uc davis materials science engineering history

A History of Materials Science and Engineering at UC Davis

Our Department's 50 Years of Growth and Development

by James Shackelford and Subhash Risbud (updated by Yayoi Takamura)

Though the Department of Materials Science and Engineering (MSE) at UC Davis has only existed since 2016, materials science and engineering research and teaching has a long and prestigious history at the university.

Birth and development

uc davis materials science engineering amiya mukherjee
Professor Amiya Mukherjee teaching a course, c. 1993. Photo: College of Engineering Biennial Report 1992-94.

The materials science and engineering curriculum was established within the Department of Mechanical Engineering in 1969 under the leadership of Professor Amiya Mukherjee, who taught its first 14 courses, starting in 1966. Professor Zuhair Munir joined the program in 1972. A formal Division of Materials Science and Engineering was created within the Department of Mechanical Engineering in 1980 (with the faculty by that time comprising of Mukherjee, Munir and James Shackelford), and the department title was later expanded to the Department of Mechanical, Aeronautical and Materials Engineering (MAME).

By 1993, the Division of Materials Science and Engineering had grown to the size of seven faculty members and moved to the Department of Chemical Engineering, forming the Department of Chemical Engineering and Materials Science (CHMS) with Subhash Risbud serving as vice chair from 1993-96 and Chair from 1996-2002.


Ground is broken for Kemper Hall (formerly known as Engineering II), which opened in 1992.

The synergism between Chemical Engineering and Materials Science and Engineering, especially at the graduate level, grew in a variety of ways for nearly two decades, but in 2013, the faculty began to consider the reconstitution of CHMS into two separate departments. Following a number of discussions and a formal faculty vote, a reconstitution proposal was submitted to the UC Davis Academic Senate in 2014. Formal approval for the reconstitution was received in March 2016, thus creating the current Department of Materials Science and Engineering.

Materials Science and Engineering at UC Davis has been an ABET-accredited program since 1990 and underwent a successful comprehensive review in the 2018-19 academic year. The MSE undergraduate program complements a strong graduate research effort that provides project-based M.Eng., thesis-based M.S., and Ph.D. degrees. The graduate program, which collaborates both with various departments at UC Davis and other institutions across the country, was ranked 31st out of all MSE programs nationally in 2020 according to U.S. News and World Reports. The department’s research funding in the last decade has reached roughly $13 million.

uc davis materials science engineering history
Professor James Shackelford (left) and Ricardo Castro (right) receiving awards at the 2012 College of Engineering gala.

World-class faculty

The ranking of a program rests largely on the reputation of its faculty. From the beginning, the MSE faculty at UC Davis have been well-recognized within the field, and that recognition continues to grow. Mukherjee and Munir have received the UC Davis Prize for Teaching and Scholarly Achievement. Mukherjee also received the Academic Senate’s Distinguished Teaching Award and the Distinguished Mentoring Award.

Four current faculty members have received early-career awards from NSF, DOE, DARPA and Air Force Office of Scientific Research (AFOSR) (Klaus van BenthemRicardo Castro, Roopali Kukreja, and Yayoi Takamura), and most are fellows of at least one professional society and/or have received awards from a professional materials society. Two of our emeriti are members of the National Academies (Subhash Mahajan and Alexandra Navrotsky).

Our faculty members are also highly active in organizing national and international meetings and publishing related proceedings, monographs and handbooks. Several faculty have also served as editors of materials science journals, and Shackelford’s textbook, Introduction to Materials Science for Engineers, has been translated into seven languages and has a ninth edition upcoming.

A recent decade-long survey of research publications from the faculty indicated an average of six archived publications annually per faculty member, consistent with top-rated peer institutions across the country.

The future

uc davis materials science engineering faculty 2017
The materials science and engineering faculty in 2018.

The MSE department is committed to excellence in both research and teaching, shown by hiring Susan Gentry as a full-time lecturer in 2015. Since the reconstitution, the department continues to expand in size and prestige, adding Roopali Kukreja in 2016, Jeremy Mason in 2017, Scott McCormack and Marina Leite in 2019 and Seung Sae Hong in 2020.

The Department of Materials Science and Engineering at UC Davis has grown dramatically in the 50 years since its birth in the Mechanical Engineering department. Today, the department has an internationally-recognized faculty known for their cutting edge research and teaching excellence. Continued growth of students and faculty is on the horizon as the department moves into a new and exciting phase of making fresh strides in the education of future generations of materials scientists and engineers.