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MATSE 81 - Materials In Today's World

This is a sample syllabus.

This sample syllabus is a representative example of the information and materials included in this course. Information about course assignments, materials, and dates listed here is subject to change at any time. Definitive course details and materials will be available in the official course syllabus, in Canvas, when the course begins.


Description: A survey of the properties, manufacture, and uses of polymers, ceramics, and metals in today's world with emphasis on modern developments and new materials. This course presents the basic science and technology of materials to non-science students. The course concentrates on ‘Materials in Today's World’ but frames the discussion in a relevant historical framework. Course topics are built around ‘The Central Paradigm of Materials Science and Engineering;’ which links processing to structures to properties to performance. First, students are introduced to the basic concepts of metals and non-metals, and to a fundamental understanding of The Periodic Table. From these conceptual ideas, ceramics and electronic materials are rationalized on the basis of their electronic structures. The properties of materials, e.g., mechanical, thermal, electronic, and photonic, are developed directly from the structural knowledge of the materials classifications. The concept of materials design is introduced with respect to the properties of density, melting point, and hardness. Current practices for processing and manufacturing of materials are compared with methods that were employed in antiquity. This course meets the Bachelor of Arts: Natural Sciences (BA) and General Education: Natural Sciences (GN) Penn State requirements.


The overall goal of this course is to teach you a bit about materials science and engineering. The course is designed to help navigate in a technology-based, twenty-first century. The course is based on some fundamental principles from physics and chemistry, but is designed for the non-scientist, non-engineer. The goal is to understand materials, their properties, and their applications. Part of this involves discussing the advances in materials science that have occurred throughout history around the world.

When you successfully complete this course, you will be prepared to:

  • Demonstrate core knowledge of materials science and engineering.
  • Integrate terms and concepts with materials in the modern world.
  • Articulate materials history from the origin of materials usage by humans to the utilization of materials in today’s world.
  • Discuss recyclability/disposability issues relative to the three primary classifications of solid materials and composite materials.
  • Judge which materials are most likely to be promising candidates for utilization, given the primary or advanced material classifications of a list of candidate materials and design selection criteria.

Required Materials

The materials listed here represent those that may be included in this course. Students will find a definitive list in the course syllabus, in Canvas, when the course begins.

Required textbook

Introduction to Materials for Pennsylvania State University ePDF, William D. Callister.

This is a customized e-book that can be purchased for $40.12 from the publisher at VitalSource.

Required videos

The course utilizes documentary videos. The Penn State Library has licensed a number of the required videos, however, four of the videos are no longer available for licensing by Penn State and must be purchased. They are available from Amazon for $2.99 each. 

  • Making Stuff: Stronger
  • Making Stuff: Cleaner
  • Making Stuff: Smarter
  • Making Stuff: Smaller




We have worked hard to make this the most effective and convenient educational experience possible. How much and how well you learn is dependent on your attitude, diligence, and willingness to ask for clarifications or help when you need them. We are here to help you succeed. Please keep up with the class schedule and take advantage of opportunities to communicate with us and with your fellow students. You can expect to spend an average of 8 - 10 hours per week on class work.

Major Assignments

This course will rely on a variety of methods to assess and evaluate student learning, including:

12 Weekly Lesson Quizzes (40% of total course grade)

This weekly untimed quiz will be multiple-choice, true or false, and/or matching, and will evaluate your understanding of the textbook readings and real-world materials applications highlighted in the weekly video each week. Feel free to collaborate with your classmates (or tutors) on these quizzes.

3 Exams (60% of total course grade)

These timed, 60 - 90 minutes exams can include multiple-choice, true or false, short answer, and/or matching questions, and will evaluate your understanding of the textbook readings, online materials, and real-world materials applications. You are permitted to use any materials you need while you take your exams, but due to the timed nature of the exams, I would caution you that extensive research to locate answers during the exam is not likely to be a successful strategy if used for many of the questions. You are to take your exams individually and not help each other.

Course Schedule

Course Schedule
1Materials ClassificationQuiz
2Economic, Environmental, and Societal IssuesQuiz
3Atomic Structure and BondingQuiz
4Mechanical PropertiesQuiz
5Exam #1Exam #1
6Structure and Applications of MetalsQuiz
7Types and Application of Metal AlloysQuiz
8Structure and Applications of CeramicsQuiz
9Structure and Applications of PolymersQuiz
10Exam #2Exam #2
11Types and Application of CompositesQuiz
12Synthesis, Fabrication, and ProcessingQuiz
13Advanced Materials: Biomaterials and Smart MaterialsQuiz
14Advanced Materials: Semiconductors and NanomaterialsQuiz
15Exam #3Exam #3