Academics Blog

Archive for the Category Materials Science & Engineering *


Materials Science and Engineering

Name: Blake D. Barnett

Year: Class of 2012

Hometown: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Major: Materials Science and Engineering

Minor: Entrepreneurship and Management

Materials Science and Engineering–Everything Is Made Out Of Something

As a child, I was notorious in my family for being that kid: constantly taking (or, more often, breaking) things apart to see how they worked, or getting left behind at the grocery store while studying the intricacies of the deli’s ticket dispenser. And while my chances of getting lost in the produce section have decreased, my fascination with understanding the world around me is something I never outgrew. In high school, whenever a subject came up in science news that really piqued my interest—such as hydrogen fuel cells, cell phone screens based on butterfly wings, or flexible electronic paper—I found that they were always described as being based in materials science or nanotechnology. I knew that that’s what I wanted to do, too—those guys made the coolest gadgets! So when I was considering Hopkins, I was excited to find that they had a Materials Science and Engineering major, with concentrations offered in Biomaterials and Nanotechnology.

As expected, the program provided a solid grounding in what materials science really is. Students explore materials from the atomic level all the way through crystal structures, multiphase systems, and bulk properties. You’ll have an opportunity to learn why objects’ matter matters. You’ll explore the details of why glass shatters, metal bends, and rubber bounces back—and that’s just in one class on mechanical properties. If you’re more interested in how the circuits in your computer are fabricated, or why hip replacements are made of titanium instead of aluminum, you won’t even have to go looking for courses in other departments. Materials Science is one of the most fundamental, and therefore most interdisciplinary, fields that exists today. In many core classes, you’ll find more students from other majors than from the department itself.

Which isn’t to say you’ll get lost in the crowd—the department has roughly 60 undergraduates total, or 15 per class year. Along with our sixteen professors, the department forms a tight-knit community where getting the chance to talk to your professor about a new development in the field isn’t rare—it’s the norm. This is especially helpful when picking a senior design project, since most students know their professors so well that deciding which lab to work in comes naturally. It was comforting to know that my hands-on engineering experience would be guided by someone who I knew I would enjoy working with.

The opportunities don’t end there, either. The department hosts researchers from other universities weekly to talk about their groundbreaking discoveries, and the seminars are open to everyone. There’s also the JHU Student Chapter of the Materials Research Society (MRS), which is open to students of all majors. Being a member is a great way to learn about the field of materials sciences and the opportunities within it for after graduation. The MRS works with underclassmen to find internships, bring alumni to speak about their post-graduate experiences, sponsor students to attend national MRS conferences, and have pizza at every meeting.

By working with my Senior Design mentor, the members of the Materials Research Society, and soliciting advice from pretty much every faculty member I could find, I’ve decided that working in industry is the best fit for me. I’m pursuing a number of career options in industrial research and development, with an eye towards international opportunities (thanks, German classes!). I know I want to be on the front lines of bringing new technologies to market

So if the ideas of invisibility cloaks, bulletproof T-shirts, self-healing polymers, or medical nanobots appeal to you, then so will Materials Science. If you want to learn about the stuff that stuff is made of, then this is the place for you!

Here’s a close-up view of a field-effect transistor that my group made in Materials Science Lab 2. The blobby lines are the hand painted electrical contacts we made using a conductive polymer solution.


Click here to access more information about the Materials Science and Engineering Undergraduate Program of Study.

To further your exploration of this academic program and ask any question you may have of current students, be sure to visit the Hopkins Forums’ Academics: The Insider Perspective and the Materials Science and Engineering question thread.


Materials Science and Engineering

Name: Dea Lovy

Year: Class of 2010

Hometown: Seattle, WA

Major: Materials Science and Engineering

Minor: Entrepreneurship and Management


During the college search process of my senior year of high school, I did not have any clue as to where I wanted to spend my next four years, let alone what I wanted to be studying.  As I narrowed it down to Hopkins, my initial thought was to remain undecided within the Arts and Sciences school.  However, my parents decided that if I wanted to remain undecided- I would best do so within Engineering.  Why not? I enjoyed a challenge, and I wasn’t too shabby in the math and sciences department…

Fast forward about a year and a half into my Hopkins life, and I still was unsure as to what engineering discipline would best fit.  Among several factors that contributed to my ultimate decision was size.  Coming from a high school graduating class of 15, I knew I would work best in an environment that enabled me to develop close interactions with both peer students as well as faculty.  In addition, coming from a family of all doctors, I knew that I wanted to remain somewhat connected to the health industry even if I was too queasy to go through medical school.  Lastly, I wanted to remain connected to the other types of engineering there were.

The Materials Science and Engineering department was a great fit.  There are about 70 students in the undergraduate major, with about 15 graduating students every year.  With over 12 faculty in the department, I knew that help would be available to me whenever I needed it.  The MSE (not to be confused with Milton S. Eisenhower…) department also offered two concentrations, biomaterials and nanotechnology, both of which have increasing value in todays’ world.  Biomaterials- the study of materials and their interactions with the human body- was definitely something I was interested in.  Best of all, the courses required for a major in the MSE department would allow me to explore several aspects of engineering in general.  I was able to take Statics and Dynamics, with mostly CivE and MechE majors, as well as Biomaterials with mostly BMEs.  I could have it all, without have to feel tied down in one place.

In case I’ve lost you with my timeline of decision-making, let me go back to explain a little bit about exactly what Materials Science and Engineering is.  Put simply, according to the departmental website, “Materials scientists seek to understand the connections between the structure of materials and their properties, how particular properties can be achieved by suitable processing, and the applications of materials to modern technologies”.  What I really love is that CIMG3706 behind every type of engineering, there is a need for materials scientists.

Outside the classroom, there are opportunities to pursue an interest in materials science.  The small size of the department makes it easy to get involved in a materials lab of your choice- which could eventually become a part of your senior design project.  In addition, there is a student-run Hopkins chapter of the Materials Research Society (MRS) that gets together for discussions, as well as event planning (think field trips, etc).  The department also hosts almost weekly seminars and events that undergraduates are more than welcome to attend.

As for my coming years following graduation, I am not quite sure.  What I do know is that looking back thus far, I am glad to say that I chose the MSE department.


Click here to access more information about the Materials Science and Engineering Undergraduate Program of Study.

To further your exploration of this academic program and ask any question you may have of current students, be sure to visit the Hopkins Forums’ Academics: The Insider Perspective and the MSE question thread.