Growth of the Interdisciplinary Doctoral Program: Students, Courses, and Community

Robert Neal
Robert Neal

Notre Dame's interdisciplinary PhD program in Materials Science and Engineering (MSE) is growing rapidly. Now in its third year, the program has more than 35 students, easily on pace to reach the program projection of 50 students in five years. Robert Neal, a student from the lab of Svetlana Neretina, professor, of Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering, completed his PhD studies in August, becoming the third graduate of the program. Robert successfully defended his dissertation entitled, “Catalytic Reduction Of 4-Nitrophenol: The Effect Of Capping Ligands And NaBH4 Concentration On 4-NP Reduction And Metallic Nanoparticle Leaching Studied Utilizing 4-NP Reduction.” So far this year, three students have passed their doctoral candidacy and 16 new students have entered the program.

"We are encouraged by the strong student interest in this degree program," said Alan Seabaugh, Frank M. Freimann Professor of Electrical Engineering and chair of the MSE program's executive committee. "The interdisciplinary structure is drawing new applicants to Notre Dame and attracting current Notre Dame graduate students already engaged in materials research."

Thanks are in order to the three governing committees of the program who shape the vision and set priorities, evaluate fellowship applications, address department and student questions, and approve the program's courses. In the last 12 months, the following courses were added to the program:

  • AME 60572 – Introduction to Biomechanics (Instructor: Maria Holland)
  • AME 60676 – Cancer Engineering (Instructor: Meenal Datta)
  • CBE 60667 – Mass Transfer Membrane Systems (Instructor: William Phillip)
  • CHEM 90616 – Solid State Materials and Chemistry (Instructor: Adam Jaffe)
  • CE 60323 – Advanced Physical–Chemical Water Treatment Processes (Instructor: Kyle Doudrick)

Students are also building an interdisciplinary research community through meetings to share the results of their research. This past academic year, research presentations were given by: Sushrut Ghonge (Physics), Xiuyu Jin (Chemistry), Zachary Lawson and Robert Neal (Aerospace & Mechanical Engineering), Suporna Paul (Chemical Engineering), and Sanjoy Saha (Bioengineering). Professors Patrick Brewick and Matthew Rosenberger, met with students in the program to share insights from their own graduate school and professional experiences.

"Going forward we want to raise our visibility and success rate in recruiting outstanding students, particularly students from underrepresented groups,” said Seabaugh. “We want to build a research community that attracts new faculty with a passion for materials research."

Students interested in becoming part of Notre Dame's interdisciplinary Materials Science & Engineering PhD program can learn more at