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PSA: The Materials Science & Engineering Major

travismarietravismarie Registered User Posts: 46 Junior Member
edited December 2013 in Johns Hopkins University
Hey incoming Class of 2017.

Are you an undecided engineering major in the Whiting School of Engineering?
Does the cross-section of chemistry, physics, and engineering (and biology, if you want!) sound awesome to you?
Well then you need to check out Hopkins' Materials Science & Engineering major.

What is a material? Usually when we are talking about different materials, we are talking about solid states of matter. Materials could be carbon nanotubes (graphene, a single sheet of hexagonal carbon atoms, rolled into a tube), biomaterials (like those used in tissue engineering or heart valves), or semiconductors (like silicon, used in microchips). With a degree in Materials Science & Engineering, you learn to change matter at the atomic level to have properties you want at the macroscopic level.

What's more, there are two concentrations: nanotechnology and biomaterials. I do research at the Institute for NanoBioTechnology where we do such things as imprint proteins in hydrogels for the detection of traumatic brain injuries, design better cancer biomarkers with quantum dots, and create artificial blood vessels. There is also the Hopkins Extreme Materials Institute, which has a grant from the US Army to create better blast shields and armor for the armed forces.

Why am I making this post? I am a rising sophomore MatSci major who wished he had been exposed to his major before coming to Hopkins. I absolutely love my major. I entered last year as a Chemical & Biomolecular engineer, but quickly saw that it wasn't what I expected. What I thought ChemBE was, was actually Materials Science.

There will be a class available for you to take in the fall called "Materials Science & Engineering for the 21st Century." If you are interested, take it! It's a single credit, there won't be any homework, and the professor (Dr. Wilson, she's incredibly nice) will occasionally have pizza!

Here's the department website, for you to poke around at: Homepage - Materials Science and Engineering

Thanks :)

PS it's better to declare your major before entering the school so that you take the right classes. For example, I technically only needed to take the single semester Materials Chemistry class, rather than two semesters of Intro Chemistry. Plus you have a sense of identity right away. Do your research! Our department websites are good. Look at the required classes, they're the most elucidating.
Post edited by travismarie on

Replies to: PSA: The Materials Science & Engineering Major

  • SthMissInMyHartSthMissInMyHart Registered User Posts: 6 New Member
    Wow thanks for your wonderful post and I will definitely consider majoring material science!!
  • travismarietravismarie Registered User Posts: 46 Junior Member
    You're welcome!

    Feel free to ask any questions that come to mind.
  • sosreplasosrepla Registered User Posts: 5 New Member
    Thanks for this post! I'm an incoming freshman at JHU (technically undecided) but leaning towards materials science.
    Can you tell me what types of physics are involved in this major and what most of your classes specifically related to materials science are like.
  • travismarietravismarie Registered User Posts: 46 Junior Member
    The physics behind materials science is called solid-state physics, a branch of condensed matter physics.

    I've only taken two classes within the MatSci department so far. The first was the small, 1-credit introduction class Materials Science & Engineering for the 21st Century. Once a week we would do something along the lines of: listen to professors talk about their research (I specifically remember Prof. Erlebacher's fuel cell catalysis, Prof. Weihs' reactive foils, and Prof. Mao had something too), to Under Armour (based out of Baltimore) trying to recruit us, or to the presidents of the Materials Research Society and the Society for Biomaterials.

    My second class within MatSci was called Computation and Programming for Materials Scientists and Engineers. I really enjoyed this class. It's learning how to do basic programming with MATLAB, a programming language used mainly by scientists because it intuitively handles data. The materials science came into this class by way of the projects: topics change every year, but I created 3D renderings of carbon nanotubes based off of user-inputted parameters, did a molecular dynamics simulation, and for my final project, created a user-interact-able lattice that a user could then create defects (such as a vacancy defect) within and watch the energy of the material subsequently change.

    Here is an example project from the class, and here are the class pre-lectures.

    Had I been a declared MatSci major entering JHU, I would have taken Introduction to Materials Chemistry which is a specialized chemistry course for MatSci majors (and I think MechE majors too) which sort of looks past the irrelevant part of General Chemistry (which I had to take two semesters of because I wasn't declared).

    The class description:
    Basic principles of chemistry and how they apply to the behavior of materials in the solid state. The relationship between electronic structure, chemical bonding, and crystal structure is developed. Attention is given to characterization of atomic and molecular arrangements in crystalline and amorphous solids: metals, ceramics, semiconductors, and polymers (including proteins). Examples are drawn from industrial practice (including the environmental impact of chemical processes), from energy generation and storage (such as batteries and fuel cells), and from emerging technologies (such as biomaterials).

    Next semester I'm looking forward to taking Structure of Materials and Statics & Mechanics of Materials.

