Materials Science and Engineering, MSE

The master’s program in Materials Science and Engineering prepares students to be leaders, innovators, and visionaries in the materials revolution that is being driven by discoveries that cross the boundaries of physics, chemistry, engineering and biology, such as in the growing fields of nanobioscience, nanophotonics and optoelectronics.

Penn is one of the first universities to establish a center for materials research. By remaining at the forefront of technology innovations, this center, the Laboratory for Research on the Structure of Matter (LRSM), has grown to be one of the largest in the nation. We are opening up new fields in materials science, preparing tomorrow’s leaders, and putting our knowledge to practical use in today’s high-tech society.  Our multidisciplinary program allows you to tailor your education to your own professional and career goals, from ceramics, polymers, and metals to non-structured and soft materials.  Our graduates can be found in positions in industries that range from electronics, manufacturing, and communications to transportation and energy, or pursuing doctoral degrees at Penn and other top-ranked research universities.


10 course units are required for the MSE in Materials Science and Engineering.1-5

MSE Courses
Select 6 from the approved list: 16
Experimental Methods in Materials Science
Mechanical Properties of Macro/Nanoscale Materials
Failure Analysis of Engineering Materials
Fundamentals of Materials
Mathematics for Materials Science
Structure of Materials
Nanoscale Science and Engineering
Thermodynamics and Phase Equilibria
Electronic Properties of Materials
Phase Transformations
Materials for Energy and Environmental Sustainability
Elasticity and Micromechanics of Materials
Electrochemical Engineering of Materials
Atomic Modeling in Materials Science
Fabrication and Characterization of Micro and Nanostructured Materials
Physics of Materials I
Statistical Mechanics
Machine Learning and Its Applications in Materials Science
Introduction to Polymers
Transmission Electron Microscopy
Advanced Synchrotron and Electron Characterization of Materials
Optical Materials
Mechanics of Soft and Biomaterials
Selected Topics in Materials Science and Engineering
Select up to 2 Electives and choose 2 or more SEAS courses relevant to materials science; a sample list is provided below: 54
Interfacial Phenomena
Programming Languages and Techniques
Technical Communication and Academic Wrting for Non-native Speakers of English
Engineering Entrepreneurship I
Foundations of Engineering Mathematics - II
The Physics of Solid State Energy Devices
Nanofabrication and Nanocharacterization
Introduction to Condensed Matter Physics
Total Course Units10

Non-thesis or Thesis option:

  • Non-thesis course-based option: Students successfully complete 10 course units at the 5000 or higher level. All courses must carry a letter grade (A, B, C or D).
    • Students must secure written approval for all course selections from the Masters Program Advisor. Furthermore, all changes to these course selections must be approved in writing by the Masters Program Advisor. Students wishing to take courses not listed on the provided list are required to receive written approval from the Masters Program Advisor. All non-elective courses should have technical/scientific content relevant to the student’s M.S.E. degree program.
    • 6 MSE courses (5000 level or higher) requiring a letter grade are compulsory. Up to 7 MSE courses are highly recommended for obtaining a solid background in materials science. 3 MSE courses are compulsory in the first semester of study.
  • Non-thesis option with independent study: Students take 8 courses credits at the 5000 or higher level earning letter grades and complete 2 Masters Independent Study (MSE 5990) credits. Students receive a letter grade (A, B, C, D or F) in MSE 5990. Independent Study requires a faculty advisor; see below for selecting an advisor.
  • Thesis option: Students take 7 course units at the 500 or higher level earning letter grades and complete 3 course units of research with a faculty member by registering for two research credits (MSE 5970 Masters Thesis Research) and 1 Independent Study (MSE 5990). Students receive a letter grade (A, B, C, D or F) in both MSE 5970 and MSE 5990. Students must have their thesis approved by their thesis advisor and the Graduate Group Chair, as well as submit their thesis to the Graduate Group Coordinator. The thesis option requires a faculty advisor; see details below.
    • Students interested in pursuing the non-thesis option with independent study or the thesis option are encouraged to meet with individual faculty and the Master’s Program Advisor to discuss their research interests.

A maximum of two free electives (5000 level or higher) are permitted. Free electives can be selected from across the university, including SEAS, SAS and Wharton courses. Free electives are not permitted for students pursuing a dual degree at Penn.


During the first semester, Masters degree students are not permitted to take Independent Study and are required to enroll in only MSE courses.


All Masters degree students must maintain a GPA of 2.7 or higher to be in good standing and for graduation. Students are required to attend weekly MSE seminars organized by the department as part of their education and exposure to latest scientific advances


 Transfer of credits:

  • A maximum of two graduate-level course units may be transferred from another school to apply toward the M.S.E. degree if approved by the Masters Program Advisor. These two courses should not have been used in the fulfillment of an undergraduate degree.
  • Sub-matriculants or accelerated Master's students may count up to three 5000 or higher level courses for both degrees.

Note that only one Engineering Entrepreneurship course will count as a MSE related SEAS-course. A second entrepreneurship course will be counted as a free elective. A student who takes two free electives and EAS 5100 will be permitted to take CIT 5900 only if the student has also taken six MSE courses. This is done to ensure that at least 60% of the courses that count towards the Master's degree have physical science content and preferably MSE content. 

Master’s Scholars Program

A selected number of awards designated “Master’s Scholars” will be made each year to deserving students to promote and enhance their research experience at Penn. The awards will enable highly motivated students (with a GPA of 3.25 or higher) to pursue a well-designed research project with a faculty member for one or two semesters and obtain valuable training in experimental and computational research. The award carries no financial benefit to the students; award funds are used solely to defray the costs of facility user fees, chemicals, computer resources, etc. Research proposals submitted by students will be evaluated and awards will be made on a competitive basis. A call for proposals occurs near the start of the fall and spring semesters.

The degree and major requirements displayed are intended as a guide for students entering in the Fall of 2023 and later. Students should consult with their academic program regarding final certifications and requirements for graduation.