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What is Materials Science?

Maya Austen
Maya Austen

There are many branches of science, but all fields of science have a singular overall goal, which is to advance the understanding of natural processes in order to answer questions and solve problems. Materials science, as the name implies, is the branch of science dedicated to the study of materials. It’s the branch of science that seeks to understand why materials behave the way they do. In an effort to discover these facts, materials scientists set out to understand the properties of different materials, how they’re processed, their microstructure and how these different elements relate to one another. Gaining this understanding has many useful applications.

The tools used in modern-day materials science allow materials scientists not only to observe virtually every atom of any given material but to manipulate these atoms as well. Through this manipulation, scientists are able to produce hybrid materials with highly distinctive properties. Thanks to materials science, it is possible to fabricate high-temperature alloys, semiconductor and superconductor materials, nanomaterials, biomaterials and a whole range of other materials. This ability has fueled extraordinary biological and technological achievements.

Materials science makes construction of skyscrapers possible.
Materials science makes construction of skyscrapers possible.

Though a field unto itself, materials science is considered an interdisciplinary field because it crosses into the fields of chemistry, physics, biology and engineering. Skyscrapers would not be possible without the work done in materials science. The integrated circuits that are used in desktop and laptop computers is made possible by work done in the field of materials science. With just about any modern day advancement, it’s possible to show how materials science played a significant role in its invention.

Technological innovation is often reliant upon not only the understanding of materials, but the availability of advanced materials. The field of material science fills this need. Materials science is not a new field of science by any stretch of the imagination. People have been studying materials for thousands of years, but to different degrees of depth. Whether it is makeup, jewelry, coins, weapons or anything else that has been invented, materials science has had a hand in all of it.

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Discussion Comments


@Ana1234 - I agree that materials science needs to be promoted more vigorously in schools. It's the basis for so many different options at university and most of them are for the kinds of jobs that are always hiring, like engineering and chemistry.

Not that I think people should choose a career solely on whether its a


@MrsPramm - I actually think it's better to have that kind of attitude towards those topics, to call them a science and to encourage investigation into the materials rather than just giving kids busy-work projects to do that don't have any kind of innovation or real learning of skills.

I remember when I was at high school we basically all made the same bookends and the teacher did all the difficult things for us, rather than teaching us how to do them ourselves.

But I've visited a high school with a modern program a couple of years ago and it was amazing how much the students could do. They were making everything from clay items to candles to clocks and so forth, and doing it essentially without help.

Besides material science is something we want young people to be inspired by, since they are the ones who are going to be making all of our objects in the future.


I was surprised when I went through a diploma course to teach at a high school that this is what they often call what we used to call woodwork and sewing. They call them hard and soft materials science, or just materials science and kind of lump them together.

I guess I remember it being the class where they would split us into the boys and the girls, but I never really thought of the two subjects as being related, and I certainly didn't think of them as being a science. I guess they just call every topic a "science" these days though.

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    • Materials science makes construction of skyscrapers possible.
      By: frenk58
      Materials science makes construction of skyscrapers possible.