Answers by Katherine Faber
Some chemical engineering programs have courses and research in "soft" or polymeric or biological materials. These would certainly give you a foundation for graduate studies in materials science and engineering. Alternatively, some mechanical engineering programs allow students to specialize in materials. In mechanical engineering, the concentration would likely be more focussed on structural materials. A background in the natural sciences, physics or chemistry, would also be provide the necessary background for materials science and engineering, as these are the underpinnings of the discipline. Throughout my career I've had graduate students with undergraduate degrees in physics, mechanical engineering, bioengineering, geology, as well as materials science, and all have fared well. So, you have many choices, all of which will furnish you with a background appropriate for advanced studies in materials. I would advise you to pick what is of greatest interest to you, as this is a great motivator to do well. Good luck!
Thanks for your question and for your interest in engineering for your daughter and your students. Art does not have to be divorced from science and engineering. My training is in materials science and engineering, and I have been involved in a ten-year partnership with the Art Institute of Chicago. Our focus is on conservation science or cultural heritage science, a multidisciplinary field that focuses on works of fine art, archaeological artifacts, and library and archival materials. Many of the conservation scientists with whom I work are trained in chemistry, materials science, or archeological science. However, they hold positions in conservation departments of museums or other cultural institutions. Together we try to understand the materials used in these works to better comprehend them and preserve them, and hence, preserve our world's material culture. For example, we might use sophisticated scientific probes to identify a fading pigment. Once the pigment is characterized, that knowledge can be used to produce a digital restoration of the painting in order to see what the work looked life at the time it was painted. For more information about our work, read about the Northwestern University/Art Institute of Chicago Center for Scientific Studies in the Arts at http://www.nuaccess.northwestern.edu/
Thanks for your question. The greatest thing about being a professor is that I get to work with students AND work in my field of study. In addition to teaching in the classroom, I have a laboratory in which my students and I study new materials and their properties. Although we are not manufacturing and selling these materials, the understanding that we gain and the ideas that we generate can be used by other engineers in industry. Training students is also very satisfying. The questions students raise in class or in the lab often lead to new experiments, which ultimately lead to a better understanding of how materials behave.
For me, this is the best of both worlds.