UC Santa Cruz now offers graduate degrees in materials science and engineering

Interdisciplinary program will serve students interested in developing new materials for next-generation technologies

researchers in white coveralls in lab
Researchers in a materials science laboratory at UC Santa Cruz, where graduate degrees are now offered in materials science and engineering. (Photo by Elena Zhukova)

The University of California has given approval to UC Santa Cruz to begin offering M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in materials science and engineering, a deeply interdisciplinary field of great importance for the development of sustainable technologies. Administered jointly by the Division of Physical and Biological Sciences and the Baskin School of Engineering, the new program aims to begin enrolling graduate students in fall 2023.

“This exciting new program will allow us to attract cohorts of talented students interested in researching and developing materials for innovative sustainable technologies that are highly relevant to our changing world,” said Alexander Wolf, dean of the Baskin School of Engineering. “Combining the strengths of engineering and science at UCSC will prepare students to excel in crucial, sought-after careers of the future and lead to important advances in research.”

Physics Professor David Lederman, who led the development of the new graduate program, said he has seen a lot of student interest in this field.

“Materials science and engineering is a very relevant field now for important areas of technological development, including the semiconductor industry, low-power electronics, renewable energy technologies, and quantum computing and quantum sensors,” Lederman said. “All those things rely on having new materials with the functionality required for the next generation of advanced technologies.”

Many of these technologies are crucial for attaining sustainable energy consumption and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. “The focus on power-efficient electronics is especially important now, because we are using so much energy to store information on remote servers that are running 24/7 and have to be kept cool,” Lederman said.

The new graduate program will benefit from UCSC’s close proximity to Silicon Valley and three Department of Energy National Laboratories (Lawrence Berkeley, SLAC, and Lawrence Livermore). UC Santa Cruz has already developed a strong research program through the Materials Science and Engineering Initiative, and several departments offer materials-related courses.

The program spans three departments—Physics, Chemistry and Biochemistry, and Electrical and Computer Engineering—and will also include faculty from Earth and Planetary Sciences, Molecular, Cell and Developmental Biology, and Biomolecular Engineering.

“Truly interdisciplinary programs like this should be a hallmark of the campus,” said Paul Koch, dean of physical and biological sciences. “I’m confident that this one, which so directly addresses emerging societal needs, will attract graduate students who wouldn’t otherwise be here and who want to make a difference by doing extremely interesting and rewarding research.”