The formation of the Department of Materials Science and Engineering at Texas A&M University has been approved by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, announced Dr. M. Katherine Banks, vice chancellor and dean of engineering.
The new department will be jointly operated by the College of Engineering and College of Science.
“The world is changing, as are the demands on higher education to meet the increasingly complex issues facing our state and nation,” said John Sharp, chancellor of the Texas A&M University System. “This multidisciplinary department is an innovative example of Texas A&M answering the call to serve.”
The new Department of Materials Science and Engineering will offer Master of Science, Master of Engineering and Ph.D. degrees. More than 100 graduate students will transfer to the new department and are already working on a wide range of materials-related interdisciplinary research projects.
This multidisciplinary department will include 41 faculty members from several disciplines, including aerospace engineering, biology, biomedical engineering, chemical engineering, chemistry, electrical engineering, mechanical engineering, nuclear engineering and physics.
An undergraduate program is under consideration for the future.
Texas A&M President R. Bowen Loftin said, “This new program further enhances one of our strengths at Texas A&M: bringing together some of the top minds from different fields to collaborate and address real-world problems. Many of today’s most pressing scientific problems stem from the limitations of materials currently available, and this department will be at the forefront of new knowledge and discovery.
According to the Texas Workforce Commission, the demand for materials scientists and engineers will increase by 19 percent by 2018. Even today, Texas has the largest plastics production and manufacturing operation in the United States, complemented by a robust metals industry. Semiconductor fabrication and research and development centers are located in Austin and Dallas. In addition, the manufacture of materials for the generation of energy and transmission is poised to assume a large role in future materials demand.
"We are committed to being responsive to and serving the needs of Texas and its economy, both now and into the future, through our world-class teaching, research and service,” Banks said. “The interdisciplinary nature of the department fosters collaboration across disciplines and Texas A&M is well-positioned in the materials area to make significant contributions to society through the work of our students and faculty."
Dr. H. Joseph Newton, dean of the Texas A&M College of Science, said, "The fact that we have been able to establish this department jointly administered by engineering and science is further evidence that Texas A&M is making great strides in multidisciplinary activities."
Dr. Ibrahim Karaman, professor in the new Department of Materials Science and Engineering, said that new materials provide the opportunities for enabling technologies.
“There are two major aspects for developing an entirely new technology,” Karaman said, “the design process and the materials aspect. New materials can allow for functions that may not otherwise be possible.”
Karaman said that the interdisciplinary nature of materials research encourages faculty to collaborate with researchers from different disciplines, which is beneficial for new discoveries.
In the United States, most materials research is driven by the defense, biomedical and energy industries. However, materials scientists are on the forefront of the revolution in biotechnology, developing materials for the components of artificial joints, heart valves and other replacement body parts.