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Materials Engineering 60th Anniversary

Alumni, Students & Parents,

SAVE THE DATE: Materials Engineering Department's 60th Anniversary on Thursday, May 19 through Sunday, May 22. We hope you can join us!

The festivities will begin with the SLO Farmer's Market and lead into several days of activities, which include lab tours, banquets, wine and beer tasting, opportunities to attend a MATE class, outdoor activities, a sculpture dedication to R.C. Wiley, the founder of the department, and so much more!

To learn more, visit:

MATE Anniversary Fundraiser Doubles Goal

A fundraising campaign coinciding with the Materials Engineering Department’s 60th anniversary exceeded expectations, nearly doubling its goal, said Department Chair Trevor Harding.

The campaign, which raised close to $45,000, was matched with $50,000 provided by alumnus Bill LaFontaine.

“The success of the Materials Engineering 60th Anniversary Capital Campaign was driven by two factors,” Harding said. “First, the department is blessed to have an enthusiastic and engaged alumni base that is committed to the department’s success.  Second, Dr. Bill LaFontaine’s matching challenge gift likely motivated many of his fellow alums to give more than they might otherwise have done. We’re grateful to Bill for his incredible generosity – and to that competitive streak in our alums that made him write that matching gift!”

After earning his degree from Cal Poly in 1985, LaFontaine went on to earn a doctorate from Cornell and eventually rose through the ranks as a top IBM executive. Grateful to have been able to put his own two sons through college, he began to think of ways to contribute more to the MATE Department.

LaFontaine said he hoped his matching gift would inspire others to support those that follow their path to Cal Poly.

“All of us have benefitted in one way or another from our stay in San Luis Obispo, and we can help with extending the legacy of the Learn by Doing approach, which is as relevant today as it was 40 years ago when I showed up on campus,” LaFontaine said last year. “As we compete with other countries, we need many well-trained engineers and scientists in our workforce, inventing products and services. Lastly, the investment in a Cal Poly student is an investment that will pay off in society for decades to come. How many gifts can one give that will have impacts like this?”

The department paired the campaign with the recognition of its 60th anniversary, which will be officially celebrated this spring. The original goal was to raise $25,000.

“The alumni are incredibly enthusiastic about the campaign and the upcoming 60th Anniversary celebration,” Harding said. “For those from the early days of the program, they see this as a way to give back to a department, chaired by R.C. Wiley, that helped them launch their careers and achieve their success.”

More recent alumni have been engaged as well, he said, and want to improve opportunities for the next generation of MATE students.

“That commitment to continuously improving the department is​ irreplaceable,” Harding said.

The money will be directed toward laboratory spaces, he added. Specifically, it will help finance the completion of a wirelessly integrated modeling and simulation lab and begin the renovation of an electron microscopy lab that will be essential to research and learning in nanotechnology.

“Cal Poly’s Learn by Doing motto is not just words on a page,” Harding said. “Our faculty, staff and students live by these words every day.  But, as technology advances, our Learn by Doing activities and facilities have to keep pace.” 

The plans to commemorate the 60th anniversary had been postponed previously due to the pandemic. The celebration was rescheduled for May 19-22, 2022.

The festivities will begin with the San Luis Obispo Farmer’s Market and lead into several days of activities, which include lab tours; banquets; wine and beer tasting; live music; opportunities to attend a MATE class; a sculpture dedication to Wiley, the founder of the department, and more.

To donate to the Materials Engineering Department, please visit this site.

MATE Professor Mohsen Kivy Publishes Tool

Dr. Mohsen Kivy and a team of researchers from Cal Poly and Purdue University published “Random and Special Quasirandom Structure Generator” on Nanohub.

Kivy worked with Shivam Tripathi, Rileigh Anne Cotter, Sabir Utamsing, Md, Mahbubul Islam, and Alejandro Strachan.


This tool has been developed to generate the random and special quasi-random structure (SQS) for body-centered cubic (BCC) and face-centered cubic (FCC) systems using mcsqs algorithm in alloy theoretical automated toolkit (ATAT) package. The results yielded come in POSCAR and LAMMPS data file. One can change between the two filed and download the generated structure. This is a handy tool to generate structures for multicomponent systems such as high entropy alloys (HEAs).

To see this tool on nanoHUB, click here.

Man of Steel

Materials engineering alumnus Bob Adams polishes the stainless-steel part of “Atom Shifter,” a sculpture he helped build with designer and classmate Steve Paterson to honor the MATE Department’s first chair R.C. Wiley and the department's 60th Anniversary. The sculpture, which was installed near Building 141, depicts two common atomic arrangements of iron.

