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New UA Engineering Program Focuses on Commercialization of Sustainable Products

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New UA Engineering Program Focuses on Commercialization of Sustainable Products

March 31, 2015
New University of Arizona master’s degree combines tech and business skills to give engineers advantage in the marketplace.

The University of Arizona College of Engineering has a new master’s degree to help engineers and companies bridge the gap between product conceptualization and commercialization and get products to market quickly.

“To be first to market with new products in today’s world, you need to move fast,” said Bob Rieger, associate director of the Master of Engineering in Innovation, Sustainability and Entrepreneurship, or ME-ISE, program. “This means you do not have the luxury of exploring every innovation and conducting every test imaginable before deciding if there’s a chance of commercial success -- you need skills and techniques, both technical and business-oriented, to accelerate the process.”

The master’s program, which will be offered starting in fall 2015, is geared to professionals working in industry or starting their own companies. Students will take an equal number of credit hours in engineering and business, with traditional and online options available for most classes. All classes are expected to have online options within 18 months.

“The new master’s in engineering program provides a highly focused, relevant advanced education combining the best of both the business and technical worlds,” said Pierre Deymier, head of the department of materials science and engineering and the School of Sustainable Engineered Systems. “This degree is a great investment both for entrepreneurs who want to engage in a startup scenario and for ‘intrapreneurs’ responsible for developing and commercializing products within a larger corporate structure.”

Alternative Technical Business Degree

ME-ISE business courses cover intellectual property and regulatory law, finance, fundraising, decision-making, and sales and marketing. Technical courses focus on the properties and selection of engineering materials, and on thermodynamics, computational materials science, and advanced topics in optical and electronic materials.

“Technical and business skills can be obtained with a number of other degrees,” Rieger said. “But our program teaches them all with one degree, and it will make our graduates invaluable business assets, whether they hope to work for themselves or are employed by multinational corporations.”

The program addresses sustainability in a broad context: Can a product be manufactured and developed without depleting natural resources, jeopardizing health and safety or exceeding cost limitations?

“Products and technologies must be sustainable throughout their life cycle, from manufacturing through ultimate disposal,” Rieger said. “We teach our students how to make sure they are.”

The ME-ISE is also relevant for professionals in disciplines other than materials engineering.

“Chemists, chemical engineers, mechanical engineers and civil engineers will all benefit,” Rieger said.

Industry Veterans at the Helm

Rieger brings a wealth of engineering and business experience to his appointment as associate director of the UA Master of Engineering in Innovation, Sustainability and Entrepreneurship program.

He received BS and MS degrees in ceramic engineering from the Georgia Institute of Technology and an MBA from Syracuse University, and has led several manufacturing companies involved with advanced materials, ceramics, electronics and other materials for the aerospace, semiconductor, pharmaceutical, chemical and defense industries.

As president, vice president, CEO and COO of several companies, including Fisher Scientific, Ferro Corp. and Tam Ceramics, he oversaw annual revenues topping $1 billion and expanded manufacturing operations throughout Europe and Asia.

Rieger is joined in the new master’s program by Barrett G. Potter, UA professor of materials science and engineering and former project manager at Sandia National Laboratories; Bob Lepore, retired vice president of engineering at Raytheon and head of the UA engineering management program; and UA professor Juan Carlos Tonazzi, founder of two Tucson-based startups.

Rieger connected with the UA 10 years ago when he first retired and moved to Tucson to build a home. He was an associate director of the University of Arizona Eller College of Management MBA program for three years before being “seduced back to the private equity world” to restructure and ultimately sell M Cubed Technologies, a Connecticut-based manufacturer of advanced ceramic parts for the semiconductor, defense and precision optical markets.

Rieger retired a second time in 2012 and recently contacted the UA to see how he could be of service -- this time, he got in touch with the materials science and engineering department.

“Over my almost 40 years in industry, I have seen the pace of development and commercialization of technical products increase exponentially,” Rieger said. “Today, it is not good enough to have a new product; the development cycle has to be short, and you have to maintain a robust pipeline of products, because product obsolescence is so rapid. To accomplish all this requires not only a strong technical grounding but the capability to navigate the competitive landscape.”

Learn more about the Master of Engineering in Innovation, Sustainability and Entrepreneurship or contact Bob Rieger at or 520.784.1512.

Top picture: Bob Rieger pictured at the Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering building.