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Boise State’s history of materials science begins new chapter

The new $50 million Micron Center for Materials Research opened this fall on the Boise State University campus. It is a campus and community innovation hub for materials research and serves as the home of the recently named Micron School of Materials Science and Engineering.

The 97,000-square-foot building provides research laboratories and spaces, state-of-the-art learning environments, a 250-seat lecture hall, two large classrooms, offices and work spaces for faculty members, staff and graduate students advancing materials teaching and research at Boise State.

Micron School of Materials Science and Engineering faculty are nationally recognized for their work in the areas of smart materials, programmable materials, functional materials, energy materials, materials for extreme environments, biological sciences and nanotechnology.

In 20 years since its founding, there have been remarkable changes in materials sciences at Boise State — growing from a small interdisciplinary minor to the largest STEM-based Ph.D. program in Idaho, achieving a 331 percent increase in research in the last 5 years and reaching 41 percent female representation in the undergraduate program, which positions Boise State among the nation’s best.

Inclusivity and sustainability are core to the mission of materials at Boise State. Research teams collaboratively model, synthesize and characterize nuclear enabling technologies, DNA for quantum computing and massive data-storage applications, high-performing batteries for the electric vehicle revolution, and plastics for a more sustainable future.

“We are the only school that I know of in the United States named after a global semiconductor company,” said Will Hughes, director and professor of the Micron School of Materials Science and Engineering. “We carry this banner with great pride as we strive to make materials that matter. We do this by embracing inclusive practices, supporting campus and community collaborations, and maintaining an unshakable focus on student learning.

Students earning a degree in materials science and engineering emerge as important contributors across many scientific and engineering disciplines, including advanced manufacturing, synthetic biology, energy studies, space and aeronautics, and the development of new sensors and microelectronic devices.

“We are grateful for the contributions of Micron to materials research on our campus,” said College of Engineering Dean JoAnn Slama Lighty, also noting Micron’s investment in the Ph.D. program in Electrical and Computer Engineering, the establishment of the Micron School of Materials Science and Engineering, and the Ph.D. program in Materials Science and Engineering.

“All changed the research and graduate education trajectory for the College of Engineering and campus,” she said. “The building is a state-of-the-art research facility with labs and spaces specifically designed for materials characterization and scholarship. In addition, the west end of the building houses some of the best teaching space on campus, and some 800 students will eventually pass through the building every class change — when we can.”

The Micron Technology Foundation Inc. gave $25 million — the largest single gift in Boise State history — for the Micron Center for Materials Research. Micron has been an incredible partner to Boise State since the company, and later the foundation, were formed. To date, their support of Boise State has exceeded $75 million. In 2012, the Micron Foundation helped the university open the Micron College of Business and Economics Building, in 2019, the Fine Arts Building and, this fall, the Micron Center for Materials Research. Together, they are shaping the future of Idaho.

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