Materials Science and Engineering


R. D. Sisson Jr., George F. Fuller Professor; Director, Manufacturing and Materials Engineering; Ph.D., Purdue University. Materials process modeling and control, manufacturing engineering, corrosion, and environmental effects on metals and ceramics.

Y. K. Rong, John Woodman Higgins Professor; Associate Director, Manufacturing and Materials Engineering; Ph.D., University of Kentucky. CAD/CAM, manufacturing process and systems.

D. Apelian, Howmet Professor of Engineering; Director, Metal Processing Institute; Sc.D., Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Solidification processing, spray casting, molten metal processing, aluminum foundry processing, plasma processing, and knowledge engineering in materials processing.

D. Backman, Research Professor of Mechanical Engineering; Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Materials modeling and simulation, design-materials integration, heat treatment, solidification processing, and aerospace materials and processes.

I. Bar-On, Professor; Ph.D., Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Mechanical behavior of materials, fracture and fatigue of metals, ceramics and composites, reliability and lie prediction, and electronic packaging.

R. R. Biederman, Professor Emeritus; Ph.D., P.E., University of Connecticut. Materials science and engineering, microstructural analysis, SEM, TEM, and diffraction analysis.

C. A. Brown, Professor; Director, Surface Metrology Lab; Director, Haas Technical Center; Ph.D., P.E., University of Vermont. Surface metrology, machining, fractal analysis, sports engineering, tribology, axiomatic design and abrasive processes.

C. D. Demetry, Associate Professor; Director of the Center for Educational Development and Assessment, Ph.D., Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Materials science and engineering education, nanocrystalline materials and nanocomposites, materials processing, and grain boundaries and interfaces in materials.

T. El-Korchi, Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Ph.D., University of New Hampshire. Civil engineering, statistics, strength of materials, structural design, construction materials, structural analysis, structural materials, pavement analysis, design and management.

R. N. Katz, Research Professor; Ph.D., Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Ceramics Science and Technology, Failure Analysis, Design Brittle Material Technology Assessment, Mechanical Behavior of Ceramic & Metal Matrix Composites.

D. A. Lados, Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering; Director, Integrative Materials Design Center (iMdc); Ph.D., Worcester Polytechnic Institute. Fatigue, fatigue crack growth, and fracture behavior of materials - design and optimization for automotive, aerospace, marine, and military applications; microstructure characterization and microstructure-performance relationships; solidification and post-solidification processes (heat treatment) and impact on static and dynamic properties; material/process development; residual stress; plasticity; small and long crack growth behavior; fracture mechanics; fatigue life prediction models; powder metallurgy.

B. Li, Research Associate Professor; Manager of the Materials Characterization Laboratories; PhD., University of Science and Technology of China. Surface and interface physics, materials physics, growth and structural characterization of nanostructured materials, nanomaterials in energy storage and conversion applications, materials characterization, electron microscopy.

J. Liang, Assistant Professor, Ph.D., Brown University. Nanostructured materials, Materials Processing, nanomaterial Characterization.

R. Ludwig, Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering, Ph.D., Colorado State University. Electromagnetic and acoustic Nondestructive Evaluation (NDE), electromagnetic/acoustic sensors, electromechanical device modeling, piezoelectric array transducers, numerical simulation, inverse and optimization methods for Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI).

M. M. Makhlouf, Professor; Director, Aluminum Casting Research Laboratory; Ph.D., Worcester Polytechnic Institute. Solidification of Metals, the application of heat, mass and momentum transfer to modeling and solving engineering materials problems, and processing of ceramic materials.

S. Shivkumar, Professor; Ph.D., Stevens Institute of Technology. Biomedical Materials, Plastics, Materials Processing.

L. Wang, Research Professor of Mechanical Engineering; Ph.D., Drexel University. Casting technology, aluminum casting alloy development and characterization, heat treatment, molten metal processing, and solidification processing.

Program of Study

Programs leading to a degree of master of science and/or doctor of philosophy.

The master of science in materials science and engineering provides students with an opportunity to study the fundamentals of materials science and state-of-the-art applications in materials engineering and materials processing. The program is designed to build a strong foundation in materials science along with industrial applications in engineering, technology and processing. Both full- and part-time study are available.

Program areas for the doctor of philosophy emphasize the processing-structure-property performance relationships in metals, ceramics, polymers and composites. Current projects are addressing these issues in fuel cell materials, biopolymers, aluminum and magnesium casting, the heat-treating of steels and aluminum alloys and metal matrix composites.

Well-equipped laboratories within Washburn Shops and Stoddard Laboratories include such facilities as scanning (SEM) and transmission (TEM) electron microscopes, X-ray diffractometer, process simulation equipment, a mechanical testing laboratory including two computer- controlled servohydraulic mechanical testing systems, metalcasting, particulate processing, semisolid processing laboratories, a surface metrology laboratory, a metallographic laboratory, a polymer engineering laboratory with differential scanning calorimeter (DSC) and thermo gravimetric analyzer (TGA), a corrosion laboratory, topographic analysis laboratory and machining force dynamometry. A range of materials processing, fastening, joining, welding, machining, casting and heat treating facilities is also available.

