About Us

History of the Department

MSE celebrated its 125th anniversary in 2019. Read a comprehensive history of the department: MSE Quasquicentennial: The Evolution of Materials Science and Engineering at the University of Washington 1894-2019


Our history has its beginnings in the mining industry and the minerals that prospectors discovered in Washington State toward the end of the nineteenth century.

Prospectors found the state to be relatively rich in minerals and began establishing mines throughout the Puget Sound area. These mines produced gold, silver, copper, lead, mercury and coal. The search for minerals brought many people to Washington, of course, but it was the need to understand and process these materials that brought students to the UW.

On November 28, 1893, the UW Board of Regents established the School of Mining Engineering "to educate men for the industry."

Although the department began in the allure of mining, over time the academic emphasis shifted to the study of metallurgy, ceramics, and such newer materials as composites and electronic materials. As a result, the emphasis of the department also broadened to include not only practical training but also basic and applied research involving a wide variety of materials.

1995 Assay Shop

Now, more than 100 years later, we are advancing areas of research never dreamed of by our founders. Today's search for new materials parallels the miner's search for minerals but it uses both natural and artificial sources to find the combinations of materials needed for today's emerging technological challenges.