A materials scientist studies the properties and uses of a range of materials, such as metals, glass, plastics and electronics to develop new and more efficient uses, processes and products. It is a fascinating and widely varied field with enormous scope for dedicated professionals. Ireland is one of the top ten countries in the world for materials science research.
Alternative job titles for this role
Modern materials science comes from two traditional areas of science: the study of matter, which originated in the fields of chemistry and physics and developments in various material engineering fields, including micro-electrics, metallurgy and plastics. Materials scientists investigate properties, composition and structure of matter and the laws that govern the combination of elements and reaction of substances. Chemistry plays a leading role in materials science as it provides information about the structure and composition of matter.
Materials scientists strive to find new materials for use in a broad range of fields, from aeronautics to optical fibres for telecommunications and silicon microchips that carry electrical signals faster and more efficiently. They find out how materials react to different conditions, including temperature and pressure, and try to improve their performance. Breakthroughs in this field are likely to have a significant impact on the future of science, technology and engineering, with the creation of intelligent, lighter, less expensive devices and new construction materials and fabrics.
What the job involves
How your career can develop
A degree in materials science can open doors to a wide range of industries and gives you knowledge of manufacturing, processing and the fabrication of materials.
Why materials science matters
Materials scientists have recently heralded graphene, previously used to make graphite used in pencils, as the possible successor to the silicone chip.
A bachelor's degree, preferably in materials science or nanoscience, is the normal entry point. A diploma or PLC in a related subject such as applied chemistry can also lead on to further study at degree level. Many professionals pursue postgraduate studies to further their careers.
- Materials technologist
- Nanotechnology scientist
- Conduct research on the structures and properties of materials, such as metals, alloys, polymers and ceramics
- Obtain information that can be used to develop new products or enhance existing ones.
- Prepare reports, manuscripts, proposals, and technical manuals for use by other scientists
- Perform experiments and computer modelling to study the nature, structure, and physical and chemical properties of materials
- Plan laboratory experiments to confirm feasibility of processes and techniques used in the production of materials having special characteristics
- Determine ways to strengthen or combine materials or develop new materials with new or specific properties for use in a variety of products and applications
- Devise testing methods to evaluate the effects of various conditions on particular materials
- Test and recommend materials for reliable performance in various environments and for various uses
- Judgment and decision-making
- Operations analysis
- Interest in maths
- Excellent communication skills
- Attention to detail
- Analytical and problem-solving skills
- A high standard of numeracy
- IT competency and computer-modelling experience
- Research and report-writing skills
- Creative and independent thinking
- Commercial awareness and business skills
- Aircraft and aircraft component manufacturers
- Aerospace and defence manufacturers
- Car and transport manufacturers
- Medical devices
- Plastics and polymers
- Electronics industry
- Nanotechnology research
- Graduate/Starting €35,000 to €45,000
- Senior/Potential €45,000+