A materials engineer process, test, and develop materials used to make a large variety of products such as aircraft wings, computer chips, biomedical devices, or even golf clubs. They study and evaluate the structures and properties of metal, composites, ceramics, plastics, and nano materials to create new materials that can meet particular chemical, electrical, and mechanical requirements.
Whether developing a new type of shatterproof glass for phone screens, or a heat-resistant compound to support Mars mission equipment, materials engineers and materials scientists have their fingerprints all over innovations in industry. While both develop new products and improve existing ones, materials scientists focus on the structure and properties of materials, while materials engineers apply that knowledge to develop products. Both usually specialize in a principal material, such as ceramics, glass, metal, or semiconductors.
Materials scientists improve materials such as metallic alloys or superconducting materials, so that products can have features and functions that were not possible previously. They also develop new materials. Materials scientists conduct experiments and analyze their results. Materials engineers select materials for specific products and develop new ways to use existing materials, continuously designing improvements. They prepare proposals and budgets, analyze labor costs, and may supervise technologists and technicians.