Materials scientists or engineers study the structures and properties of various materials such as metals, alloys, ceramics, semiconductors and polymers. The purpose of these studies is to understand and characterize materials and to develop new materials for commercial and scientific benefit.
Materials specialists make sure the right material is used for the right job and may be involved in developing, selecting or evaluating materials for specialist uses. The financial yield of selling finished products is generally much higher than that of selling natural resources that are still in ore form, for example. Materials scientists find and develop creative and economical ways of converting natural resources into final products. This covers a very broad spectrum of materials and products and they perform a range of different functions in various industries.
Materials specialists often work with electrical and mechanical engineers, designers, marketers and other scientists as part of multi-disciplinary teams.
Their work involves discussing operational requirements, researching new and existing materials and assessing their suitability for use, running computer models, analysing and interrogating data to identify insights and opportunities to improve, developing products, providing accurate cost figures, consulting with regulatory officials and keeping up to date with technological and legal developments.
Their scientific approach to problem-solving means that they are often in demand in other industries, such as IT, technical sales and marketing, and consultancy.
Materials scientists can specialise in areas such as the following:
Important skills are IT, analytical, communication and knowledge of manufacturing processes.
Schooling & School Subjects
Degree: BSc: Metallurgical Engineering / Extraction Metallurgy - UP, UJ, , US, Wits
Those with a BEng. degree and three years’ practical experience can register as Professional Engineers with the Engineering Council of South Africa (ECSA).
Diploma: N.Dip: Metallurgical Engineering - VUT
Training for technologists include university of technology courses in Materials Science, Engineering, Mathematics, Quality Control, Computer Applications and Metallurgical Engineering. Usually, employing companies require recently qualified diploma graduates to undergo a period of further in-service training before they are accepted as fully qualified materials scientists or engineers
Employers include the manufacturers of micro-processors and computers, electronic equipment and products, and producers of plastics, ceramic, steel, glass etc.
Companies and statutory organisations that employ materials scientists include:
Any of the above-mentioned potential employers, universities or universities of technology.
Information and Communication Division
Private Bag X3015
The South African Institute of Mining and Metallurgy
P O Box 61127
Tel: (011) 834-1273/7 Fax: (011) 838-5923