Develop and control fibrous materials to better human lives

Program highlights: Ergonomics and comfort, Fiber-based sensors and detectors, Green composites, Nanotechnology, Performance enhancing fabrics, Sustainable materials and processes

Admissions note: A fiber science supplement is required of all undergraduate applicants to this major as part of the application process and needs to be uploaded to Slideroom by the application deadline.



Fibers are some of the oldest materials used by humans and are everywhere - from clothing to seat belts, from furnishings to transportation, and from smart textiles to artificial turf. The Fiber Science (FS) major focuses on the unique physical and chemical properties of fibers and the processes to develop and characterize specialized fibers. Students explore how the principles of fiber science influence the design, fabrication, and function of traditional and innovative products through an interdisciplinary curriculum that includes the social sciences and humanities. Depth in the science curriculum can be meaningfully complemented by an aesthetic perspective for those interested in the fashion or performance apparel industry. Collaborative work with other departments further informs how disciplines such as biomedical engineering or materials science engineering might utilize fibers.

This versatile major allows students to focus on their individual interests, for example, in the development of green materials and textile finishes; performance materials for activewear or medical use; conductive fibers for smart clothing and wearable technology, or aircraft; or protective clothing for industry and the military.

Review our curriculum sheets (updated each year) to better understand how the major is organized.

Fibers, Fabrics, and Finishes (FSAD 1350) introduces the properties and performance of textile materials and processes, and provides a general overview of the textile industry from a scientific perspective. Focus is on materials used in apparel and home furnishing markets. Chemistry and mechanics of typical materials and processes used in the textile industry will be addressed with emphasis placed on the relationship between the materials and processes used and the final properties of the fabric.
Fiber Science (FSAD 3350) addresses fibers commonly used in various engineering, medical, and apparel applications. Topics include the nature of polymer molecules, the chemical structure of organic fibers, inorganic fibers, micro-macro structure of fibers, fiber dimensions, environmental effects, and mechanical, optical, thermal, and frictional properties of fibers. Fiber end-uses discussed include: composites in aerospace and other structural components, circuit boards, bulletproof vests, sutures, artificial arteries, geotextiles, and sporting goods.

Fiber Chemistry (FSAD 4360) covers the chemical structure, and physical and thermal properties of commercially important synthetic and natural fibers. The course also emphasizes the structure-property relationship of fibers and their end-uses. The course focuses on chemistry throughout the fiber production and the recycle/upcycle path of textile fibers in the market, including suitable approaches for dyeing and finishing processes of textiles based on their chemistry.

Nanotechnology in Fibers and Fabrics (FSAD 4460) introduces nanomaterials, nano-finishes, and nanocoating processes used for functional fibers and textiles. This course also emphasizes the structural properties of nanofibers and nanotextiles, predicts their end-use, and considers environmental and sustainability concerns.

Textiles, Apparel, and Innovation (FSAD 4660) explores the relationship between materials and design with a concentration on the use of advanced and innovative textile materials in apparel. Aesthetic and functional issues are addressed as students develop team solutions to advanced problems. 

Internships add a significant experiential component to the course of study, providing valuable practical knowledge while testing students’ academic and career interests.

Students engage in summer internships in technical apparel and textiles, material and polymer development, and fabric sourcing for fashion firms, as well as in development and testing labs.

Study-away options

Students may select from many study abroad options, including College of Human Ecology exchange programs through Hong Kong Polytechnic University or Bocconi University. Popular destinations include Denmark, Sweden, Italy, Spain, the United Kingdom, and Hong Kong.

Department-led trips to India, Sri Lanka, and China explore production processes and the global supply chain.

Internship Examples

Mohawk Fabrics, fiber extrusion systems
Open Style Lab, accessible clothing 
Nike, Inc., product development and materials
FabLab Barcelona, bio-based fibers
California State University, kinesiological and textile studies for surf apparel
Good Housekeeping Institute Textile Lab, product evaluation

Undergraduate research can be pursued with a faculty mentor and through special projects with student teams. An honors program option is also available.

Additional research experiences include summer research positions, or National Science Foundation funded Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) programs.

Research examples

  • Modifying existing fibrous materials through application of nanomaterials 
  • Electrospinning of nanofibers for environmental cleanup applications
  • Evaluation of strength of fabric samples joined by an adhesive bonding technology after laundering
  • Wearable technology and smart garments

Honors program

The FS Honors Program recognizes students who have demonstrated excellence in their academic work and their capacity for independent research. In addition to fulfilling the requirements for the major, students in the Honors Program prepare an honors project based on original research on a topic chosen by the student. Students apply to the Honors Program during their junior year and work with a research mentor throughout the research process. 

Fiber Science graduates have begun careers in the fiber, textile, and chemical industries, as well as with government agencies developing and evaluating new products, conducting research, providing technical services, helping to ensure product safety, and coordinating consumer information programs. Some work with materials development for athletic product manufacturers or materials safety for baby products, while others explore sustainability innovations.

Graduate/Professional school

Many students pursue graduate studies in fibers, textiles, polymers, materials science, or other science and engineering fields at schools such as North Carolina State University, Drexel University, Georgia Tech, Clemson, M.I.T, or Harvard. Others pursue medical or other professional degrees.

Sample Career Paths

Director CRM and Analytics, Kiehls 
Director of Product Design & Development, Kent Wool
Director, Textiles Lab, Good Housekeeping Institute
Fabric Research & Development Manager, Athleta; Fabletics
Laboratory Technician/Protective Clothing, Intertek Laboratories
Manager, Environmental Sustainability & Product Stewardship, PVH Corporation 
Materials Development Manager, Bolt Threads
Materials Performance Engineer, Patagonia
Senior Innovation Designer, Nike
Textile Technology Patent Examiner, United States Patent and Trademark Office