Materials Engineering

Discover your passion

From high-tech, environmentally friendly materials designed for use in magnetic refrigeration to finding low-cost, accessible materials technology in developing countries, materials matter at Iowa State. Think of all the different materials in biomedical devices, computer chips, cell phone batteries, jet engine parts and even the kitchen sink — these are a few examples of the products that influence the work of a materials engineer.

Materials engineers understand the relationship between the properties of a material and its internal structure — from the macro to the atomic level. They create new materials and improve existing ones, helping products become cheaper, easier to produce and more durable. The better the materials, the better the end result.

Be greater than you imagine

Whatever your goals are, your success is important to us. Our programs, labs, hands-on learning and facilities will give you a competitive advantage to address society’s greatest needs.

Personal attention: Having strong relationships with professors is key to your success. Everything in our department is kept small to encourage interaction. The student-to-faculty ratio is 12:1. The average class size is 30 students, and the average lab size is 15 to 20 students working in teams of 2 to 3.

Strong research program:

Our faculty work on amazing research projects, and our undergraduate students serve as research assistants, earning money while they work. Some of our research areas include:

  • Biomedical engineering: Chains of polymer molecules can be arranged in various ways and are being used in biomedical applications like on-demand drug delivery.
  • Frugal engineering: Materials engineers develop solutions to complex societal problems (like energy, healthcare, water and agriculture) by using the least amount of resources (time, materials and money) in a sustainable way. This research taps into human creativity, rather than putting a lot of resources into a problem.
  • Soft materials: Fluids, rubbers and gels make up the set of materials typically classified as soft matter. These materials can be made to change shape, properties or even their function on demand, similar to dynamic organisms found in nature.
  • Additive manufacturing: Using computer 3D modeling software, an additive manufacturing machine reads design data and lays down plastic, metal, concrete or other material in a line-by-line, layer-upon-layer fashion to create a 3D object. Additive manufacturing is being used to develop end-use products in aircraft, dental restorations, medical implants, automobiles, construction and even fashion.

Areas of study

Students are exposed to all aspects of materials engineering. Choose an area of specialization to fit your career aspirations:

  • Ceramics: From their beginnings in clay-based pottery, ceramics are now at the very heart of modern technology, playing critical roles in electronics (computers and cell phones), transportation (batteries and cars), environmental technologies (catalytic converters) and defense (armor). You will learn how to design and develop new and improved ceramic materials.
  • Metals: We need metals to make our world work. They make up critical parts in essentially all modern technologies. By studying the structure and properties of metallic alloys, you will learn how to tailor metals for specific applications­­ —from light-weight metals for new, fuel-efficient cars to advanced metals for use in high-temperature turbines for airplane engines.
  • Polymers: The medical field uses biodegradable polymers in stitches that are absorbed by the body, and the automobile industry uses them to replace other materials. Most toys, appliances and recreational equipment contain polymers. They are light-weight, relatively easy to produce, energy efficient and recyclable.


Engineer Your Future

Many of our graduates have built successful careers not only as engineers, but also as managers, entrepreneurs, sales representatives and consultants.

The average starting salary of materials engineering graduates is more than $76,000/year.

Co-op and internship salaries for our students average $18.50/hour.

Approximately 1,400 companies recruit our engineers every year.

87 percent of our materials engineering students have in-profession placement within six months of graduation.

Visit the Materials Science and Engineering website View the Materials Engineering brochure
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