Top Ten Reasons to Major in Materials Science


    Jobs are plentiful and challenging, salaries are good, and there is

     opportunity for travel abroad and graduate school too.  Rice MSCI

     graduates enjoy an exceptionally high rate of acceptance at some of

     the best graduate schools including Stanford, U.C. Berkeley,

     Northwestern, Carnegie Mellon, Penn, etc.  Summer jobs are vailable,

     some on campus and even more in industry.  For additional details

     check with advisor Rick Barrera ( or 713-348-6242)

     or any of the other MSCI faculty who will be happy to describe

     courses and degree programs.  The Rice B.S. degree in Materials

     Science is the only one in Texas outside of El Paso.


1) Jobs in Semiconductors - Advancements in both memory and logic circuitry depend on new manufacturing processes, new materials and understanding of their response to temperature, mechanical stress, electric currents and impurities.  Because such innovation is crucial to this highly competitive industry, many thousands of materials engineers and scientists are employed in areas such as R&D, manufacturing, quality & reliability assurance and failure analysis.  Several semiconductor companies in Texas and the U.S. employ numerous Rice MSCI alumni.


2) Jobs in Oil & Gas - We depend on hydrocarbons for transportation; heating; manufacture of polymers, fertilizer & other chemicals; some electricity generation; etc.  Due to gains in population and economic activity, the need for oil and gas is increasing while the amount available in the earth is diminishing as the fluids are extracted.  This makes it especially challenging to find untapped reserves and extract them economically.  Engineers and scientists can contribute by developing new materials and techniques for exploration, drilling, production and refining.  Examples include metals and fabrication procedures for enormous offshore platforms; materials and mitigation procedures for corrosive, high temperature environments in pipelines & refineries; as well as wear resistant materials & designs for rock drilling and new transducers for exploration.  Houston is world headquarters for the oil & gas business and the home of hundreds of companies which are primary producers or which provide needed products and services.  Many employ Rice MEMS alumni.


3) Jobs in Aerospace - NASA, its subcontractors, and commercial airplane companies employ many materials engineers to develop and implement lighter, stronger materials for structural use (such as carbon fiber composites), more heat and oxidation-resistant materials for engines (such as single-crystal superalloy turbine blades), and advanced ceramic heat-resistant tiles for re-entry vehicles.  This industry offers many challenging opportunities.


4) Biomaterials - Research, development and manufacturing of biocompatible materials and products such as: metallic, polymeric & ceramic replacements for joints and bones, polymers for use in artificial hearts, shape memory metals for stents, etc.  This is a rapidly growing field and one that is relatively immune to the economic cycles that affect some other industries.  Rice is involved in numerous projects with the Texas Medical Center, including both collaborative research and teaching programs.


5) Nanotechnology - lots of promise for the future including such diverse applications as better bulletproof vests, an elevator to outer space and a treatment for certain kinds of cancer.  This is the best time to get started in this field, while it is growing rapidly and the possibilities are almost endless.


6) Micro-Electro-Mechanical Systems (MEMS) - MEMS are used in such diverse applications as video projection displays for the home and office, accelerometers for deploying car air bags and geophones for seismic prospecting.  The manufacturing techniques and opportunities are similar in many ways to semiconductors.  See item 1) above.


7) Positions in Consulting, Government Service and Academia - Many product liability issues result from a material failure of some kind.  Numerous professional engineers are employed in carrying out the associated failure analysis work, reporting their findings and appearing as expert witnesses.  This requires considerable training in the various fields of microscopy, microanalysis and materials testing, as covered in various MSCI courses.  In addition, several Rice MSCI grads have found employment in various government agencies including the Naval Research Lab, Oak Ridge National Lab and Los Alamos National Lab.  Others have assumed positions in teaching and research at various universities.


8) Jobs in Automotive & Heavy Equipment Industries - Each year in this country there are manufactured millions of cars, trucks, and machines for agriculture and construction.  Many of these are quite costly.  These machines are built from a wide variety of metallic, polymeric and other materials.  Some of the parts are subject to very high temperatures, adhesive and abrasive wear, or corrosive chemicals and yet are expected to work reliably for many years.  Numerous challenges and employment opportunities await the materials engineers employed in this field.


9) Jobs in Electric Power - working on problems of corrosion and wear in existing equipment and developing new production, storage and distribution methods.  For example improved fuel cells for mobile applications, better methods of hydrogen storage in liquid or solid phase, superconductors for power cables, and also more efficient light sources.


10) Jobs in Disk Storage - Many of our normal daily activities produce digital data that must be kept for some length of time.  Most of these data are stored on magnetic, optical or magneto-optical disk systems.  The torrent of data is growing exponentially, along with the need for faster, denser storage media.  Materials engineers can help develop those new media along with the transducers for reading and writing the data.


                                                                                             PJL&FRB 4/6/04