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A materials scientist is someone who studies and analyzes the chemical properties and structure of different man-made and natural materials. Glass, rubber, ceramic, alloys, polymers, and metals are all studied and investigated to learn or gain new knowledge. They then take this knowledge and devise ways to strengthen existing materials, combine particular materials, or create brand new materials with certain properties and characteristics for use in different applications and products.
By experimenting with various materials and chemicals, materials scientists can determine how new materials can best serve and improve humanity. Materials science professionals have created many of the items that people use today such as shoes, soap, canisters, containers, makeup, packaging materials, and so on. The main goal of someone practicing materials science is to study and understand old materials in order to create new material with improved characteristics.
A materials scientist devises methods of testing certain materials to determine the effects different conditions have on the materials. They also plan experiments in the lab to determine the logical possibility of techniques and procedures used to create new materials with various characteristics. Preparing reports with material test results and findings for the perusal of other scientists and related personnel as well as recommending which materials would work best in certain experiments are all part of the materials scientist’s job.
Researching the methods involved in forming, processing, and acquiring different materials for the development of other materials like telescope lenses, tooth fillings, eating plates, and so on falls under the job description of these scientists. They will study and report the effects of applied forces on alloys and other metals while also determining the tolerance and cause of material failure under certain shear, tension, and compression tests. A materials scientist will also talk with customers to determine what kind of material or materials will best fit their needs.
These scientists are sometimes required to fill out grant proposals in order for the department to receive funding for research and development, while also determining the laboratory’s budget. They also have to make sure that all laboratory personnel follow all government and company safety standards.
The workspace of a materials scientist is typically in an office and or laboratory. Modern technology today allows these scientists to conduct many material experimental processes using software and computer modeling. Many biotechnological businesses, government organizations, computer manufacturing companies, gas and oil companies, and universities employ individuals practicing materials science. Working as part of a team or group is common in this field, and a standard 40-hour Monday to Friday work-week is typical as well, with overtime on occasion because of deadline restrictions.
A love of science, particularly biology, chemistry, engineering, or any other related field would be a good place to start for someone pursuing a career in materials science. Being able to read and correctly comprehend reports and data from related personnel while effectively being able to communicate information and ideas orally and in writing to scientists, lab personnel, company supervisors, and clients is a necessary trait for a materials scientist.
These scientists must be able to think creatively and unusually while using mathematical formulas and other methods to solve problems. Not every solution is immediately apparent, so creative and unusual thinking is critical if some problems are to be resolved. The application of general rules to certain problems in order to derive needed answers is also of great importance. This kind of scientist must be able to see details in an object or material at close range to determine the right and most effective course of action in conducting an experiment, or to best analyze the results of one. Having the ability to see potential problems before they occur is an essential asset to a materials scientist, as it allows them to maximize experimentation results while minimizing time loss.
A PhD is often required in order to gain a position as a materials science researcher; however, some companies will hire people with a master’s degree with adequate job and research experience. Some companies will hire a person with a bachelor’s degree in materials science or chemical engineering as a laboratory assistant in order to assist those with more education, experience, or both. Electrical, magnetic, and optical materials, polymeric materials, and advanced physical metallurgy, are just some of the courses needed for a materials science degree.
Chemical engineers will apply chemistry knowledge to the process of converting chemicals or raw materials into viable products for human use. They run large scale chemical reactions, and focus on processes to get molecules to react with one another at scale and with a desired process yield.
A materials scientist translates between what the chemists and physicists are working on, to what the engineering researchers are working on. They are responsible for the research, design, and development of materials, and will focus on how the physical structure of a certain material will affect the property of the material. They are essentially applied condensed matter physicists.