Materials Science and Engineering Ph.D. (Ithaca)

Field of Study

Materials Science and Engineering

Program Description

The focus of current advanced materials research at Cornell includes ceramics, complex fluids, metals, polymers and semiconductors in the form of thin films and in the bulk. Electrical, magnetic, mechanical, optical, and structural properties are investigated. Some special topics of interest are composites, inorganic-organic hybrids, nanocomposites, organic optoelectronics, and, in relation to the structure of materials, the investigation of grain boundaries, surfaces and structural defects. Also studied are materials synthesis and processing and solid state reactions in model systems. Many faculty are involved in electronic packaging. Numerous interactions exist with other fields at Cornell.

A strong catalyst for materials research activities at Cornell has been provided by the Cornell Center for Materials Research (formerly: Materials Science Center), which provides substantial financial assistance to graduate students and maintains central research facilities.

Contact Information

Phone: 607 255-0999

210 Bard Hall
Cornell University
Ithaca, NY  14853

Concentrations by Subject

  • materials engineering
  • materials science


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Application Requirements and Deadlines

Application Deadlines:

Fall, Jan. 2

Requirements Summary:

Applicants should have an undergraduate degree in engineering or physical science. Additional information about course programs and research areas is available on request from the graduate field office.

  • All Graduate School Requirements, including the English Language Proficiency Requirement for all applicants
  • A minimum iBT TOEFL score of Reading (20), Writing (20), Listening (15) Speaking (22), and a total iBT TOEFL score of 100+ is required to have your application reviewed. Applications submitted with scores less than any of these scores will not be reviewed. Materials Science and Engineering does not accept the “My Best” iBT TOEFL score
  • The IELTS Academic exam requires a minimum overall band score of 7.0 or higher
  • Three letters of recommendation
  • The GRE General Test is recommended
  • For questions, please refer to the MSE Admissions Details & Requirements website or email

Learning Outcomes

The Learning Goals of the Materials Science and Engineering Ph.D. program reflect the exceptionally interdisciplinary nature of the program. The essential goal is to train candidates to be able to execute original research in Materials Science and Engineering at a world-class level. This implies that they master the fundamentals of all core materials science and engineering topics, develop in-depth understanding of the topics that are central to their research, synthesizing knowledge from different areas, and take the course-based knowledge to the research level. Here, with guidance from their mentors and peers, they apply their knowledge to solve problems of fundamental or practical interest. In addition to becoming a world expert in the area of their dissertation topics, the candidates will be prepared for a career as a professional scientist/engineer, with all the flexibility that that implies. 

Materials Scientists and Engineers must communicate effectively at a high level using written, oral and presentation skills. Candidates will acquire and improve these skills through course work, preparation for exams, and participation in faculty research groups. For example, MS&E 8020, the MS&E Research Seminar course, requires students to make oral presentations to members of their research group each semester. The MS&E A- and B-exams also require comprehensive skills in written and oral presentation. These formative skills are essential for the practicing Materials Scientist and Engineer.

It is also essential that Materials Scientists and Engineers are aware of ethical issues pertaining to the conduct and dissemination of research, in collaborative research endeavors as well as instances that may arise concerned with the teaching arena. Opportunities to participate in training concerned with ethical issues will be provided and training must be completed by each student before his/her A-exam. The successful completion of the Responsible Conduct of Research unit online is required of all students. 

Learning Outcomes

A candidate for a Ph.D. in Materials Science and Engineering is expected to demonstrate broad knowledge in the fundamental topics of Materials Science and Engineering and a deeper understanding of the topics that are central to their chosen research direction, breadth of interdisciplinary training, including relevant specialized coursework, and the ability to synthesize and create knowledge by making an original and substantial contribution to an area of Materials Science and Engineering. 

Learning Outcome 1: Demonstrate broad knowledge in the fundamental core topics of Materials Science and Engineering,  advanced knowledge topics central to their chosen research direction, and broad interdisciplinary training.

  • Proficiency in six core topics: Materials chemistry, Mechanical properties of materials, Materials thermodynamics, Kinetics, Electronic properties of materials, and Structure of materials 
  • Advanced knowledge in at least three core topics relevant to their research
  • Interdisciplinary training 

Learning Outcome 2: Demonstrate the ability to acquire skills to perform independent advanced research.

  • Demonstrate ability to identify and seek out resources and information; apply these to guide research plan development
  • Demonstrate the ability to master and/or innovate research methodologies, and techniques
  • Demonstrate oral and written communication skills 

Learning Outcome 3: Make an original and substantial contribution to the discipline.

  • Demonstrate independent thinking and creativity
  • Develop and execute original research plan
  • Generate publishable advances in an area of Materials Science and Engineering 

Learning Outcome 4: Demonstrate a commitment to advancing scholarship.

  • Maintain familiarity with advances in the field
  • Demonstrate commitment to personal professional development through engagement in professional societies, conference participations and publications
  • Show commitment to learning, collaborative inquiry, and mentoring 

Learning Outcome 5: Demonstrate professional skills.

  • Understand and maintain ethical standards in the field
  • Listen, give, and receive feedback effectively