Montana Tech, UM, MSU working on PhD program

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BUTTE, Mont. (AP) — Montana Tech is close to establishing its first doctoral program in collaboration with the University of Montana and Montana State University, the school's chancellor said.

Plans for the doctorate in material science are in the final stages of development and it could start enrolling students as early as the 2012-13 school year, Chancellor Donald Blackketter told The Montana Standard (http://bit.ly/SEadOw).

"It's moderately historical if we can get it pulled off," Blackketter said in a recent interview. "You could get your Ph.D. from Montana Tech, Montana State and the University of Montana in materials science with specialty areas at each university."

Montana Tech's specialty area would be extracted metallurgy and materials engineering. The program would benefit from UM's strong programs in physics and chemistry, MSU's strengths in mechanical engineering.

In all, the Ph.D. faculty would consist of about 37 faculty members at all three universities.

Some classes will be offered via interactive video or online streaming, Blackketter said.

"You can take a class at Montana State and sit right here in Butte," he said. "We have a lot of the technology ironed out. I think it's much easier than it was just a few years ago."

A 12-member committee working out the curriculum details hopes to present the proposal to the state Board of Regents in March. The regents also could approve the program for the 2013-14 school year or opt for a later start date.

In any case, it would fulfill Montana Tech's goal of becoming a Ph.D. granting institution, Blackketter said.

"We certainly have some unique areas that no one else in the state has, in particular the materials science in extracted metallu8rgy. There are fairly few graduates, but a huge demand for them," he said.

The program would start out with 10 or 20 students among the three schools, he said.

The challenge will be ensuring the program has enough funding, including funding for student research, Blackketter said.

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Information from: The Montana Standard, http://www.mtstandard.com

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