in controlling structure was realized. The critical role of processing is a central theme of this report. Today, relationships between structure, properties, performance, and processing are understood to apply not only to metals, but also to all classes of materials. Thus modern materials engineering involves exploitation of relationships among the four basic elements of the field—structure and composition, properties, synthesis and processing, and performance (i.e., the elements shown schematically in Figure 1.10), basic science, and industrial and broader societal needs.

Some important materials discoveries have been made by scientists, some by engineers, and still others by craftsmen. Many have been made by teams comprising all three types of individuals. Today, craftsmanship alone, in the absence of modern science and engineering, rarely suffices to bring about a new development in materials. Craftsmanship alone is also increasingly inadequate with respect to processing or production of materials.

A crucial challenge for the future is to find ways of carrying out education, research, and engineering—including production—that encourage the maximum interaction among scientists and engineers, among mathematicians, physicists, chemists, and biologists, and among the four basic elements of materials science and engineering. Supporting such interactions is a difficult task requiring much wisdom, and, realistically, a willingness to make tradeoffs. But progress in accomplishing this task is both possible and essential.


Materials scientists and engineers study the structure and composition of materials on scales ranging from the electronic and atomic through the microscopic to the macroscopic. They develop new materials, improve traditional materials, and produce materials reliably and economically through synthesis and processing. They seek to understand phenomena and to measure materials properties of all kinds, and they predict and evaluate the performance of real materials as structural or functional elements in engineering systems. This diversity of interests is mirrored in the fields of materials science and engineering practitioners, who come from a broad range of academic departments and disciplines.

There is a growing realization among scientists and engineers that, to develop materials for society, all four elements of materials science and engineering are needed. Even though an individual may identify with a physics, metallurgy, or other department in a university emphasizing a particular aspect of the field, it is implicitly and increasingly recognized that important contributions will come from various disciplines working together.

The interdisciplinary nature of materials science and engineering and its growth as a field have also been recognized in the professional world outside academia. For example, the American Society for Metals, once the largest

The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement