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A Brief History of Materials Science and Engineering at the University of California, Davis

J.F. Shackelford and S.H. Risbud
May 2016

The Materials Science and Engineering (MSE) curriculum was established within the Department of Mechanical Engineering in 1969 under the leadership of Professor Amiya Mukherjee, who taught the first fourteen courses in the Materials Science Program starting from 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 comprised of Mukherjee, Munir, and James Shackelford), and the department title was later expanded to the Department of Mechanical, Aeronautical and Materials Engineering (MAME). In 1993, the Division of Materials Science and Engineering had grown to a faculty size of seven 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 1993-1996 and Chair from 1996 to 2002.  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 (MSE) at UC Davis has been an ABET-accredited program since 1990 and will again have a comprehensive review in the 2018-19 school year. The MSE undergraduate program complements a strong graduate research effort that provides MS and PhD degrees, as well as the Master of Engineering and Doctor of Engineering degrees. The graduate program in MSE was rated 25th out of 79 programs nationally in 2016 based on well-funded programs with collaborations across various departments at UC Davis and with other institutions across the country as well as abroad. Research expenditures in recent years have averaged well over $300,000 annually per faculty member.

The ranking of a program rests largely on the reputation of its faculty. The MSE faculty at UCD has from the beginning been well recognized within the field, and that recognition continues to grow. Especially noteworthy, highly talented junior faculty continue to be hired, with three having received early career awards from NSF or DOE (Klaus van Benthem, Ricardo Castro, and Yayoi Takamura). Two faculty are members of the National Academies (Subhash Mahajan and Alexandra Navrotsky) and most are Fellows of at least one professional society and/or have received awards from a professional materials society.  Mukherjee and Munir have received the UC Davis Prize for Teaching and Scholarly Achievement.  Several faculty have served as editors of materials science journals, and Shackelford’s text, Introduction to Materials Science for Engineers, has been published in its eighth edition as well as being translated into seven languages. The Department of MSE has also shown its commitment to excellence in teaching by hiring Susan Gentry as a full-time lecturer. Our faculty members are also highly active in organizing national and international meetings and publishing related proceedings, monographs, and handbooks. A recent decade-long survey of research publications from the faculty indicated an average of six archived publications annually per faculty member, quite consistent with top-rated peer institutions across the country.

Clearly, 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 we have 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 of MSE moves into a new and exciting phase of making fresh strides in educating the future generations of materials scientists and engineers.