To view on YouTube, click here


Forgeng's Teaching

Following early retirement from research development at U.S. Steel in Pittsburgh, PA in 1980, Dr. Bill Forgeng became a professor in the Metallurgical Engineering Department at Cal Poly. He taught a variety of courses, excelling in metallography and ferrous metallurgy. Besides countless valuable and practical lessons, his students remember his kind nature and endless love of good jokes and stories. Dr. Forgeng’s humor brought him closer to his students, creating indelible memories of an outstanding educator and a truly lovable man. 

photos of Dr. Forgeng with a student and working the blacksmith shop. Picture of his plaque and his wife and daughter.Forgeng Metallurgy Fund

In honor of Bill, the department created the Forgeng Metallurgy Fund. Donations to this fund carry on one of Bill’s passions: studying the microstructure of metals and alloys. Metallography typically entails preparing a specimen for analysis by grinding and polishing its surface. MATE students spend hours polishing and analyzing microstructures throughout our curriculum. Making this learning opportunity available to students, requires the use of supplies (e.g., Bakelite, polishing pads, diamond abrasives) and the upkeep of saws, polishers, and microscopes. 

Dwayne Bell (Class of 1995) presented the idea of designing a plaque in memory of Bill. The plaque was hung in the Metallography Lab during the 50th anniversary weekend Open House in 2010. 

Donations from alumni and other supporters help maintain necessary supplies for students and make occasional upgrades (e.g., new mounting presses and polishers) to some of the equipment in the heavily used in the lab. 

Forgeng Hooks

Bill hung his hat on hands-on learning, so it is fitting that his wife, Maureen, and daughter, Karen, generously donated over 30 hand-forged coat hooks he made during his retirement years in Fort Vancouver (WA) to the department. The hooks are being awarded to alumni and other MATE supporters who exemplify outstanding engagement with the department. 

photos of hooks crafted by Bill Forgeng and his wife and daughter presenting hooks to alumni

In Spring 2016, three of Bill’s former students were the first honorees to receive Forgeng Hooks. David Taggart  (Class of 1985, vice president products, IronRidge Inc.) stands with Maureen and Karen in the center photo. Scott Miner  (Class of 1995, instructor of welding technology at Los Positas College) and John Simpson  (Class of 1981, retired senior principal engineer at Abbott Laboratories) are pictured on the right.

Read John Simpson's remembrance of Bill.

Forgeng Scholarship and Photo Contest

Thanks to the generosity of the Forgeng family, the Materials Engineering Department is also able to offer the W.D. Forgeng Scholarship to students.  Every Spring we also hold the Forgeng Photo Contest where students submit entries of their microscopic images. Winning photos are posted in the Metallography Lab with Bill's plaque.

Senior projects mark the culmination of materials engineering students' learn by doing experience. Senior projects mark the culmination of materials engineering students' learn by doing experience. Typically taken during Year 4, students focus on their senior projects each quarter - beginning with problem definition and literature review in the Fall; moving in to design, testing, and analysis through the Winter; and finalizing years of learning in a comprehensive report and professional presentation at the end of Spring.

We welcome sponsors to provide projects for our senior projects. This is a unique and exciting opportunity to participate in our students' education. Sponsoring a senior project enables MATEs to obtain a well-rounded experience focused on real-world engineering problems and presents your organization a new look at problems you want to solve.

If you would like to sponsor a senior project, please contact Lisa Rutherford at After receiving your proposal, a faculty member will work with you to scope your project and finalize its description.

Learn more by reading our Senior Projects Solicitation Letter and our Senior Projects Flyer.




Materials Engineering at Cal Poly is the only primarily undergraduate materials engineering program in the USA. You get to know your peers and professors on more of a personal level as you work hands-on with equipment that undergraduates in other universities typically do not have access to.

Our curriculum is centered on the grand challenges that engineers face in applying creativity to design products, processes, and systems that support human well-being and that are also compatible with sustaining the environmental systems that provide ecological services vital to human survival.

The intention behind our curriculum is that you will develop the cognitive, social, affective, and psychomotor characteristics needed for engineering's very important mission.

In the past, engineering education focused on technical information, which primarily involved left-brain development (e.g., science and math). With the rise of globalization and its strain on environmental and social systems, the 21st century engineer needs to develop skills that integrate creativity and social sciences into more technical aspects of engineering. We have designed our curriculum based on research in educational psychology.

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Materials Engineering Department
1 Grand Avenue
San Luis Obispo, CA 93407

Location: 41A-229

Phone: (805) 756-2568


Hours: M-F 8am-5pm

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