Admission Requirements

The program is designed for college graduates with engineering, mathematics or science degrees. Some undergraduate courses may be required to improve the student’s background in materials science and engineering. For further information, see our website.

Degree Requirements

For the M.S.

For the master of science in materials science and engineering, the student is required to complete a minimum of 30 credit hours. Requirements include the following six core courses: MTE 510, MTE 525, MTE 530, MTE 540, MTE 550, MTE 560, and two MTE or other 4000, 500 or 600 level engineering, science or mathematics electives, and 6 thesis credits. All courses must be approved by the student’s advisor and the Materials Graduate Committee.

Satisfactory participation in the materials engineering seminar (MTE 580) is also required for all full-time students. In addition to general college requirements, all courses taken for graduate credit must result in a GPA of 3.0 or higher. Waiver of any of these requirements must be approved by the Materials Science and Engineering Graduate Committee, which will exercise its discretion in handling any extenuating circumstances or problems.

Examples of Typical Program

  • Materials engineering core courses— 18 credits
  • Electives—6 credits
  • Thesis—6 credits
  • Total—30 credits

For the Ph.D.

The number of course credits required for the doctor of philosophy degree, above those for the master of science, is not specified precisely. For planning purposes, the student should consider a total of 21 to 30 course credits. The remainder of the work will be in research and independent study. The total combination of research and coursework required will not be less than 60 credits beyond the master of science degree or not less than 90 credits beyond the bachelor’s degree.

Admission to candidacy will be granted only after the student has satisfactorily passed the Materials Engineering Doctoral Qualifying/ Comprehensive Examination (MEDQE). The purpose of this exam is to determine if the student’s breadth and depth of understanding of the fundamental areas of materials engineering is adequate to conduct independent research and successfully complete a Ph.D. dissertation.

The MEDQE consists of both written and oral components. The written exam must be successfully completed before the oral exam can be taken. The oral exam is usually given within two weeks of the completion of the written exam. The MEDQE is offered one time each year.

A member of the materials science and engineering faculty will be appointed to be the chairperson of the MEDQE Committee. This person should not be the student’s Ph.D. thesis advisor; but that advisor may be a member of the MEDQE Committee. Others on the committee should be the writers of the four sections of the examinations and any other faculty selected by the chairperson. Faculty from other departments at WPI or other colleges/ universities, as well as experts from industry, may be asked to participate in this examination if the materials engineering faculty deems that it is appropriate.

At least one year prior to completion of the Ph.D. dissertation, the student must present a formal seminar to the public describing the proposed dissertation research project. This Ph.D. research proposal will be presented after admission to candidacy.

All materials science and engineering students in the Ph.D. program must satisfactorily complete a minor in a program-related technical area. The minor normally consists of a minimum of three related courses and must be approved by the Graduate Study Committee and the program head.

Materials Science and Engineering Laboratories and Research Centers

Materials Characterization Laboratories

The Materials Characterization Laboratory (MCL) is an analytical user facility, which serves the materials community at WPI, offering a range of analytical techniques and support services. MCL is part of the Materials Science and Engineering Program, directed by Professor Richard D. Sisson, Jr. and managed by Professor Boquan Li. By using the lab, materials researchers can access major instruments in the area of electron microscopy (SEM, TEM), x-ray diffraction, optical microscopy (conventional and inverted), physical property determination (hardness and micro indentation hardness), and materials process (specimen preparation, heat treatment, metal evaporation and sputtering). All of the instruments are available for hands-on use by students and faculty. Licensed users have 24-hour access to the instruments. Training is available by appointment throughout the year. The MCL is also open to researchers from other universities and local industries.

Nanomaterials and Nanomanufacturing Laboratory

This laboratory is well-equipped for advanced research in controlled nanofabrications and nanomanufacturing of carbon nanotubes, magnetized nanotubes, semiconducting, superconducting, magnetic, metallic arrays of nanowires and quantum dots. Nanomaterials fabrication and engineering will be carried out in this laboratory by different means, such as PVD (physical vapor deposition), CVD (chemical vapor deposition), PECVD (plasma enhanced CVD), RIE (reactive ion etching), ICP etching (induced coupled plasma), etc. Material property characterizations will be conducted, including optic, electronic, and magnetic property measurements. Device design, implementation, and test based on the obtained materials with improved quality will also be done in this laboratory.

Polymer Laboratory

This laboratory is used for the synthesis, processing and testing of plastics. The equipment includes: thermal analysis machines Perkin Elmer DSC 4, DSC 7, DTA 1400 and TGA 7; single-screw table-top extruder; injection molding facilities; polymer synthesis apparatus; oil bath furnaces; heat treating ovens; and foam processing and testing devices.

Surface Metrology Laboratory

The Surface Metrology Laboratory is dedicated to the study of surface textures, their creation and their influence of surface behavior or performance. We also study and design the manufacturing processes that create specific surface textures. We study and develop specialized algorithms that are used to support texture-related product and process design, and to advance the understanding of texture-dependent behavior. Our experience extends to analyzing data sets on scales from kilometers (earth’s surface) to Angstroms (cleaved mica), although the primary focus is on analyzing measured surfaces or profiles (i.e., topographic data) acquired from surfaces created or modified during manufacture, wear, fracture or corrosion.

