For 115 years, Penn State has been recognized as a pioneer and leader in materials science education and research.
The roots of the Department of Materials Science and Engineering (MatSE) extend back to the establishment of the strong academic programs in metallurgy in 1907-08, ceramic technology in 1923, and fuel science in 1934. In 1967, the three programs served as the foundation to form MatSE. In 1972 the addition of the polymer science program and the interaction with the multidisciplinary solid-state science program completed what is now Penn State MatSE—one of the finest and most-balanced programs in the United States.
“2022 is an incredibly special year for our department, we are celebrating 115 years of excellence,” said Susan Sinnott, professor and head of the department. “This is quite the milestone for Penn State MatSE. Since its very beginning, our department has been a leader and an innovator—we are proud to build on that excellence today.”
The legacy continues with the national recognition the MatSE programs continually receive. The National Science Foundation ranks Penn State first in the nation in expenditures in the area of materials
science, and second in the nation in expenditures in the area of materials engineering for the fourth year in a row.
In the U.S. News & World Report rankings of undergraduate engineering programs in materials, Penn State MatSE is ranked tenth. In its latest ranking of graduate schools, the graduate program was ranked eleventh in the nation.
The success of MatSE has a lot to do with the very strong connection between education and research. At all levels—bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral—students experience innovation first-hand, while gaining the understanding of the fundamentals needed for their future success.
“In MatSE, our primary goal is for our students to receive the highest quality education from our faculty who are at the very top of their field,” said Sinnott. “Yes, high-quality research is very important to us, we use our research as one of our most important educational tools. Our faculty support our students’ participation in research at the graduate level and at the undergraduate level.”
A student-centric program is not a new concept in MatSE. Looking back, Patrick Yoder, an alumnus who earned his bachelor’s degree in 1987 and his master’s degree in 1989 in ceramic science and engineering, has fond memories of the friendships forged during his years as a student.
Today he is the principal engineer in refractory and ceramics at ExxonMobil Technology and Engineering Company, and he was honored as a MatSE 2022 Tressler Lecturer.
“What I have always loved about the MatSE program, and the College of Earth and Mineral Sciences, is that it has always been a close-knit community,” said Yoder. “To me the experience was very intimate and very personal. The education I received was great, but the experience and comradery I got here was incredible.”
While celebrating the milestone of 115 years, MatSE is looking toward the future to continue to develop leaders in materials science and engineering, generate scientific discoveries, and enable new technology opportunities that serve 21st century societal needs through educational innovations, ground breaking research, entrepreneurial pursuits, and community outreach.
To find out about upcoming 115th MatSE Anniversary events and programs visit:
Digital publication: Imagine, Summer 2022