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Old 01-19-2008, 07:48 AM   #1 (permalink)
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Materials Science and Engineering Degree

Hey TFPers...

I've decided to finally go back to school and get my degree, after an 11 year hiatus. I want to ditch CS/CE altogether for something interesting and research oriented. What's caught my eye at Arizona State (ASU) is a BS/MS in Materials Science and Engineering. They have a pretty impressive research lab revolving around nanotech that they use Materials students for.

I'm curious if any of you have a degree or work in a similar field and what you think about it? What do you do and who do you work for, if you're willing to talk about it.

Thanks!
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Old 01-25-2008, 06:44 PM   #2 (permalink)
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It is hard to comment on such a thing. First of all the internet is not necessarily a good place to ask such a question seeing as how anonymity allows anyone to answer. Your best bet is to speak with professors doing work you find interesting at the university you're thinking about. Rule of thumb you ask a university professor about their research you can't get them to shut up; so via email start with that and ask them what they believe prospects in the field are for a BS and MS etc. The worst that can happen is that you don't hear back.
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Old 01-25-2008, 06:56 PM   #3 (permalink)
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xepherys, why do you want to get this degree? i won't say "too much," but I'm a chemical engineer by degree who works in some materials-based applications. I'm a professional nerd-for-hire, who works in energy-related fields. I can tell you that the potential for nano-related careers is wide-open, and depending on what you want to do having a degree in said field is invaluable. At the same time, you're up for a potential pain-in-the-ass experience going through undergrad/grad school...so why do you want to do this? What field are you looking to get into, and what type of job do you want?

"Where do you see yourself in 5 years?"
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Old 01-25-2008, 08:26 PM   #4 (permalink)
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I'm an aerospace engineer working for United Space Alliance. I've said many times that Materials Science is probably one of more versatile engineering fields since, quite obviously, a large portion of the design process relies on the types of materials used. Plus, with all the research and new applications for composite materials it seems to be a field that will only continue to grow.

Now personally, I had to take a materials science class, solid mechanics, and aircraft structures. Now of them particularly appealed to me. I was always more of a rocket guy. However, I had some friends that went down the aircraft structures/composites and materials route and they seemed to like it.

If you want to study materials you may want to try to decide on a particular area of focus, since materials is such a large field. Obviously there are a lot of materials engineers in the aerospace industry but you also have the automotive industry, consumer plastics, sporting goods, safety equipment, construction, architecture, military, and the list can go on and on.

Just some stuff to think about...
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Old 01-27-2008, 07:30 AM   #5 (permalink)
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Like supersix mentions, versatility is one of the reasons. I enjoy science and engineering, so a multidiscipline field like Materials really appeals to my inner geek. I'm interested in materials research as a whole, in nanotech-related fields and also in the non-CAD concepts behind microprocessor design. Since ASU has some good nanotech research labs, I'd be able to get a lot of hands on.

Part of the versatility that keeps me interested is being able to move from field to field as needed or as opportunities arise. If I stuck with ChemEng or MechEng, then, while still broad, are slightly more limited than Materials AFAIK. Also, I do believe I'd like to stay in academia, doing research and eventually teaching.

I guess it comes down to the fact that I can think of some reasons I'd like to do it and no reasons that I would not. School doesn't scare me! I've been warned from several people that the program will be hard, hard, hard. But science and math are, while something I'm a bit out of practice with, my favorite subjects.
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Old 01-27-2008, 07:37 AM   #6 (permalink)
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If it gets you excited, and you're familiar with the level of effort required for engineering programs then do it. Matsci is a good place to be nowadays. I took an intro to matsci class, and despite having a horrible book and a doofus of a professor it seemed pretty interesting- i wish i remembered more of it.
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Old 01-27-2008, 08:38 AM   #7 (permalink)
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I already know it'll be difficult. I don't mind. I think the biggest challenge will be not having had core classes in so long and forgetting a lot of the basics of math, chem, physics and engr. I was a CE major in 1995, stayed in for 1.5 years. It was interesting. Insane amounts of CAD... my school mostly focused on microprocessor design. I think Materials is something i'll like more. I have a HUGE amount of interest. I think that I'm up to the workload. We shall see...
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Old 01-27-2008, 11:12 AM   #8 (permalink)
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Well, it has been my experience that thinking you're up to the course load is a good start. Hopefully your interest can pick up the slack.

That being said, i'd spend a lot of time brushing up on the basics, maybe ask someone who would know what you really need to know to be ready for certain classes- it is difficult enough to learn the engineering stuff without constantly having to look up the various minutiae that get left out of derivations/explanations.

Good luck.
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Old 01-29-2008, 06:51 PM   #9 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by xepherys
I already know it'll be difficult. I don't mind. I think the biggest challenge will be not having had core classes in so long and forgetting a lot of the basics of math, chem, physics and engr. I was a CE major in 1995, stayed in for 1.5 years. It was interesting. Insane amounts of CAD... my school mostly focused on microprocessor design. I think Materials is something i'll like more. I have a HUGE amount of interest. I think that I'm up to the workload. We shall see...

Of the people whom I've met who came back to a university to study physics after a long break only a few actually stuck through with it. Aside from the atrophy in mathematics( or maybe because of it), the ones that failed seemed to have trouble staying motivated and quickly became dejected at the lack of progress. All hope is not lost though. For example there's a 60 year old man in my Quantum 2 class and last semester there were a couple of 40 year olds in my analysis course. So my one piece of advice if you truly love it don't give up.
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Old 01-29-2008, 07:51 PM   #10 (permalink)
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It was weird having old people in my classes in college. It was even weirder when you had to work with them in a group. It was the weirdest thing ever when you had to go over their house to work on the project and their kids were there and almost the same age as you.

But in all seriousness if you were good at math and science at one point it shouldn't take you too long to get back into it.
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Old 01-30-2008, 06:09 AM   #11 (permalink)
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thanks for the words of confidence
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Old 01-30-2008, 03:34 PM   #12 (permalink)
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xe: I wouldn't worry too much about pigeon-holing yourself, certainly not with a mat sci degree. Once you get your M.S./Ph.D...assuming you see that as your terminal degree, you might find you have a versatile set of abilities. The most important, by any stretch, is the ability to troubleshoot and problem-solve. Ive jumped around a bunch in my short career, and I'll tell you this: working with ex-Army/Service guys is always a pleasure. They typically have a can-do attitude, and are good with their hands. The most important thing that degree will do, in my opinion, is open some doors for you. Credentials, etc. I'd say if you're feeling that's what you want to do, go for it. I could draw some umbrage at the suggestion that Chem-E limits you...but that would only be for fun If you're doing engineering, the math will always be a pre-req, as will looking for the application side to technology. Sure, the lines get crossed in research organizations, but ultimately an engineer cares about what you can do with the science...a chemist only cares about the science...and the lines get blurred depending on personality. Best of luck - if you need anything, pop a PM.

And stay safe
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