In the multidisciplinary area of materials science, which is usually referred to as materials science and engineering, researchers are concerned with the design and development of novel materials, especially solids. It was during the Age of Enlightenment that academics first started to apply analytical thinking from chemistry, physics, and engineering to old, phenomenological data in metallurgy and mineralogy. This was the beginning of modern materials science as we know it today. Physics, chemistry, and engineering are all still used in the field of materials science. Thus, the area was long recognised by academic institutions to be a sub-field of these closely associated disciplines. Beginning in the 1940s, materials science became more generally acknowledged as a unique and distinct discipline of science and engineering, and major technical institutions all over the globe established specialised schools for the study of the subject matter.
Scientists working in the field of materials science place an emphasis on understanding how a material's history (processing) effects its structure, and consequently the material's qualities and performance. The materials paradigm refers to the knowledge of the links between processing, structure, and qualities. It is utilised to increase knowledge in a range of scientific fields, including nanotechnology, biomaterials, and metallurgy, to name a few.
Forensic engineering and failure analysis are two fields in which materials science plays an important role. Forensic engineering and failure analysis are concerned with investigating materials, products, structures or components that fail or do not function as intended, resulting in personal injury or property damage. Such investigations are essential in determining the reasons of numerous aircraft accidents and events.