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!
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._______________________________________________________________________________