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Graduate MSE Program Approved


Graduate Materials Science and Engineering Program Approved

The new degree programs at UC Riverside will focus on nanotechnology, energy and the environment.

(August 28, 2009)

RIVERSIDE, Calif. – Applications are being accepted for the first time for graduate training in Materials Science and Engineering (MSE) at the University of California, Riverside.

UC President Mark G. Yudof approved a proposal on Aug. 24 to establish an interdepartmental graduate program leading to the M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in MSE at UCR. MSE is one of the most dynamic fields in the world of science and technology today.

UCR Chancellor Timothy P. White welcomed the new graduate program. “For years much new knowledge has come from the intersections of traditional fields,” he said. “Today in materials research biologists, chemists, physicists, engineers and other scientists are asking key questions from different perspectives at the atomic level. The new worlds to be discovered when these specialists teach each other are some of the most exciting I can imagine.”

Over the past six decades the dominant focus of technological innovation has been creating new devices, according to Alexander A. Balandin, director of the new program and professor of electrical engineering. Advances in this century increasingly will be controlled by the invention of new materials, he said.

At UCR’s Bourns College of Engineering, for instance, engineers are making important contributions toward building nanoscale transistors based on exotic materials such as graphene and carbon nanotubes, affordable zero-emissions fuel cells, medicines that target single cells, materials that can store many times more data than is possible today, and many other innovations.

“We have structured the MSE program very differently from other campuses where materials science and engineering is a separate department, or is hosted by another department,” Balandin said.

Overall 39 UCR faculty are participating in the program, including 29 engineering faculty representing all of the college’s departments (bioengineering, chemical and environmental engineering, computer science and engineering, electrical engineering and mechanical engineering). “In addition, faculty come from the physics and chemistry departments and we expect more departments will join us,” Balandin said. This will promote the broadest acceptance of approaches of all disciplines rather than following the perspectives and traditions of one department.

“This is the new paradigm of materials education where old disciplinary barriers to engineered solutions disappear under truly interdisciplinary scrutiny,” said Reza Abbaschian, dean of Bourns College of Engineering. The program is also set apart by its focus on nanotechnology, energy generation and conversion, and environmentally friendly technologies, he added.

In just 20 years, Bourns College has developed into a very active research institution ranking among the top engineering schools. The MSE program will receive another big boost when it moves into its new $56 million facility in 2010. The MSE Building will include space for labs, classrooms, faculty offices and a 20,000-square-foot clean room facility.

“Only the top schools can afford to offer materials science and engineering programs,” Balandin said. “It requires a critical mass of faculty and resources and the necessary infrastructure, which is well established at UCR. Our nanotech initiative is now 10 years old. We have made major progress in recruiting faculty and they have become very competitive in attracting research sponsors and are participating in major national research centers.”

Energy is a particular strength of the MSE program because of Southern California sun, the college’s success in biofuels research and the history of large-scale research projects at the College of Engineering Center for Environmental Research and Technology, Balandin added.

High-tech sectors in Southern California, especially in manufacturing, alternative energy and biotechnology are also well positioned to take advantage of expanding nanotechnologies and create new engineering jobs. “There is already a demand for engineers and scientists who can move easily from semiconductors to metals, and from inorganic to organic materials in a short period of time,” he said.

An important feature of the graduate programs is that students will receive complete engineering training with a specialization of their choice. This is intended to prepare students for the broadest career possibilities whether in industry, government labs or academia, Balandin said.

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The University of California, Riverside (www.ucr.edu) is a doctoral research university, a living laboratory for groundbreaking exploration of issues critical to Inland Southern California, the state and communities around the world. Reflecting California's diverse culture, UCR's enrollment has exceeded 21,000 students. The campus opened a medical school in 2013 and has reached the heart of the Coachella Valley by way of the UCR Palm Desert Center. The campus has an annual statewide economic impact of more than $1 billion.

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