MSE, PTFE combine into one school

On Thursday, July 1, the schools of Polymer, Textile, and Fiber Engineering (PTFE) and Materials Science Engineering (MSE) merged to create the largest program in the country. The programs will continue under the name Materials Science and Engineering and command more than 55 thesis-granting faculty, 11 more than the next largest school, MIT.

Prior to the merger, the MSE department conducted all polymer research jointly through the school of Polymer Engineering. The newly merged school will streamline and expedite interdisciplinary research activities.

“Goals of the merger include becoming a top-five MSE school in three years, and the No. 1 school in five,” said Dr. Robert Snyder, the current chair of the MSE department.

Talks of consolidation began in January of this year, as Institute President G.P. “Bud” Peterson questioned the existence of separate schools for Materials Science and Polymer Engineering. According to Snyder, “outsourcing of the textile industry to China” and a large faculty shift “away from textiles towards polymers” were major reasons for the merger of the two departments.

Current PTFE students will be allowed to complete their degree, and the Polymer and Fiber Engineering degree will be continue to be offered until Fall 2011, when it is phased out.

“Although we will not offer a separate Polymer degree, the MSE School will offer a Materials Science degree with a focus in polymers. This will allow for a broader focus, increasing employment prospects for students,” Snyder said.

The Academic Common Market, which grants out-of-state students reduced tuition if they enroll in certain programs that are not offered in their home states, will also be phased out this year. This poses concerns as half of PTFE students participate in ACM.

“The school of Materials Science will crank up recruiting efforts to maintain the number of students pursuing a polymer focus,” Snyder said.

A full-time recruiter will be hired, and the number of polymer students is not expected to decline.

“According to a formula accounting for the number of graduate students, publications and full-time thesis-granting faculty, the newly merged school will rank No. 1 in the nation,” Snyder said.