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Our graduates make careers in a range of industries and in academia. Our transdisciplinary partnerships, state-of-the-art facilities, and top-notch research and teaching faculty produce materials scientists and engineers who can help solve critical challenges facing the world.

cai lab grad student

Degrees offered

In collaboration with the Virginia Tech Graduate School, the Materials Science and Engineering department awards Master of Science (thesis required), Master of Engineering (non-thesis), and doctoral degrees.

The department has faculty and researchers working in ceramic engineering, metallurgy, polymer engineering, and related areas of mechanics, chemistry, physics, and electrical engineering. The mix of available courses provide a balance between engineering and science, and research programs range from traditional to contemporary topics.

Our students get support from a committed and experienced graduate program coordinator and are mentored by faculty and industry partners. 

A range of financial support options are available, including assistantships and scholarships. International students can access a range of resources to help with VISAs, language barriers, social support, and employment assistance.

Graduate Courses

The Virginia Tech Graduate School maintains a comprehensive course catalog for Materials Science and Engineering.


The Master of Engineering is a non-thesis degree obtained through course work and a project that focuses on an industrial problem or critical literature review. Students with a bachelor's degree who desire a professional-oriented master’s degree and advanced undergraduate students who wish to supplement their background with additional course work are encouraged to consider the M.Eng. degree. A total of 30 credit hours are required for this degree; between 3 and 6 of these hours are project work (MSE 5904), the remainder are course credits. Students typically complete this degree in 12 to 18 months.

The Master of Science degree requires a thesis. Students with an interest in applied research and development should consider this degree option. Like the M.Eng. degree, the M.S requires the completion of 30 credit hours of work. Between 6 and 10 of these credit hours are on thesis research (MSE 5994). Most students spend two academic years completing the M.S. program of study.

The Doctor of Philosophy degree is intended for exceptional students who have a strong interest in scholarship and a desire to do independent research. This degree program is designed to be flexible to meet the broad interests of students and faculty. General requirements for the degree are set by the College of Engineering. A master’s degree is neither a prerequisite, nor a requirement. However, many Ph.D. students complete the requirements for a master’s degree while working toward the Ph.D. degree.

Research specializations

  • structure and properties of crystalline and non-crystalline materials
  • materials synthesis, processing, and fabrication
  • theoretical understanding and computer modeling of materials structures, properties and processes
  • phase transformations
  • thermodynamics and phase equilibria
  • diffusion and kinetics of solid state reactions
  • mechanical, thermal, electrical, optical, magnetic property characterization of all material types

State-of-the-art facilities

Specialized laboratories permit research in thermodynamics and phase equilibria; materials corrosion and stability; x-ray diffraction and crystal structure determination; phase transformations, precipitation hardening and diffusion in materials systems; electron (STEM, SEM, ESEM) and optical microscopy; mathematical modeling and computer simulation of structure, defects and processes; surface characterization of materials by ESCA; materials synthesis, processing and fabrication; characterization of residual stresses in materials, fabrication of thin film electronic and optical materials, mechanical alloying of metals; composite material fabrication and characterization; and electrical, optical, thermal, and mechanical property characterization of ceramics, metals, polymers and glasses including composites, thin films, dielectrics and semiconductors.

Major research facilities include optical and transmission electron microscopy; an environmental scanning electron microscope; x-ray diffraction equipment including facilities for the measurement of residual stresses in materials; surface analysis instruments; mechanical testing frames; instruments for measuring the thermal response of materials including thermal expansion, thermal diffusivity, and differential thermal analysis; sputtering, thin film and vacuum deposition equipment; heat treatment and sintering furnaces; a metal melt spinner; mechanical alloying ball mills; dry and hot isostatic presses; electrical and dielectric characterization instruments; polymer processing and characterization equipment; and computer modeling and simulation facilities including access to multimedia and computer visualization facilities.

Becoming a student

Admissions requirements, tuition and fees, and the application process are administered through the Graduate School.