestern, Ohio State, University of Pennsylvania, Penn State, Purdue, Stanford, Wisconsin-Madison, and U.C. Berkeley. The undergraduate MSE degrees in all of these departments save that at Stanford are ABET accredited. The curricula of these departments were sufficiently similar in their core (required) offerings that a clear pattern emerged even though course names differed somewhat. Jones described the core in terms of six broad headings:

  • General Knowledge
    • Course on Introduction to MSE
    • Courses on Fundamentals that allow one to understand the Processing-Structure relationship:
      • Thermodynamics
      • Phase Diagrams; Kinetics
    • (At the University of Florida additionally required are:
      • Interfacial Engineering
      • Organic Chemistry)
  • Properties
    • Courses on Properties
      • Mechanical, Electrical most common
      • Additional classes on optical/magnetic properties sometimes offered
  • Processing
    • Each Curriculum has several classes on Processing
      • At the core level this is generally an introduction to different materials including processing of those materials
      • More in depth processing classes occur at the specialization level
  • Structure
    • Course on Structure/Crystallography
    • Course on Materials Characterization
  • Application/Performance
    • Materials Laboratory Courses
    • Research Classes
    • Corrosion/Materials Stability Course
  • Capstone Class
    • Course on Materials Selection/Design
Of course the unique character of each department would be revealed when details of what is contained in each course were examined along with the additional courses available at each school to fill out the program.

It is in the area of specialization that there appears to be the most variance amongst the 15 departments. Typical curricula have 4–6 course slots available that may be organized into specializations (somewhat less formal than "majors"). Jones presents one example of the variability one might expect to find with the list shown as Table VI. In this list of processing courses available beyond the core course, processing of metals, ceramics and polymers appear with the highest frequency as might have been expected, but the diversity is large, reflecting the broad range of technical focus among the 15 departments.

The arguments in favor of specialization are straight forward. Students will get a deeper understanding and command of the technical issues surrounding a narrow material type (metal, ceramic, composite, semiconductor, etc.) or area of current research interest (nanotechnology or biotechnology). They will presumably be better prepared for the specific industry group targeted by the specialization or will be better prepared for graduate study in the area of specialization. For some faculty, specialization may be seen as a recruiting and/or retention tool. For the student, it offers options that may be ideal for those who "know where they want to go next." For some in industry who really want to hire a "metallurgist," it offers the next best thing, MSE undergraduates with strong knowledge that can be readily expanded with self-study in the specialty area.

The counterarguments to specialization are less clearly articulated. These arguments seem to center around the idea that a B.S. in MSE should be "branded". Just as one might expect that any B.S. graduate in Civil or Electrical Engineering would be prepared for the next stage in career paths normally followed by civil or electrical engineers, so should MSE graduates. Implied here are assumptions about the uniformity in undergraduate degrees in CE and EE that may not be justified in practice, but that are stated goals of these and other engineering disciplines. Thus the arguments against specialization appear to be arguments in favor of further clarifying the disciplinarity of MSE.

Of course, the choices of specialty areas in any department are limited by availability of faculty to teach the desired range of courses and sufficient size in the undergraduate department to justify the inevitable small class sizes in specialty courses. Larger departments have greater flexibility to offer more specialization. Analysis of the top 15 departments showed that: six departments offer structured specializations (typically Metals, Ceramic, Polymers, Electronic Materials, Biomaterials); six departments offer electives to create a specialization (similar to the first category but more flexible); and three departments do not offer specialization. Not surprisingly, the average undergraduate department enrollments of these three categories were ~150, ~90 and ~50, respectively.

Jones closed this part of his presentation with an analysis of the specific changes that have occurred in the University of Florida (UF) MSE undergraduate curriculum, both core and specialization, during the 2002–2008 period. In general these involved dropping courses that are specific to a single material (e.g., intro to metals, intro to ceramics) and expanding offerings that cover common features in many materials (e.g., interfacial engineering, introduction to crystalline materials). He introduced a convenient metric, the curriculum vector, attributed to one of his colleagues, Robert DeHoff, characterizing courses as vertical or horizontal. Vertical (V) courses: those focused at particular materials or narrow single measurement techniques and laboratories; horizontal (H) courses: those with cross-cutting, multi-materials focus or broad characterization laboratories.

