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New space science major

By Jennifer Shen     4/19/12 7:00pm

A new program, professional science master's in space studies, is taking off this fall at the Wiess School of Natural Sciences.  Space studies will be the fifth track within the Science Master's Program offered by the Wiess School of Natural Sciences, a program designed to combine an interdisciplinary curriculum with business training and practical experience.


The space studies program was approved by the Graduate Council earlier this semester, Registrar David Tenney said.


Rice Space Institute Director David Alexander said space studies will bring together the Wiess School of Natural Sciences and the George R. Brown School of Engineering and will take its curriculum from a collection of existing classes in the two schools. Alexander said that the program will hopefully offer different tracks that cater to students' interests.


There will be a seminar series specifically for the space studies program that will focus on real-world problems. Alexander noted that one of the goals for the professional master's program is to engage Houston's professional community. As part of this effort, the seminar series will be organized by professionals from outside of Rice, including John Scott from the Johnson Space Center and Stewart O'Dell from ERC Incorporated, a company that provides services to advanced technology systems.


The space studies program has been in the works for about a year, Alexander said. Andrew Meade, chair of the Department of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science, said he had been interested in making an aerospace program of some kind for a while before it was brought to reality.


According to Alexander, one of the motivations for creating the space studies program is to strengthen Rice's connection with NASA.


"Even though Rice has some connections to NASA through certain professors, it's not institutionally true," Alexander said. "We're trying to build up that connection, and [creating this program] is the simplest way."


Alexander said there are a number of NASA personnel on the advisory board for the space studies program. Rice is also working on collaborating with NASA for internships.


The space studies program is still compiling a brochure and has not yet started accepting applications.

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