Skip to main content

What is Sustainable Materials and Technology?

From housing to packaging, we use trees nearly every day. But what about plastic alternatives and biofuels? Trees and plants, nature’s most renewable resources, can meet those needs, too. Students in Sustainable Materials and Technology learn how to create and test valuable materials, chemicals and energy from plant-based renewable natural resources. Through a combination of materials science, environmental studies, applied engineering and technology, business and economics, students in this STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) major gain an in-depth understanding of the environmental, economic and social impacts of renewable materials, such as wood, bamboo and grasses.

By using state-of-the-art thermographic cameras, acoustic emissions testing systems, routers, engravers, 3-D printers, kilns and computer-controlled strength-testing equipment in our multi-million-dollar lab, students gain experience researching the most cutting-edge advancements in product manufacturing. Our environmental chambers simulate the impacts of various weather conditions on a wide range of materials, giving students hands-on experience with equipment, facilities and real-world challenges they will encounter in industry.

Sustainable Materials and Technology students also regularly take trips to various commercial facilities to see first-hand how in-class instruction translates to actual applications. Students observe how products are made, tour zero-landfill certified companies, see developing “just-in-time” technology used to create products on demand and visit both the Wake County Landfill and a deconstruction reclamation facility to witness what happens after a product has outlived its original intent.

Our Sustainable Materials and Technology program is fully accredited by the Society of Wood Science and Technology. In 2016, NC State was selected to lead the Southeast hub for a new Smart Manufacturing Innovation Institute (SMII), which aims to spur technological innovation to improve the efficiency of the advanced manufacturing industry in the United States.

Optional Concentration

Wood Products focuses on the properties and processing of forest products, while giving a broad perspective of the industry and its relationship to society and the environment.

Sustainable Materials and Technology Curriculum

Why are Sustainable Materials and Technology graduates important?

Our faculty and alumni are on the cutting-edge of developing biodegradable plastics made from the biomass of trees, plants and grasses, which offer more sustainable packaging options for everyday items.


SMT Program Icon

Our graduates help the wood products industry make wise materials choices, such as responsibly sourced wood that is renewable and provides benefits like carbon storage, oxygen generation and forest habitat.


Our alumni develop and apply the scanning and automation technology used in the forest products industry, the same technology used by the military, automobile and aerospace industries, to allow a wider range of plant-based materials to be used for product development.


What can you do with a Sustainable Materials and Technology degree?

Our Sustainable Materials and Technology students graduate with options. The U.S. wood product manufacturing industry is projected to grow and reach $6 billion annually by 2020. The average starting salary of students entering the workforce from this program is $50,000, and 100 percent of our graduates secure a job within six months of graduation.

Sample Sustainable Materials and Technology Careers

  • Director of New Products – Lead research and development of new product design and current product enhancements. Balance customer needs with data and analysis. Recent employers include Columbia Forest Products.
  • Certification Specialist -Responsible for the daily activities of the certification or credentialing programs of the organization or company. Ensure that all activities and requirements for certification programs are met. Recent employers include Georgia-Pacific.
  • Sustainability Manager – Analyze and predict a company’s future outlook, present stability, and environmental impact. Recent employers include Boise Cascade.
  • Plant Manager – Ensure that daily operations for employees, production and efficiency are met to keep the plant running smoothly, quickly, efficiently and safely. Recent employers include Eastman Chemical.
  • Quality Control Manager – Ensure that all products meet quality and efficiency standards set by the company. Recent employers include Thomasville Furniture.
  • Project Engineer – Act as the primary technical contact for the consumer, and schedule preparation, pre-planning and resource forecasting for technical activities related to a project. Recent employers include IKEA.
  • Material Scientist – Study and analyze the chemical properties and structure of different man-made and natural materials to discover new uses or more information about the material. Recent employers include Pergo Flooring.
  • Market Analyst -Research and analyze data about company consumers and competitors. Study market conditions to better understand what consumers want and at what price to help the company determine better cost-effective products and services. Recent employers include Home Depot.