The UF 2002 curriculum included 23 H credits and 29 V credits. These are the coordinates of a 52° vector. By 2008, the program had shifted to 34 H and 14 V with a vector at only 22°. This may be as "horizontal" as one can get without completely eliminating specialty courses from the curriculum. Keeping in mind the variety of future first job scenarios anticipated for graduates from this program (Figure 2), the horizontal curriculum seems quite appropriate. However, it does raise front and center the critical issue of what education is needed by actual practitioners of MSE in the years following graduation and the path(s) to such training and knowledge. The next two sections will explore this issue from two perspectives: definition of the body of knowledge of MSE and continuing education options.

Several other aspects of the undergraduate curriculum received attention at the NSF workshop. First is the importance of "soft' versus "hard" skills in the education of materials scientists and engineers. This question should be considered in terms of the impact of globalization of materials science and engineering and the workforce in general. According to the NSF Workshop Summary, "Hard" was interpreted as technical, both core and elective, while "soft" skills are those such as working in teams, oral and written presentation, business (including entrepreneurial) skills, ethics, etc. The workshop came down squarely in favor of introducing the "soft" by integrating it into the "hard" and maintaining balance. [LHS comment: This opens the discussion, but doesn't begin to really address the "how." I think a focused workshop (at one of the professional society meetings or stand-alone) should be organized to look at examples of how this is being done by various educators and departments. Publication of a stand-alone or JME edition would help focus attention on this very difficult challenge for MSE educators.]

Next is the question of whether materials science and engineering should embark on a major revolution of its core curriculum? Can both traditional (e.g., corrosion, phase diagrams, etc.) and modern (biology, computational materials science and engineering, cyber-enabled discovery) topics be taught at an appropriate level within the constraints of limited credit hours? Are undergraduate research experiences important to the development of materials scientists and engineers?

The NSF Workshop Summary response: No revolution is required. Current general agreement about "core" (as evidenced in the Kevin Jones study) suggests that some coherent agreement already exists. [LHS comment: Individual department experimentation built around this common core will continue to be the order of the day in undergraduate education, but learning from one another through shared data bases might facilitate this process. With the initiation of the UECC comes the potential assistance of staff expertise on data mining that might make an appropriately structured data base of course content, not merely course names, valuable to educators.]

Finally is the question of how can the gulf between materials science and engineering designated and related programs be bridged? Given the proliferation of materials science courses in related departments, is there a need for designated materials science and engineering programs?

The NSF Workshop Summary response: Accept the reality that others will wish to teach "their version" of overlapping subjects (thermo, solid state physics, etc.) and take advantage of that by eliminating redundancy and encouraging cross-listing while trying to work with others to jointly teach some of these. Yes, there continues to be a need for the undergraduate materials degree, especially to address the specialty needs of many industrial employers. [LHS comment: Of course, as we have seen earlier, the specialty needs of employers will increasingly not be met by undergraduate education alone, so a strong motivation for the undergraduate materials degree can only be made in the context of a comprehensive educational environment in which it becomes the desired prerequisite for the continuing education that must ensue.]

Master's Degree, Continuing Education, Body of Knowledge, and the Professional Societies
One of the major tasks assumed by professional societies is maintaining vigilance over the development of the next generation of those professionals. Included in this broad responsibility are such activities as making the world aware of the value of their profession, encouraging young people to pursue study toward college and graduate study in the field, maintaining and improving the quality of the educational experience in colleges and universities and providing continuing education opportunities demanded in continuously evolving fields. It is these last two areas of activity that will be addressed in this section. The need for this discussion is particularly acute in the case of the materials "profession" because of the lack of a single society as a home for these critical activities.

We have seen from the discussion about common curriculum and the coalescence of department names toward MSE (and even more completely toward Materials) that a discipline has emerged and is crystallizing. What then are the elements of knowledge and experience that we expect to find in a typical graduate from one of these departments? We have seen a list of course names, most of which are evocative of courses we once took when we were in school, but certainly must have evolved dramatically. We know that the faculty who teach these courses bring experiences and points of view from many disciplines and must certainly have added to and modified even the most fundamental of the "core" courses. Can we dig below the names of courses and clarify what is actually being taught? Is there an agreed upon content? Is there an agreed upon body of knowledge (BOK) that characterizes a degree recipient in MSE? If we can agree on what that BOK is, can it be achieved within the four-year undergraduate experience? If not, is a Master's degree required and should such a degree be accredited? These are questions that will be lightly touched on in this section, but I believe that they form the underlying unresolved issues facing the further development of MSE as a discipline and will continue to engage the academic and society communities for years to come.

