Undergraduate Degree Program for Materials Science and Engineering

In every age, those who have dominated materials have also dominated technology. Indeed, the performance of the tiniest microcircuits, the most advanced aircraft, and even the bones in your body, is defined and limited by the material properties. The mastery of materials is more critical today than ever as new materials form the core of technological advances in energy, sustainability, electronics, nanotechnology, and biomaterials. Materials science and engineering (MSE) at Cornell prepares students to couple fundamental physics, chemistry, and biology with engineering to improve and invent novel materials that enable these advances.

MSE at Cornell is a broad, multidisciplinary field devoted to understanding and manipulating the mechanical, chemical, electrical, magnetic, optical, and biological properties of materials. The science side of MSE investigates the basic mechanisms that give materials their properties. The applications side explores ways to modify all types of materials, including metals, semiconductors, and plastics—and even ways to create new materials like nanoparticles—for improving performance metrics, such as speed, strength, compactness, and biocompatibility in engineered products.

Although the MSE program is broad and diverse, it has a clearly defined set of core (required) courses that develop a thorough understanding of basic materials principles. These courses cover, for example, the structure of materials, materials chemistry, thermodynamics and kinetics, mechanical and electronic properties, and concepts of materials design. To complement this core curriculum, you will choose (with your advisor) electives tailored to your career and/or academic interests. These electives explore the breadth of materials and their applications, ranging from biomineralization to processing of thin films for microelectronics. Electives, typically at the 5000 level, offer undergraduates and graduate students the opportunity to interact with faculty at the forefront of research.

Students are encouraged to take courses outside MSE, both to broaden their general engineering experience and to understand how materials impact specific applications. The major meshes well with courses in many areas, particularly electrical and computer engineering, mechanical and aerospace engineering, and chemical and biomolecular engineering. Courses in these majors often count as electives within the MSE curriculum, or may be taken to satisfy a formal minor or even a double major. Common minors for MSE students include biomedical engineering, mechanical engineering, electrical and computer engineering, and business for engineering students.

Cornell is a leader in materials research and hosts several premier research centers. Many of our students choose to become directly involved in research at some point either as a volunteer, for pay, or for academic credit. Working alongside faculty and graduate students, they contribute extensively to the research program and often author scientific publications based on their work.


With materials required for virtually all engineered products, professionals with training in MSE are employed across all industrial sectors. They are working in every size company, from large corporations in aerospace, chemicals, medicine, and microelectronics to a multitude of tiny startups. Job responsibilities include materials selection and qualification, materials processing, failure analysis, research and design of new materials, and product development. Many MSE students continue for advanced degrees and work in national, industrial, and academic research labs developing the technologies of tomorrow, such as sunlight-harvesting nanopillars or porous scaffolds for tissue regeneration.

MSE also attracts students interested in business, law, and medicine, as it provides a strong technical background covering a broad sweep of both science and engineering.

Master of Engineering Degree Program

The Master of Engineering (M.Eng.) in MSE is a one-year, professionally-oriented program designed to prepare students for engineering or engineering management careers in business, government, and industry, or for entrepreneurial pursuits. The MSE M.Eng. curriculum is flexible and interdisciplinary, allowing students to tailor coursework to their personal interests and backgrounds. An option for Cornell undergraduates is the early admission to M.Eng.; this enables students to complete both the B.S. and the M.Eng. degrees in nine semesters. Our M.Eng. graduates typically join the professional ranks with higher starting salaries and advanced levels of responsibility, compared to those with bachelor’s degrees. Some M.Eng. students alternatively use this program to strengthen their research background before applying to Ph.D. programs.

Some Areas of Faculty Research

  • batteries
  • biofouling
  • biomineralization
  • block copolymers
  • bone mechanics
  • carbon sequestration
  • colloidal particles
  • computational materials
  • core-shell nanoparticles
  • electronics/photonics
  • fuel cells
  • laser processing
  • layered materials
  • materials genomics
  • metal & oxide thin films
  • multiferroic oxides
  • nitride semiconductors
  • nanoscale dynamics
  • photocatalysis
  • photolithography
  • supercapacitors
  • thermoelectric materials
  • thin film transistors
  • x-ray science
  • water purification

Materials Science and Engineering by the Numbers

Number of Materials Science Engineering undergraduate students: 59

Starting salaries of B.S. Materials Science and Engineering graduates (three-year average):

  • Median salary: $70,000
  • High salary: $105,000

Post-graduate plans for materials science and engineer graduates at the time of graduation (three-year average):

  • Employed 31% 31%
  • Attending Graduate School 67% 67%
  • Other 2% 2%