OK

Hello everyone. The final exams have ended and I am in that waiting stage in research where I get to choose between reading Daily Kos or reading actual scientific literature.

Reading scientific literature is what I should be doing. >.>

Instead, I write a thank you diary to the beloved Fishgrease who randomly selected me to receive a 1 year DailyKos subscription. Which (blush) is very, very kind of him. Fishgrease, if you are around Ann Arbor, I will be happy to treat you to lunch.

Donate and subscribe just like Fishgrease and many others. Santa has a list of who is naughty and nice around DailyKos.

So... Fishgrease, I declare a very public and open...

...FUCKING THANK YOU to you for the DailyKos subscription. :P

I suppose I should write something educational now.

I'm a materials scientist and engineer. I have a bachelor's degree from UCLA for it, if that means anything to you. Don't be shocked if it doesn't because most people's response to "I'm a materials scientist and engineer" is "WTF is that?" By the end of this diary, you should have a better appreciation for it. I can and will address any questions out in the open or in private. If there is a question that I don't know the answer to, I will tell you and give you an idea what kind of 'expert' you should redirect to.

By materials, I mean the stuff you need to make other stuff. I need trees to make paper. I need iron (and other elements) to make my drill bits. I need cotton and nitric acid to make gun cotton. I need 306 stainless steel bar stock to make my chemistry rack.

Materials science is about understanding how materials get their properties. Properties can be like strength, how much force it takes to break something, or more exotic such as magnetic susceptibility, which is a parameter for how the material responds to an applied magnetic field.

Materials engineering is using the science to manipulate materials so that we get the properties we want. This includes coatings and "treatments." Sure some of it may fall under other engineering disciplines, but one should realize that engineering itself is multidisciplinary.

Metallurgy is the study of processing metals and ores. A lot of the approaches in metallurgy was applied to other things besides metal and ores and that's why now it is a division in materials science, the overarching... broad field.

There was always materials science going on even before such departments existed in universities.

Stone age
Bronze age
Iron age

So what does stone, bronze and iron have in common? They're materials! They are materials that were used to make tools... and you can make better tools so long as you have the right material. Human advancement is very dependent on material advances. Tangent: there's actually something called archeological materials science.

Beyond metals and rocks we have...
Plastics --> textiles, containers, plastic baggies... ALL KINDS OF PLASTIC SHIT.
Semiconductors --> computers, sensors, ALL KINDS OF SHIT.

And now we are starting to define materials by the properties they have or how they behave (none of which I expect the general public to understand or know about)
Phonon glass electron crystal (PGEC)
Magnetic semiconductors
Topological insulators
Glass/Amorphous metals (okay, this one is produced by absolutely fucking rapid quenching molten metal)

The above stuff is what is being pursued by people like me.

Say if we were able to have a PGEC, we would have be able to convert waste heat into electricity much more efficiently using thermoelectric devices. This would help things like space exploration to power space craft using nuclear fuel. I would say that is a pretty big advancement for humans.

Magnetic semiconductors (being developed by my colleague) would make for faster switching non-volatile memory.

But we (the scientists and engineers) need money. Lots of it. We use it to buy equipment or make it ourselves that we need. The money helps keep my bills paid and myself fed (not much goes into retirement... grad students don't make a whole lot of money). We also use the money to go to conferences such as Materials Research Society meeting in Boston/San Francisco. This is where we share our ideas and results... and we also nab a collaborator or two to work on projects because the collaborator has a better setup for doing [something complicated but very important].

Whenever congress thinks about cutting funding to science and saying that private industry will do it better than these lazy mooching grad students... tell them to fuck off and that private industry only pursues what is quick AND profitable.

Happy Holidays.

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