These issues are discussed together because they all arise from the fundamental observation made by many but quantified by Jones with his focus on the increasingly horizontal curriculum vector of MSE undergraduate education. Responding to many drivers, the undergraduate curriculum is increasingly "a mile wide and an inch deep." Yet we all know that actual practice of the engineering or science of materials requires depth in the area(s) of application. For those who would pursue the path of science, the Ph.D. (with perhaps a thesis-based Master's degree along the way) followed by life-long continuing education continues to effectively meet the need. But what is the path for those who would join industry and "practice" materials engineering? Their need is for extensive education beyond the BSE level and they obtain it from many sources. The clever Figure 6 shows the continuing education options (Reference 16). One immediate reaction to this cartoon is that all of the education providers are seen as independent. Perhaps it is now time for closer links between at least some of these providers, the colleges and universities and those profit and non profit activities of the professional societies. Are there opportunities for a more structured collaborative "planned" array of options for continuing education that will address the needs of the practicing materials engineer but fall short of the professional Master's degree?

I'll begin this discussion by focusing first on the university provider. Will the next step for the BSE in materials be a Master's degree? Clearly other engineering disciplines are moving in this direction. Among the specific recommendations made in the NAE Education 2020 report on Engineering Education are these:

  • "The B.S. degree should be considered as a pre-engineering or "engineer in training" degree.
  • Engineering programs should be accredited at both the B.S. and M.S. levels, so that the M.S. degree can be recognized as the engineering "professional" degree.
  • Institutions should take advantage of the flexibility inherent in the EC2000 accreditation criteria of ABET, Incorporated (previously known as the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology) in developing curricula, and students should be introduced to the "essence" of engineering early in their undergraduate careers.
  • Colleges and universities should endorse research in engineering education as a valued and rewarded activity for engineering faculty and should develop new standards for faculty qualifications.
  • In addition to producing engineers who have been taught the advances in core knowledge and are capable of defining and solving problems in the short term, institutions must teach students how to be lifelong learners."

It would appear that ASCE, acting for the Civil Engineering Profession, has gone the farthest. The American Society of Civil Engineers Policy Statement 465, unanimously adopted by the Board of Directors in 2001, states that the Society ". . . supports the concept of the Master's degree or equivalent as a prerequisite for licensure and the practice of civil engineering at the professional level." Developed over a decade by a committee formed within ASCE, the Civil Engineering BOK for the 21st Century, readily available on their web site (, describes desired outcomes required for licensure as a CE and suggests locations within the BSE and MS programs at which point those outcomes can be developed. This vision then becomes the framework for discussion of detailed curricular options by a separate, designated Curricula Committee. The current products of this effort are displayed in brief in Appendix G, drawn from Wikepedia and the ASCE BOK 2nd Edition.

The full court press effort of BOK development is an improbable path for materials education, certainly now and perhaps not even in the future. Several reasons for this are apparent. No single society with the resources of ASCE represents the materials community. Materials engineers are rarely inclined to seek professional standing. Perhaps most importantly, the Master's degree in materials has little perceived value. Industrial salaries may be taken as a measure of value. In her presentation at the NMAB Workshop, Merrilea Mayo examined Bureau of Labor statistics and noted that in 1997 for materials engineers, the average salary at the BSE level was $60,360 vs. $66,036 for those with an MS; however, for the same age cohort, the salary difference was in the noise. Thus, there appears to be no financial driver for an M.S. degree. By contrast, in these same data sets, Ph.D.s garnered $74,280-80,364 yielding a significant salary difference of $6,084 for the same age cohort.

Materials educators have considered the issue of a professional Master's degree and rejected it in two formats which I witnessed in recent years (the fall, 2007 UMC meeting and the 2008 NSF Workshop). Objections included those listed above and the complexity of accreditation at two levels (most department chairs are already under considerable time and labor strain when preparing for the re-accreditation of the undergraduate degree).

Of course there already are about 700 M.S. degrees awarded each year (see Figure 2), a number that has fluctuated little since the 1980s. There must be data at each university department describing the curricula, student make-up and demography of these students, and their interests in seeking these degrees, but that information is unavailable in a collective form. How many M.S. degrees are taken by students who return from industry and how many follow immediately after the B.S. How many are paid for by the industrial employer, how many by research contracts and how many by the individual recipient? How many students take courses on the path to the M.S. but don't complete it? How many M.S. degrees are with research thesis, how many with project study (individual or group)? (Certainly these are not all failed Ph.D. candidates! Nor are all M.S. degrees earned on the way to Ph.D.s!) It would be an interesting project (for UMC or a professional society) to begin to aggregate this data to better understand the needs and opportunities at this level of materials education. In any case it is clear from these numbers that nearly match the BSE production, that a significant part of the needed continuing education of materials experts is being addressed in a formal manner. We just don't know how much or of what character. Looked at from a strictly business point of view, this seems to be rather bad management of a major part of the business enterprise.

