New Open Doors engineering science and mechanics scholarship created


By Gabrielle Stewart

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — When Patrick Mather arrived at Penn State as a student in the College of Engineering in 1985, he didn’t know what to expect. A first-generation college student, he had little idea of how to navigate the academic world of college or what undergraduate research was, and he was surprised when he received his invitation to the engineering science honors program.

As a first-year student, Patrick did not anticipate that his time with engineering science at Penn State would lead to a career in academia and his current position as dean of the College of Engineering at Bucknell University. Now, Patrick wants to give undergraduate students in engineering science at his alma mater their own opportunities to succeed.

Patrick and his wife, Tara Mather, established the annually funded Mather Family Scholarship, which is designed to help support a student in the Department of Engineering Science and Mechanics (ESM) through their undergraduate education. The award consists of $2,500 per year for five years, with the possibility of expanding to meet more students’ needs in the future. The first preference will be given to a first-generation ESM undergraduate student with a demonstrated financial need.

“Pat and Tara are fully vested in student success and have created a legacy that will have a high impact on first-generation engineering science students,” said Judith Todd, head of the Department of Engineering Science and Mechanics. “It will reduce financial stress and give students time to explore the exciting undergraduate research opportunities and career trajectories offered by ESM.”

In the ESM program, both as an undergraduate student majoring in engineering science and a graduate student pursuing a master of science in engineering mechanics, Patrick said he became part of a supportive, diverse academic community.

“Our professors knew us by name, and the department staff knew us students very well,” Patrick said. “The department really became a home for me.”

Being included in a tight-knit community also allowed Patrick to form meaningful professional relationships, he said. He cited faculty like his undergraduate academic adviser Andrew Pytel, professor emeritus of engineering science and mechanics, and Thomas Hahn, distinguished professor emeritus of mechanical and aerospace engineering at University of California, Los Angeles, as mentor figures who helped set the course for a successful academic career.

Student mentors were also influential on Patrick’s positive experience in ESM. He credits both his assigned mentor, Song Chiou, now a staff engineer at Goodrich Inc., and an informal mentor, Scott White, professor of aerospace engineering at University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign who died in 2018, with helping him mature as a researcher and innovator.

With the scholarship, Patrick plans to return the favor.

“I want to invest in other students like the department invested in me,” he said.

Tara added that her husband has made every effort to mentor others throughout his career.

“He greatly enjoys staying connected with his students and seeing how their careers develop. Some former students have become professors themselves, and that is especially gratifying,” she said. “This scholarship is just another way of mentoring by fostering the possibility for someone to excel in their career.”

Patrick graduated from Penn State in 1989 with a bachelor of science in engineering science and in 1990 with a master of science in engineering mechanics. He went on to complete a doctorate in materials engineering at University of California, Santa Barbara, in 1994. Tara earned her bachelor of science in chemical engineering from Cornell University in 1989. She currently works as a materials coordinator at Powell Electro Systems in West Grove.

This gift will advance “A Greater Penn State for 21st Century Excellence,” a focused campaign that seeks to elevate Penn State’s position as a leading public university in a world defined by rapid change and global connections. With the support of alumni and friends, “A Greater Penn State” seeks to fulfill the three key imperatives of a 21st-century public university: keeping the doors to higher education open to hardworking students regardless of financial well-being; creating transformative experiences that go beyond the classroom; and impacting the world by serving communities and fueling discovery, innovation and entrepreneurship. To learn more about “A Greater Penn State for 21st Century Excellence,” visit


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Megan Lakatos

a man and a woman pose for a selfie with the Penn State lion statue in the background

Patrick and Tara Mather during a visit to Penn State's University Park campus. IMAGE: PATRICK AND TARA MATHER

a man sits on the Penn State lion statue with his parents standing beside him.
Patrick Mather at the Nittany Lion Shrine with his parents, Patricia and James Mather, in 1989. IMAGE: PATRICK AND TARA MATHER