MSE Overview

So, what is Materials Science?


Materials Science Engineers (MSE) focus on how to manufacture and process materials (metals, alloys, ceramics, polymers/plastics, composites, nanomaterials, electronics), characterize their structure and predict their properties, examine and modify their behavior, and improve their performance. These engineers are involved in the design and manufacturing of most of the products around us, determining what kinds of materials should be used, how to manipulate them to fit a specific situation, and even how to create new materials to solve unique applications.


There are four broad areas of technological advancement currently taking place. While Materials Technology is listed as an independent area, it also plays a prominent role in the other three areas:

  • Information Technology

  • Materials Technology

  • Genetic Technology

  • Energy Technology


Materials Science Engineering is a highly interdisciplinary field and ranks high on the list of top careers for scientists and engineers. The services of these engineers and scientists are required in a wide variety of engineering operations,  for example, dealing with the design of semiconductors and optoelectronic devices, development of new technologies based on composites and high-temperature superconductivity, biomedical products (heart valves, hip and knee replacement), performance in automobile and aircraft components (quality, reliability, safety, energy efficiency), improvement in nondestructive testing techniques, corrosion behavior in refineries, radiation damage in nuclear power plants, and fabrication of steels.


UC Irvine students benefit from a large local engineering industry with close ties to the school. Below is a selection of companies, where students regularly secure internships. They are located either on the UCI campus or within a few miles.


  • Broadcom

  • Boeing

  • Conexant Systems

  • Edwards Lifesciences

  • Fluor Daniel

  • Hitachi Chemical Research Center

  • Parker Hannifin

  • Printronix

  • Skyworks Solutions

  • 3M Dental Products


What is it like to study Materials Science Engineering at UCI?


MSE is one of the smaller undergraduate engineering majors, but it has a very healthy graduate population. That means more faculty attention to undergraduates, smaller classes and more opportunity to work in research labs. Faculty also work closely with students on design projects.


In terms of coursework, it overlaps with both Mechanical Engineering and Chemical Engineering. Students study statics and thermodynamics and take the same introductory materials courses that many other engineering majors do. The last two years of study includes courses that  overlap with both disciplines - heat transfer, strength of materials, mechanical behavior, and then courses specific to materials engineers - synthesis of materials, device failure and courses on different types of materials and applications - polymers, composites, ceramics, optical and electronic applications. The program ends with a year-long interdisciplinary design project involving our industry partners.


The curriculum overlap makes it possible for qualified students to add Aerospace, Biomedical, Chemical, or Mechanical Engineering as a second major without significant difficulty. Additionally, MSE students can participate in multidisciplinary design projects across the school.


Examples of recent undergraduate projects include:


  • The Design and Testing of Pulse Electrodeposition for Nanostructured Materials

  • Fuel Cell Testing Station

  • Eyeglasses for the Developing World

  • Hydrogel Pill for Obesity

  • Design of a Surgical System for Minimally Invasive Heart Replacement

  • Design and Testing of Hydrogen Fuel Cell

  • Pressure Release Alert System for Spinal Cord Injury Patients

  • Solar Powered Airplane

  • Microfluidic Circulating Tumor Cell Capture Device

  • Materials Selection and Design and Stirling Engines

  • Device to Measure the Degree of Cataract

  • Low-Cost Cell Phone Microscope

  • Design and Testing of Hydrogen Fuel Cell

  • Materials Selection and Design of FSAE Race Car