A second aspect of continuing education at universities, whether leading to degrees or not, is those issues associated with distance learning. Traditional formal classes with students facing the teacher in a closed room at a fixed meeting time are clearly not the only model now proven for university education. The options available with distance learning are limited only by the imaginations of the providers and their administrative constraints. Individual faculty transmitting their courses, joint teaching, including faculty from the same institution and/or others, and involvement of adjunct faculty from anywhere in the world are all options that have been tried and must be expected to expand in the future. University barriers to such experimentation must be attacked and strategies for tuition sharing invented or the students and their ultimate employers will be the losers.

Turn next to the society roles. Professional education of the "next generation" has always been central to professional society concerns and will continue to demand attention. A host of changes in the materials education field of endeavor, the manner of instruction, the need to address not only technical but business and ethical issues, the demands of continuing education beyond the bachelor's level "professional" degree in materials science and engineering . . . all of these issues are properly addressed by professional organizations in collaboration with educators.

There is already a major role for professional societies in this arena of continuing education. Historically, strong programs, such as the one run by ASM International and others, have been the centerpiece of continuing education in the metals fields. Handbooks, courses, both in person and on-line have been seen as both a valuable service to the users and a significant opportunity for society members who wish to pass along their expertise to the next generation. Now, the opportunity arises for closer interaction between the academic world and the professional societies. Quoting once again from the NAE Education 2020 report, "Kansas State University and ASME have created a distance learning partnership to bring a series of online professional development courses to engineering managers and administrators, and to engineering technical professionals. The courses, taught by ASME instructors, offer academic credit through Kansas State University." How many opportunities of this type are yet to be implemented by the materials academic community and its array of professional societies?

Further progress on continuing education by either universities or professional societies may depend on them working together more closely. The conversation between academic departments and professional societies should begin with the full recognition of what is happening to our field: reduced numbers and changing demography of departments; "materials" being taught in other engineering departments; too much to teach as the field broadens and the requirements for engineering education continue to expand; and finally the rather impossible task of teaching both materials science and materials engineering in four years within a single department for students who may go on to scientific research careers or may go on to engineering practice in industry.

We must all certainly agree that no undergraduate curriculum can contain all of the content required to "practice", so the real issue is what form the continuing education will take. Perhaps a better question is: what are the marketable forms that such advanced education will take? The MIT fully industrial financed approach may work for MIT and a few large corporations, but it doesn't seem to fit a world in which pay scales for M.S. exceed those for BSE by only a bit (unlike the situation in business education, where the company sponsored MBA is quite common). My own preferred approach is a non-residential, web-based educational system that enables expanded knowledge in those areas that are job-critical. While advanced degrees might be an option in such a system, they would not be critical and students could be offered credit or non-credit options. Such a "system" already exists, but universities are not universally engaged and administrative issues regarding cross-listing and credit acceptance need to be addressed. Other entities such as the ASM continuing education courses continue to thrive suggesting a waiting clientele with opportunities yet to be met in support of other engineering materials.

Closing this section as I began it, I return to benchmarking, this time examining the international arena. It is not necessary to reinvent every aspect of science, engineering or education! Our materials education formats are similar enough to those in other countries that we may learn from them as they have learned so much from us. I want to focus here especially on the efforts in the United Kingdom, on GRANTA and on the U.K. Centre for Materials Education.


It's always disconcerting for U.S. citizens to learn that the United States is not the leader in everything, but when it comes to materials education resources, we can't really hold a candle to the United Kingdom. Perhaps most technical people in the field are fully familiar with GRANTA and all of its resources for materials design. Perhaps it is totally unnecessary for me to include the GRANTA resources for education in this discussion, but I will do so for completeness. If you've never taken the time to do so, make a visit to and find the enormous array of materials education "stuff" that will amaze and delight you. Books, software thru the CES EduPack, data bases, etc. are available (for a price). Nurtured by the continuing genius and energy of Mike Ashby, GRANTA and the educational resources it provides have been used by 600 universities world wide. It is not clear from their web site if extensive use is being made or if use as minimal as a specific textbook is included, but the U.S. list includes most of those universities with materials degrees as well as many others. If a survey of departments' educational tools is ever carried out by UMC or UECC, it might be useful to understand better how this great tool is influencing course content and teaching methods. I will close this section with a more complete view of another U.K. product, this one free for the downloading.

