Material Scientist

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Similar Titles
  • Polymer Materials Consultant
  • Research and Development Scientist (R and D Scientist)
  • Research Scientist
  • Glass Scientist
  • Ceramic scientist
  • Metallurgical scientist
  • Polymer scientist
Job Description

Materials scientists study the structures and chemical properties of natural or synthetic materials (e.g. metals, rubber, ceramics, glass, etc.) in order to determine the quality of manufactured products, improve products and develop new products. These tasks may involve strengthening or combining materials to improve their efficacy.

Rewarding Aspects of Career
  • Satisfaction from being  involved in a project from its conception to the final outcome
  • Working with, and learning from, other professionals from a variety of fields (e.g. engineers and processing specialists)
  • Intellectual stimulation
The Inside Scoop
Job Responsibilities

Research

  • Basic research: plan and execute research on the structures, composition and properties of materials (e.g. metals, ceramics, alloys, lubricants and polymers) 
  • Applied research: use information obtained from basic research to develop new products or improve existing ones
  • Record detailed notes throughout the research process

Experiment

  • Use computer modeling to study the response of various materials to applied forces or other treatments
  • Conduct tests on materials to ensure they meet safety and quality standards
  • Determine the efficacy of combined materials or newly developed materials when used in products and applications

Report

  • Prepare technical and detailed reports that indicate methods and findings, to be used by other scientists, sponsors, and/or customers
  • May also have to verbally/visually present findings to other scientists
Skills Needed

Soft Skills

  • Critical thinking
  • Deductive reasoning
  • Written and oral communication
  • Organization/Time-management

Hard Skills

  • Physics
  • Chemistry
  • Engineering and Technology
  • Mathematics

Technical Skills

  • Computer modeling software 
  • Analytical/Scientific software (e.g. SPSS)
  • Spreadsheet software (e.g. Excel)
Different Types of Organizations
  • Industrial manufacturing company
  • Government
  • Academia (Universities/Colleges)
  • Research and development for companies engaged with the physical, engineering, and life sciences
Expectations and Sacrifices

Dedicating a lot of time to studying and training

Current Trends
  • 3D printing with more than plastic (e.g. glass, ceramic)
  • New materials for consumer electronics (e.g. constructing smartphones with ceramics and glass)
2016 Employment
7,900
2026 Projected Employment
8,500
Education and Training Needed

Basic Requirements

  • Bachelor’s Degree in a related field (e.g. Chemistry, Materials Science, Materials Engineering) for entry-level jobs
  • Requisite courses for attaining skills in computer modeling, which is heavily relied upon in research and development programs
  • Many employers will provide new employees with on-the-job training specific to their function within the organization

Tips

  • Some fast tracked programs offer a combined bachelor’s/master’s in Chemistry
  • Some Chemistry programs offer a specialization in Materials Science

Career Advancement
Master’s Degree or PhD in a related field for research positions

Things to do during high school/college
  • In high school, prepare for college coursework by taking challenging chemistry, math, and computer science classes (e.g. at the AP level)
  • In college, gain experience in lab research through internships, fellowships, or work–study programs
Typical Roadmap
Material Scientist Roadmap
How to land your 1st job
  • College summer/semester internships allow for networking within a company
  • Networking is also facilitated through college/university activities and events
  • LinkedIn: Prospective employers view your profile, so make sure it is updated and effectively reflects your skills and accomplishments. Make sure you check your messages regularly too.
  • Online applications- typically through job search engines, e.g. Monster (type up your info, attach a PDF of your resumé, and send it off)
  • Old-school method: get in your car, drive up to the office with a copy of your resumé. Keep appearing at the office if that is what it takes. This is also the best way to see the work environment and what you’ll be doing, to determine if you really want to work at that location
What it really takes to make it and succeed
  • Being detail-oriented
  • Ability to work independently
  • High degree of mental focus
  • Natural aptitude in science and statistics
Recommended Resources

Professional websites

  • The Materials Research Society: http://www.mrs.org/
  • The Materials Information Society: https://www.asminternational.org/
  • Materials Today: https://www.materialstoday.com/

Blogs

  • Materials Witness: http://matsciwit.blogspot.com/
  • Watch a Materials Scientist in action: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hhBoUQLc2qo
Plan B

Apart from research, professionals trained in materials science may work in materials/chemical engineering or education

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Source: Interview, ONET, BLS, American chemical Society website

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