Forty years ago there were essentially no academic departments with titles of “Materials Science” or “Materials Engineering.” There were, of course, many materials departments. They were called “Metallurgy,” “Metallurgical Engineering,” “Mining and Metallurgy,” and other permutations and combinations. There were also a small number of “Ceramic” or “Ceramic Engineering” departments. Essentially none included “polymers.” Over the years titles have evolved via a route that frequently followed “Mining and Metallurgy,” to “Metallurgical Engineering,” to “Materials Science and Metallurgical Engineering,” and finally to “Materials Science and Engineering.” The evolution was driven by recognition of the commonality of material structure-property correlations and the concomitant broadening of faculty interests to include other materials. However, the issue is not department titles but whether a single degree option in materials science and engineering best serves the needs of students.
Few proponents of materials science and engineering dispute the necessity for understanding the relationships between processing (including synthesis), structure, and properties (including performance) of materials. However, can a single BS degree in materials science and engineering provide the background in these relationships for all materials and satisfy the entire market now served by several different materials degrees?
The issue is not whether “Materials Science and Engineering” departments or some other academic grouping of individuals with common interests should or should not exist.