The UKCME ( was initiated in 2000 and later became part of the U.K. Higher Education Academy. "The U.K. Higher Education Academy" was formed in October 2004 to "work with the higher education community to enhance all aspects of the student experience." It aims to promote high quality learning and teaching through the development and transfer of good practices in all subject disciplines, and to provide a one-stop shop of learning and teaching resources and information for the higher education community. The UKCME is part of the Higher Education Academy's subject centre network that consists of 24 subject centers based in higher education institutions throughout the U.K.

The U.K. Centre for Materials Education exists to support and promote high quality education in Materials and related disciplines, by encouraging and coordinating the development and adoption of effective practices in learning, teaching and assessment. The U.K. Centre for Materials Education is a Subject Centre of the Higher Education Academy, and is based at the University of Liverpool.

My reaction after scanning this web site and its array of resources is that they've already done most of the things we have only begun to talk about. I'd say this web site should be required reading for anyone in UMC, UECC, or any materials department that intends to focus any attention on undergraduate education. I've earlier referred to the excellent historical review article by Ferguson. I could draw from many other well written and comprehensive articles posted on the UKCME, but will merely list a few titles to whet the reader's appetite to visit this site.

Education for Sustainable Development: Sustainability is now recognized to be a key area of development for the education sector. In particular, the policy and practice context points to the need to consider how best to embed it into higher education learning and teaching strategies and curricula.

e-Learning: Learning facilitated and supported through the use of information and communication technologies. Flexible and innovative teaching methods are becoming increasingly important for both staff and students, and can help to significantly enhance the educational experience. A number of Materials-specific resources are available on these pages to help you develop your teaching.

Employability: With the expansion of higher education and the rapidly changing labor market becoming increasingly knowledge-based, employability is becoming an increasingly important consideration in most students' lives.

Further Education: Learning and teaching resources for FE lecturers delivering materials units as part of engineering courses.

Interesting subject studies are listed in "Materials Education - 12 Guides for Lecturers:"

  • "Attracting Materials Students," Cheryl Anderson
  • "Environmental Materials," Cris Arnold
  • "Teaching Materials Using Case Studies," Claire Davis and Elizabeth Wilcock
  • "Developing Professional Skills," John Wilcox
  • "Assessing Materials Students," Lewis Elton
  • "Learning Materials at a Distance," Mark Endean
  • "Materials for Engineers," Mike Bramhall
  • "Tutoring Materials," Adam Mannis and Shanaka Katuwawala
  • "Learning Materials in a Problem Based Course," James Busfield and Ton Peijs
  • "Materials Chemistry," Stephen Skinner
  • "Teaching Materials Lab Classes," Caroline Baillie and Elizabeth Hazel
  • "Evaluating a Materials Course," Ivan Moore

Other activities of the UKCME include teaching development grants, outreach to high schools, public awareness of the field of materials and its impact on society, a central repository for materials education articles and more. One of the most interesting new projects is "CORE-Materials: Collaborative Open Resource Environment - for Materials". Headed by Peter Goodhew at The University of Liverpool, and including all of materials higher education and many societies in the U.K., this project "intends to deliver: A comprehensive set of core open and accessible learning resources that provide full coverage of the Materials undergraduate curriculum (in total greater than 360 undergraduate credits); a 'taxonomy' for the Materials discipline that both organizes resources in a coherent way for the user and also identifies resources in need of development by users; changed policies and practices within partner institutions/organizations relating to the release of open learning resources and wider use of Web 2.0 technologies, as a result of project interaction; an active community of practice within Materials, where learning resources are widely shared, used and developed, with the benefit of promoting / marketing the discipline and quality of U.K. higher education."

I suggest that at the least, all U.S. materials departments and societies should be aware of the products of the UKCME and the CORE-Materials project and learn from their concept and processes. At the best, there may be ways of collaborating that could benefit all parties.


Perhaps the reader has already noted the primary conclusions I've drawn in the previous sections, but it may be fruitful to list them here in simple declarative statements:

  • Undergraduate MSE has become a discipline within the engineering academic community in every important sense of that term.
  • Transformations within engineering schools, the engineering profession and the industrial world in which materials engineers practice have and will further impact the approaches to education that must be a part of the MSE academic world.
  • Materials departments in universities will be increasingly judged internally by the same criteria as are applied to their peer engineering departments and must respond or be threatened.
  • The materials field is disadvantaged by the fragmented professional societies that address segments of our colleagues, failing by their small size to fully meet the educational needs of their members.

