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What is MSE?


Materials science and engineering (MSE) focuses on everything solid: metals, plastics, ceramics, and composites. As materials engineers, we learn about the properties of materials and how to develop new ones with the properties we need.


Many of today’s innovative technologies originate from innovative materials. For example, the Boeing 787 Dreamliner is the first commercial airplane to have a fuselage constructed from carbon fibre rather than aircraft-grade aluminum alloys.

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Even more, the materials used in the engines of this plane are highly engineered to operate at extreme temperatures over an exceptionally long lifetime. You’ll learn all about these materials in MSE318: Phase Transformations and MSE316: Mechanical Behaviour of Materials.

Two excellent books covering the extent of MSE are Rust: The Longest War by Jonathan Waldman, and Stuff Matters: Exploring the Marvelous Materials That Shape Our Man-Made World by Mark Miodownik.


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The first gives an anecdotal accounting of rust as seen from the perspective of art, industry, government, and history in both interesting and entertaining vignettes. The second, authored by a materials scientist, describes the properties of everyday materials.

Materials engineers don’t just research material properties, they also take on detective roles as failure analysis engineers or as integrity engineers. When a product fails unexpectedly, such as faulty microchips, the failure analysis engineer is needed to figure out what went wrong and how to prevent it in the future. It’s the role of the integrity engineer to use non-destructive testing techniques to monitor the quality of technologies in service, such as oil pipelines. Both are materials engineers working under a different name. The key concepts of for these positions are taught in MSE315: Environmental Degradation of Materials, MSE419: Fracture and Failure Analysis, and MSE: 431 Forensic Engineering.

The MSE program at the University of Toronto (UofT) is setup so that the first two years of study develop the mathematics, physics, and chemistry background necessary to understand the processes governing all solids. During your third year, more advanced concepts, which build on your first and second year studies, are covered. You will also be exposed to introductory courses in the four main themes of materials engineering: Biomaterials, Materials for Manufacturing, Materials Processing for Sustainable Development, and Nanomaterials. In your fourth and final year, you will be able to choose courses from any of the four themes that suit your interests as well as conduct a thesis or capstone project. In our Anticalendar, we’ve provided useful information to help you succeed during your studies.

When we’re not in lecture or busy doing coursework, MSEs are engaged in the wider community of UofT engineering by participating in many clubs and design teams such as: the UofT Engineering Society, the Concrete Canoe team, the Toike Oike student newspaper, and the Human Powered Vehicle Design Team, some have even formed their own startups most notably, Hol Food.