Materials science and engineering (MSE), as a field as well as a discipline, has expanded greatly in recent years and will continue to do so, most likely at an even faster pace. It is now well-accepted that materials are crucial to the national defense, to the quality of life, and to the economic security and competitiveness of the nation. Mankind has recognized the importance of manmade materials to the quality of life for many centuries. In many cases, the security and defense of tribes and nations have substantially depended on the availability of materials. It is not surprising that historical periods have been named after materials—the Bronze Age, the Iron Age, etc. The major requirements from materials in those days were their properties and performance. Today, in this age of advanced materials, the importance of materials to defense and quality of life has not changed. However, the critical role of materials has taken an additional dimension: it has become essential to enhancing industrial competitiveness.
The knowledge base within MSE has also expanded vastly throughout these years and continues to do so at an increasing rate. We are constantly gaining a deeper understanding of the fundamental nature of materials, developing new ways to produce and shape them for applications extending from automobiles to supersonic airplanes, optoelectronic devices to supercomputers, hip implants to intraocular lenses, or from household appliances to gigantic structures. We are also learning that, in many of these applications, we need to depend on the combinations or composites of different classes of materials (metals, ceramic, polymers, and electronic materials) to enhance their properties.