In this section I will draw together recommendations and personal observations regarding roles I see for academic departments, their organized collaborative body, the UMC and the professional societies. When this paper was originally contemplated in 2007 as an NMAB study, one of the recommendations I anticipated was increased collaboration amongst the professional societies on this and many other issues of importance to our profession. As I compose this paper, I take some comfort that in 2009 the Undergraduate Education Coordinating Committee (UECC) of the materials societies has been formed and has begun to define its agenda. Members of the UECC are from the several societies already cooperating on MS&T conferences and on the undergraduate Materials Advantage chapters, joined by MRS which already participates with some of the others on ABET issues. This committee has the potential for representing the vast majority of the faculty within materials departments and in collaboration with them through UMC, may begin to address many of the needed support roles long missing in our field.

This is also a good time for the UMC. Strong leadership over the last several years has returned this body to a position of importance on the education scene. It seems clear to this outsider that the pressure on academic departments in times of financial stress has been a wakeup call for materials department heads and chairs. I am excited about such UMC stimulated ventures as the workshop on expanded focus on computational MSE in the undergraduate curriculum planned for spring 2010 at Northwestern and the increased attention to sharing information on a mutually accessible web site. Issues discussed at future UECC and UMC meetings may be of such general interest that appropriate follow up action will actually occur. The opportunity for collaboration for the mutual good has not seemed so bright during my career.

What are the prime responsibilities that the UECC and UMC might assume? I think that we might see a UMC-UECC committee structure that would set priorities and seek volunteer members from all points of origin, depending on the issue. UECC would identify issues in collaboration with UMC, identify society leaders on an issue-by-issue basis and clarify the society contribution options. Society staff and media publications then could centralize the effort and enable the volunteer efforts. Several specific targeted projects that seem important to me are outlined below in no particular order or priority.

