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Materials Science Overview

  Materials are central to the performance and reliability of virtually all technology, consumer products and living organisms. Materials science is the study of the relationship between the structure, properties, processing and performance of materials and their function. Materials scientists explore those relationships, synthesize new materials, develop improved processes for making materials, and work to understand the role of materials in the functioning of biological organisms.

  The materials science and engineering department at Johns Hopkins specializes in biomaterials, nanomaterials, organic semiconductors, metallic glasses, materials characterization and thin films, and offers specialized curriculum tracks in two emerging fields, biomaterials and nanotechnology.

  The biomaterials track is designed to provide a broad educational basis with an emphasis in the principles and applications of biomaterials, including biomimetic and natural materials, host responses to biomaterials and biocompatibility, and applications of biomaterials, particularly to tissue engineering, drug delivery and medical devices and implants. The nanotechnology track is designed to train students in the fundamental interdisciplinary principles of materials science while exposing them to cutting edge nanomaterials research.

Materials Science Career Options

  Broadly, materials scientists apply their interdisciplinary background in physics, chemistry and engineering to study the structures and chemical properties of materials to develop new materials or enhance the properties of existing ones. Eventually, they tend to specialize in a specific type of material, such as metals, ceramics, plastics, semiconductors and composites, or a specific type of processing, such as solidification processing, powder processing, deposition processing and deformation processing. Once in the workforce, materials scientists usually work in one of three general areas:

  • Primary materials processing
  • Manufacturing
  • Service

Primary materials processing

  • Developing and processing raw materials such as steel, glass, polymer powder, for sale to manufacturers of a component of the product or the end product itself.


  • Using primary materials to produce a component product or end product, including transportation, electrical/electronics, machinery, computers, biomaterials, durable goods and non-durable goods


  • Materials consulting, research and development, construction, and utilities

  These areas include industries such as chemical products, consulting, electronics, industrial gas, healthcare, packaging engineering, petroleum, polymer resins, semiconductors, paper manufacturing, consumer products, mining, government and pharmaceuticals.

  Entry-level positions for materials sciences graduates include basic engineering roles in manufacturing and development. In manufacturing, they ensure that incoming material specifications are met, that production lines run smoothly, and that products meet quality standards; in production, they might work to improve production methods and create new and improved products. While cutting edge research is typically carried out by engineers with higher degrees, these positions can lead to rewarding and lucrative careers in research, development, management, sales and consulting.

Materials Science Career Prep

  While the materials science and engineering coursework is rigorous, your work outside the classroom is equally important. Research in your area of interest will give you practical laboratory experience, but also experience developing “soft skills” in collaboration with others, such as communicating, organizing and leadership. Particularly in the corporate world, the ability to clearly communicate and present scientific findings is crucial. Research experience, involvement in extracurricular activities and community service, are all excellent ways to demonstrate these interpersonal skills

  Similarly, real world experience gained through internships will not only establish your abilities to translate classroom experience to practical applications, but will also allow you to get a better sense of what areas of the field interest you. Prominent employers of materials scientists and engineers to consider include:

  • 3M Company
  • Advanced Magnetics, Inc.
  • Advanced Micro Devices.
  • American Superconductor
  • Applied Materials
  • Argonne National Laboratory
  • Babcock & Wilcox
  • BASF Corporation
  • Bayer Corp.
  • Bechtel
  • Bethlehem Steel
  • BF Goodrich
  • Black & Decker
  • Boeing Company
  • Brookhaven National Lab.
  • Cabot Corporation
  • Chevron Chemical
  • Chrysler Corporation
  • CMI International
  • COI Ceramics, Inc.
  • Conoco
  • Dow Chemical
  • Eastman Chemical Co.
  • Eaton Corp
  • Ford Motor Company
  • Georgia Pacific
  • General Electric
  • General Motors
  • Hewlett Packard
  • IBM
  • Ingersoll-Rand
  • Intel Corporation
  • ITT
  • Johnson Controls, Inc.
  • Kaiser Aluminum
  • KB Alloys Inc.
  • Lockheed Martin Corp.
  • Los Alamos National Lab
  • Lucent Technologies.
  • Medsource Technologies.
  • Medtronic, Inc.
  • Michelin
  • Microsoft Corporation
  • Motorola
  • Nalco Chemical
  • National Science Foundation
  • Nucor Corp.
  • PPG Industries
  • Procter & Gamble
  • Sherwin-Williams
  • Sun Microsystems
  • Sundstrand Aerospace
  • Taylor Made Golf Co.
  • Tensar Corporation
  • Texas Instruments, Inc.
  • Unilever Research U.S.
  • US Army Research Laboratory

Materials Science Alumni

  Hopkins Materials Science & Engineering alumni go into a variety of career fields. The Career Center has surveyed recent graduates about their academic and career plans 6 months after graduation. Here is a summary of their responses.

Listed below are actual job titles that JHU alumni acquired with their degrees in Materials Science & Engineering:

  • Chief Operations Officer, Materials Technology Consulting Firm
  • Energy Engineering Supervisor
  • Healthcare/Pharmaceutical Consulting
  • Investment Analyst
  • Materials Engineer
  • Patent Attorney
  • Physician
  • President, Manufacturing Corporation
  • Principal Engineer, Energy Industry
  • Principle Strategic Analyst
  • Principal Research Scientist
  • Program Manager/Materials Engineer, Dept of Defense
  • Project Engineer
  • Quality Control Manager
  • Reliability Engineer
  • Researcher
  • Technology Manager

Hopkins Alumni in Material Sciences

Additional Alumni Profiles

    Networking with alumni and other professionals who work in these fields can help you learn very specific information about a career field. Use Johns Hopkins Connect to contact alumni to ask for their advice. You may also find professional contacts through professional associations, faculty, friends and family.

    For more information on what you can do with a Materials Science Major go to What can I do with a major in Physics, What can I do with a major in Chemistry, or What can I do with a major in Engineering.

    Want to know more? Read our Hopkins Career Profiles on Engineering, Consulting, Pharmaceuticals, Medicine, and Scientific Research. If you would like to talk about how your search is going, we invite you to make an appointment with a Career Counselor by calling 410-516-8056.

  LinkedIn.com - a professional networking site where you can identify Hopkins alumni. Join the LinkedIn Johns Hopkins University Alumni Group to add over 4000+ alumni to your network.

Materials Science Grad School

  The Career Center is here to help you navigate the graduate school search process. Click here for guidelines and preparing for Graduate School and Professional School.

  For information on the specific programs, the best people to talk to are the experts in your field you wish to study, faculty members and graduate students in that specific discipline. We strongly encourage you to talk with your advisor and other faculty members with whom you have a good working relationship. This will also help when you request letters of recommendation. The Career Center has a handout to guide you in asking for letters of recommendation.

  For information on the advanced degree programs in Materials Science and Engineering and other related fields at JHU, please visit the department’s website

Materials Science Societies

Materials Science Links