The Department of Materials Science and NanoEngineering (MSNE) at Rice was established in November 2014, although research and education in the area have been a part of the Rice curriculum since 1952, when Professor Franz Brotzen came to the university as an assistant professor of metallurgy. With his arrival, materials science was contained in the Department of Mechanical Engineering. Materials science received separate accreditation in 1962, and the department was renamed the Department of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science. In the 50 years since, more materials science faculty have been hired in the department and faculty in the departments of bioengineering, chemical and biomolecular engineering, civil engineering, electrical and computer engineering, chemistry and physics and astronomy have also been doing materials research.
MSNE was created to bring together these faculty under one program and focus research efforts. The new department has nine regular faculty, one research professor, two associate research professors, two assistant research professors, four research scientists, fifteen postdoctoral fellows and nine adjunct professors as well as numerous joint appointments with faculty in other departments in the George R. Brown School of Engineering and the Weiss School of Natural Sciences at Rice.