  1. Expand support of accreditation. The ABET process must continue to be one element of the collaborative effort. TMS has long had a lead role in this effort, but collaborating ACerS and MRS are already partners. An important step was taken at the UECC committee meeting at MS&T'09 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The members assembled agreed that much of the material that each department prepared in anticipation of ABET visitations could profitably be shared with others to minimize the work load of preparation. Placing this information on a conveniently accessible and searchable site has great potential for reducing duplicative work. Will this site be maintained by TMS with its other ABET information or by UMC?
  2. Clarify the Body of Knowledge in undergraduate (and possibly graduate) materials science/engineering. (Body of Knowledge is a compendium of things (concepts and data) that we expect to find in all (or only some) materials education programs.) Preliminary work by Kevin Jones and Susan Sinnott at the University of Florida suggest formats (NSF Workshop) for identifying that which is currently being taught at both undergraduate and graduate levels. Their work should be extended to include all members in UMC and ideally non-members as well. Perhaps the next step is to look down one layer from course titles to "concepts." Then move on to learn what is being taught in other engineering, chemistry, and physics under the rubric of a materials "major." I imagine that the body of knowledge could be formulated in such a manner that "materials chemistry" will show the overlap between chemistry and some (or many) materials departments. Similarly for electronic materials, polymers, etc. One may also see connections across the transition between materials design and design with materials (e.g., in ME and EE) and materials processing and processing of materials (e.g., in ChE). Questions regarding "core" courses (knowledge) are best discussed in the context of the broader available information of a Body of Knowledge. This is a big task. Even if the UECC were able to establish (and staff!) such a committee, it could not function without the full cooperation of the UMC and each of the materials departments. I suspect that this task will not be addressed, if at all, until several years of success in other endeavors gives credibility to the UECC.
  3. Organize a web-based system for sharing in-depth information about course content. Typical discussions of curriculum offerings at a given school usually stop with a listing of course names and a reference to the department's web page catalogue. Can we learn from one-another by posting this information in one searchable data exchange along with course outlines, preferred texts and references, etc.? (See course listings in Appendix F for examples of information at one-level deeper than course names). This would also create a venue for identifying teaching methodology. What common teaching tools are now in use? For example, are U.S. educators taking advantage of resources such as CES EduPack software from the U.K.? Might such a data collection project be appropriate for NSF funding in a collaborative effort with DMR, Engineering, and Education and Human Resources? Can this site be organized to allow for chat room inquiry and response to clarify listed information? This database might be kept on only one web site or displayed on the sites of several participating societies. This is a preliminary step that could enable full BOK development, but is less threatening, and only requires organization of the proper home site and an invitation to the individual departments to participate.
  4. Employment opportunities. All departments track employment of graduates, but I believe there is little or no sharing. Imagine a single searchable site displaying all of the companies that employed materials graduates last year (or during the last several years). This activity has the potential for transforming the "job opportunities bulletin boards" provided by most societies into a truly interactive and useful tool. Once initiated, access to this page by companies could help them see which schools were sending students to their peer companies. Within the rules governed by privacy considerations, companies could enter data on what their new employees were doing. General (or perhaps even specific) salary information might be displayed. Imagine how effective such a site could be in attracting students at all levels. Data mining could then yield greater results for the members of UMC who might better understand the industrial market and the opportunities and needs their students have. One may imagine such a data base could be a valuable recruiting tool invaluable in describing the field to prospective students.
  5. Examine issues related to the professional Master's degree/continuing education. I think these issues are linked, but they could certainly be separated for action. What drives both is the fact that we cannot be both broad and deep ("horizontal" and "vertical") with limited courses in the undergraduate program. Master's vs. a few continuing education courses is an issue of marketing, cost and delivery as well as content. Master's accreditation is a related, but not required option. UMC may not need others to explore this particular issue, but industrial participation through the societies would add immeasurably to the richness of such a study. Furthermore, member societies of UECC are already providers of continuing education. Can UECC and UMC (or some of its members) devise schemes to enhance the array of already existing options for continuing education? One elementary step could begin with a collective effort of data collection regarding the Master's degrees and continuing education currently offered by materials departments. How many M.S. degrees are taken on the path to Ph.D.? How many M.S. degrees are taken by students who return from industry and how many follow immediately after the B.S. How many are paid for by the industrial employer, how many by research contracts and how many by the individual recipient? How many are research/thesis based and how many are project/report based? Are case studies used in the course base for the M.S.?
  6. Links with educational committees in ASME, ASCE, IEEE, and AIChE. This is clearly a society-based issue. Perhaps these interactions might be raised through ASEE (Engineering Education) in which each of the materials societies already plays a role. Perhaps only bi-lateral interactions will be appropriate. Working with UMC, the UECC might begin with a summit workshop bringing together representatives from education committees of the several societies to discuss issues and then move on from there. What materials subjects are appropriate for the education of other engineers? How can MSE departments and societies participate in planning and execution?
  7. Discussion of education issues at society meetings. Here, the roles of the several societies both coincide and conflict. Each is dedicated to increasing its membership and meeting attendance (sometimes at the expense of its "competitors"). Is education one of the few areas where we can cooperate rather than compete? Sites for major sessions on education issues and for UMC meetings occur at both MS&T and MRS meetings. Let's agree to play nice . . . share, alternate and cooperate . . . this is an arena in which we all win when we don't try to win.
  8. Develop stronger links to the International Council on Materials Education and its Journal of Materials Education. This independent publication and its governing body can and should continue to be the organ of communication for the education interests of our collective profession. Are there ways that the several societies could increase the effectiveness, reduce publishing costs, increase circulation of this journal? Let's take a look and see if a better business model would benefit us all.
  9. Explore strategies to collaborate in the operation of the National Education Workshop initiated by Jacobs and now run out of Edmonds Community College in Washington. Shared publication of the results of these workshops may dramatically increase their impact. Participation in the NEW:Update workshops has been open to both materials engineering and materials technology educators. This might be an ideal structure to enable the broad interests of societies in both aspects of the undergraduate materials education arena to flourish.
  10. Organize a focused workshop (at one of the professional society meetings or stand-alone) to look at examples of how "soft" subject content (such as working in teams, oral and written presentation, business and entrepreneurial, skills, ethics, etc.) is being integrated into "hard" subject courses by various educators and departments. Such a workshop would be a good place to further explore how to integrate subjects such as industrial practice, international experience, and global economic and sustainability issues into the already crowded curriculum. Publication of a stand-alone or JME edition would help focus attention on these very difficult challenges for MSE educators.
  11. Develop appropriate relations with the UKCME, identify opportunities for cooperation and do so. Broadcast the existence of UKCME products that would be of interest to the U.S. materials community and modify others that don't fit the U.S. model. In short, take optimum advantage of this extraordinary resource.
  12. Identify desired needs for organized data, such as trends in numbers of degrees, diversity, employment opportunities, numbers of materials persons in the workforce, etc. If these needs are not being met, assess whether purchasing assistance from outside sources is an appropriate path to follow. One example of such a source was referenced in the section titled Shaping the Discipline, Richard Heckel and his consulting firm, Engineering Trends. Heckel's purchased access to various data systems could then become available to the UMC.
  13. Explore issues of evaluating and aggregating data on program approach and student outcomes. I repeat the recommendation (p. 40 of this paper) from NAE Education 2020: "The National Science Foundation should collect or assist collection of data on program approach and student outcomes for engineering departments/schools so that prospective freshman can better understand the "marketplace" of available engineering baccalaureate programs." What opportunities are now open for NSF funded studies and organization of the materials education enterprise? Are some of our colleagues interested in taking leadership roles here?
  14. Participate in efforts to increase teacher capability. Again noting a recommendation (p. 40, this paper) from NAE Education 2020: "American Institute of Chemical Engineers, the American Society of Civil Engineers, the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, and the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers are collaborating to offer "Excellence in Engineering Education" teaching workshops for engineering faculty." Through UECC, the materials societies might reach out to this collaborative venture of the other engineering disciplines to seek appropriate participation.


