Survey Course That Includes Corrosion

Few undergraduate materials science and engineering (MSE) programs in the United States and even fewer nonmaterials engineering programs offer (much less require) such a dedicated course. Many programs provide the second category of course—that is, an overview of corrosion in classes required for all students. One approach in this category is an introductory, survey-type course offered early in an undergraduate curriculum. Typically this would be an introductory materials science course taken by all materials majors or by students in mechanical, civil, and other engineering fields.1 Other schools might cover corrosion in a course on the mechanical behavior of materials. Most textbooks for this type of course present corrosion at the back of the book, adding some elementary electrochemistry to build on a foundation of thermodynamics and physical metallurgy gained earlier. Typically, a single lecture is devoted to corrosion, although, unfortunately, some instructors might not make it all the way through the textbook. Assuming that the student did attend the lecture, he or she is likely to know that corrosion requires an anode, a cathode, electrical contact, and ionic contact. For dissimilar metal couples, the engineer may be able to consult a handbook on the galvanic series and identify which metal would act as the anode in service and which as the cathode. To give an idea of the expectations for engineers, the only such material covered in the engineering license fundamentals of engineering (FE) exam for professional engineers offered by the National Council of Examiners for Engineers (NCEES) is the electromotive force series. A graduating engineer might also have access to a corrosion report prepared by an expert that would allow him or her to make decisions or reach conclusions. She or he is unlikely to be able to proactively address specific corrosion problems in design or independently analyze corrosion failures encountered on the job.

Senior Design Course

The third kind of course where a student might gain some corrosion awareness is the senior capstone or design course; here students are expected to synthesize the knowledge acquired in many different courses to tackle a particular design problem.2 For instance, such a course for a materials engineer would focus on the selection of materials appropriate for specific applications, so the student engineer would have to consider the impact of corrosion, along with other factors, on the


Although the focus of this report is engineering education, the committee notes that often some electrochemistry and corrosion are taught in freshman chemistry classes.


A capstone course is a course offered in the final semester of a student’s major. It ties together the key topics that faculty expect the student to have learned during the major, interdisciplinary program, or interdepartmental major.

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