The objective of the research on texture analysis is to develop characterization parameters that reduce large data sets, such as those acquired by atomic probe microscopy, scanning profiometry, confocal microscopy, or conventional profilometry. The purpose of the characterization parameters is to support product and process design, or promote the understanding of adhesion, friction, wear, fracture, corrosion or other texture related phenomena.

Metal Processing Institute (MPI)

The Metal Processing Institute (MPI) is an industry-University alliance. Its mission is to design and carry out research projects identified in collaboration with MPI’s industrial partners in the field of near and net shape manufacturing. MPI creates knowledge that will help enhance the productivity and competitiveness of the metal processing industry, and develops the industry’s human resource base through the education of WPI students and the dissemination of new knowledge. More than 120 private manufacturers participate in the Institute, and their support helps fund fundamental and applied research that addresses technological barriers facing the industry. The MPI researchers also develop and demonstrate best practices and state-of-the-art processing techniques.

MPI offers educational opportunities and corporate resources to both undergraduate and graduate students, specifically:

  • International exchanges and internships with several leading universities around the globe—Europe and Asia
  • Graduate internship programs leading to a master’s or doctoral degree, where the research work is carried out at the industrial site

For further details visit the MPI office on the third floor of Washburn, Room 326, or the MPI Web site.

MPI’s research programs are carried out by three distinct research consortia. These are described below:

  • Advanced Casting Research Center (ACRC)
  • Center for Heat Treating Excellence (CHTE)
  • Center for Resource Recovery & Recycling (CR3)

Advanced Casting Research Center (ACRC)

The laboratory provides experimental facilities for course laboratories and for undergraduate and graduate projects. The laboratory is equipped with extensive melting and casting facilities, computerized data acquisition systems for solidification studies, thermal analysis units, liquid metal filtration apparatus, rheocasting machines, and a variety of heat treating furnaces. The laboratory has strong collaborations with industry, and students work directly with professional engineers from sponsoring companies. Forty corporate members participate in and support the ACRC research programs. Student scholarships offered by the Foundry Education Foundation (FEF) are available through the laboratory. The ACRC conducts work-shops, seminars and technical symposiums for national and local industries. The laboratory is available throughout the year for project activity and thesis work as well as co-op and summer employment. Project opportunities at international sites are also available through ACRC/MPI.

Center for Heat Treating Excellence (CHTE)

The center is an alliance between the industrial sector and researchers to collaboratively address short-term and long-term needs of the heat treating industry. It is the center’s intent to enhance the position of the heat treating industry by applying research to solve industrial problems, and to advance heat treatment technology. The center’s objective is to advance the frontiers of thermal processing through fundamental research and development.

Specifically, the center will pursue research to develop innovative processes to:

  • Control microstructure and properties of metallic components
  • Reduce energy consumption
  • Reduce process time
  • Reduce production costs
  • Achieve zero distortion
  • Increase furnace efficiency
  • Achieve zero emissions

Over 25 corporate members participate in and support the CHTE research programs. MPI project opportunities, industrial internships, coop opportunities and summer employment are available through CHTE/MPI.

Center for Resources Recovery & Recycling (CR3)

The Materials Resource Recovery and Recycling I/UCRC center anticipates a future that values and increasingly strives to achieve materials sustainability. We are progressing towards a time when materials recovery and recycling are no longer an afterthought, but rather represent a critical consideration in the design and manufacture of materials and products. In the future, the efficiency of materials recovery from the waste stream will increase and recycled scrap will be the preferred input material for materials processes yielding both energy and cost saving.

Integrative Materials Design Center (iMdc)

iMdc is a WPI-based research center dedicated to advancing the state-of-the-art-and-practice in sustainable materialsprocess-component design and manufacturing for high-performance, reliability, and recyclability through knowledge creation and dissemination, and through education.

iMdc is formed through an industry-government- university alliance, and its program is built in direct collaboration and with active participation and insight from its industrial and government partners. The center is conducting fundamental research, which addresses well-identified industrial applications of general interest and relevance to the manufacturing sector.

The overarching objective of iMdc’s research portfolio is to prevent failure and increase high-performance and reliability of high-integrity structures through

  • Exploring and advancing the fundamental and practical understanding of a wide range of multi-scale metallic and composite materials and their respective processes
  • Developing new and optimized materials and processing practices, including recycling as a design factor
  • Establishing knowledge-based microstructure-properties-performance relationships
  • Investigating the impact of increased utilization of recycled materials in high-performance materials and applications
  • Providing practical and integrated design tools and strategies, and
  • Identifying and pursuing implementation venues for the developed materials, processes, and design methodologies

Industrial and government partners review and provide insight and guidance to the research programs, bring industrial perspective, and assist in identifying strategies for the implementation of the developments in the industry. This setting provides a platform for creating knowledge in a well-defined context while being able to disseminate it and witness its implementation and impact in/on actual industrial applications.

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