1. L.H. Schwartz, Materials Research Laboratories: Reviewing the First Twenty-Five Years in Advancing Materials Research (Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press, 1987), pp. 35-48.
2. L.H. Schwartz, "The Materials Research Center: Transition from Multidisciplinarity to Interdisciplinarity," this paper was part of a locally published anthology of the history of Northwestern University's Technological Institute from 1970 to 2000.
3. Materials and Man's Needs: Materials Science and Engineering, Summary Report of the Committee on the Survey of Materials Science and Engineering (Washington, D.C.: National Academy of Sciences, 1974), Referred to herein as COSMAT.
4. Materials and Man's Needs: Materials Science and Engineering Volume III, The Institutional Framework for Materials Science and Engineering, Supplementary Report of the Committee on the Survey of Materials Science and Engineering (Washington, D.C.: National Academy of Sciences, 1975), This third volume of the appendices to COSMAT will be referred to as COSMAT, Vol. III.
5. Materials Science and Engineering for the 1990's: Maintaining Competitiveness in the Age of Materials (Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press, 1989), Drafted by the Committee on MSE , this report will be referred to herein as the COMSE report.
6. "Workforce and Education in Materials Science and Engineering: Is Action Needed?" an NMAB sponsored workshop held in Irvine, CA in October 2002. Charts from presentations may be obtained from the NRC/NMAB data files. Contact Gary Fischman, Director, NMAB, gfischman@nas.ed.
7. "Future of Materials Science and Engineering Education," a workshop sponsored by NSF and available on-line at
8. Merton Flemings, "Why Materials Science and Engineering is Good for Metallurgy," The 2000 Distinguished Lecture in Materials and Society, Met. and Matls. Transactions, 32B (April 2001), pp. 197-204.
9. Clive Ferguson, "Historical Introduction to the Development of Material Science and Engineering as a Teaching Discipline," available from the UKCME at (
10. Merton Flemings, "What Next for Departments of Materials Science and Engineering?" Ann. Rev. of Mat. Sci., 29 (1999), pp. 1-23. 11. Richard Heckel, "Education Trends in Materials Science and Engineering?Enrollments, Degrees, Gender, Ethnicity and Research Expenditures," Paper presented at MS&T'05, Pittsburgh, PA, September 25-28, 2005; and published online by Engineering Trends,
12. Michael T. Gibbons, "Engineering by the Numbers" (American Society for Engineering Education, Washington, D.C.), ASEE annual statistics about engineering education,
13. ABET, 111 Market Place, Suite 1050, Baltimore, MD 21202;
14. Educating the Engineer of 2020: Adapting Engineering Education to the New Century (Washington, D.C.: National Academies Press, 2005),
15. Profiles of Engineering and Engineering Technology Colleges (American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE), 1818 N Street, N.W., Suite 600, Washington, D.C. 20036), Chapter III. [Data on B.S., M.S., and Ph.D. degrees awarded in 2008 was examined for Mechanical, Electrical, Civil, Chemical, and Materials Engineering. Estimation for country of origin was obtained crudely by assuming the overall domestic/foreign ratio could be applied uniformly to each individual discipline. These approximate results then yield a domestic M.S./B.S. ratio of ~40% for materials compared to 13 to 34% for the other disciplines. The contrast at the Ph.D. level is far more dramatic. The domestic Ph.D./B.S. ratio is 25% for materials and only 3-8% for the other disciplines. Further data analysis is precluded since an unknown (and unequal) fraction in each discipline complete both M.S. and Ph.D. What is certainly correct is that the fraction of materials undergraduates that pursue research oriented advanced degrees far exceeds that of the other engineering disciplines.]
16. "Future Materials Engineers will have access to many education providers," ASCE BOK, 1st Edition (Reston, VA: American Society of Civil Engineers, 2005); see also Appendix G for further discussion of the ASCE BOK effort and appropriate references.