    Structure of Materials' class description:
    First of the Introduction to Materials Science series, this course seeks to develop an understanding of the structure of materials starting at the atomic scale and building up to macroscopic structures. Topics include bonding, crystal structures, crystalline defects, symmetry and crystallography, microstructure, liquids and amorphous solids, diffraction, molecular solids and polymers, liquid crystals, amphiphilic materials, and colloids.

    Statics & Mechanics of Materials (actually a MechE class, and not technically a req):
    Equilibrium of rigid bodies, free-body diagrams, design of trusses. One-dimensional stress and strain, Hooke’s law. Properties of areas. Stress, strain, and deflection of components subjected to uniaxial tension, simple torsion, and bending.

    If you want to look at the required classes, take a look at our advising manual. You'll see that each class has a number, like 510.101. If you want to read the class description, head on over to ISIS, hover over 'Registration', and click 'Search for Classes.' Some classes are Spring only, some fall only, so make sure you set that in the search.

    Additionally, check out the index of this introductory textbook to see a glimpse of the topics to come. Just click the "Click to look inside!" picture at left and scroll down in the book. Cool feature of Amazon.

    ALSO, here is an awesome blog post by a MatSci alumnus on his experience with the major at Hopkins.

    Hope this helps! I'm committed to spreading the good word of Materials.
  • DragonqianDragonqian Registered User Posts: 75 Junior Member
    I want to ask what is the difference between the Matsci in JHU and those of other top science schools?
  • travismarietravismarie Registered User Posts: 46 Junior Member
    I can't really say what makes JHU Materials Science different - I haven't attended any other colleges! The professors here are of course top notch, and so your learning experience will be similarly excellent.

    I'd say that most undergraduate engineering curricula are more or less identical due to accreditation standards. So you'll learn the same stuff. The real difference in experience occurs due to the nature of Hopkins itself. There's ample research for undergraduates. I'd say over half of my class is doing research right now. And a lot is expected out of you, academically. I just finished Structure of Materials, which was hard, but damn do I feel like I learned a thing or two. You get your money's worth at Hopkins.

    I can say that Materials class sizes are pretty small - my class size is ~25 but all the others are ~15. That's pretty awesome for a total class size of ~1300. A small class size means a lot of unity when taking materials classes, a "we're all in it together" sense.
  • travismarietravismarie Registered User Posts: 46 Junior Member
    Hey Class of 2018, I still want you to consider Materials Science & Engineering!
  • JHU518JHU518 Registered User Posts: 98 Junior Member
    Is there a lot of alternative energy research involved? And what kinds?
  • JHU518JHU518 Registered User Posts: 98 Junior Member
    Also, I see that there is an institute for nanobiotechnology. is there also pure nanotechnology research going on here, like with carbon nanotubes?
  • JHU518JHU518 Registered User Posts: 98 Junior Member
    one more quick question! how feasible would a double major in physics and materials science& engineering be? thanks so much!
  • JHU518JHU518 Registered User Posts: 98 Junior Member
    and could you tell me the main differences between chemBE and materials? I am very interested in alternative energy and would like to major in something that could get me working as an alternative energy researcher at the US Department of Energy or some national labs.
  • travismarietravismarie Registered User Posts: 46 Junior Member
    April 1,

    Prof. Erlebacher (link to his bio: http://engineering.jhu.edu/materials/faculty/jonah-erlebacher/) does really cool stuff with fuel cell catalysis. Definitely look into his stuff. Not sure who else in the department does it, but I wouldn't count it out.

    Yep, we have nanotube research. Pretty sure it's done by Prof. Herrera (link: http://engineering.jhu.edu/materials/faculty/margarita-herrera-alonso/).

    It would be very feasible if you sort out the logistics as soon as you get here. Most students at Hopkins either double major or at least minor. Hopkins allows us a TON of play with the classes we take. I would say every combination of two majors is possible at this school. MAYBE you would have to take some summer classes? But not if you're really proactive with scheduling.
  • travismarietravismarie Registered User Posts: 46 Junior Member
    ChemBE focuses on taking small, lab scale chemical reactions, and blowing them up into huge factory-level proportions. Main issue in the industry is taking an existing process and improving it so it's more efficient and thus more profitable.

    It's really quite different. Matsci I see as a lot more scientific and research oriented, and not so much economics and optimization. But this is just my biased opinion! I'd love a ChemBE to chime in. Maybe try some Major blogs from Hopkins Interactive? http://blogs.hopkins-interactive.com/academics/category/chemical-biomolecular-engineering/
  • SupremestSupremest Registered User Posts: 3 New Member

    I was accepted at JHU for Materials Science and Engineering and I'm interested in pursuing microelectronics. Is it possible to double major in MS&E and Computer Science (since I feel like they fit together really well)?

  • travismarietravismarie Registered User Posts: 46 Junior Member
    It is entirely and completely possible. I know someone doing it now. It's really easy to double major in anything at Hopkins. Even Peabody students dual-degree often.
This discussion has been closed.