Alumni Robert and Carolyn Caligiuri Establish Professor Amiya Mukherjee Memorial Fellowship in Materials Science
Alumni Robert ’73 and Carolyn Caligiuri ’74 have given a $1.27 million endowment to the University of California, Davis, Department of Materials Science and Engineering in honor of Robert Caligiuri’s first mentor, the late Distinguished Professor Amiya Mukherjee.
The Professor Amiya Mukherjee Memorial Fellowship, representing the largest gift ever to the department, will support competitive doctoral students entering into industry and academia, and boost the stature of materials science and engineering at UC Davis.
“We are incredibly grateful to the Caligiuris for their tremendous generosity and commitment to the College of Engineering and our students,” Dean Richard Corsi said. “Their support of the Department of Materials Science and Engineering will help to carry on Professor Mukherjee’s legacy and positively impact the education and future of the department’s students.”
The Caligiuris’ gift is part of UC Davis’ $2 billion fundraising campaign, Expect Greater: From UC Davis, For the World, the largest philanthropic endeavor in university history. Gifts like this will allow students, faculty and staff to design new materials with improved properties for the ever-demanding needs of the world.
“Giving back to UC Davis is important to me because I’ve had a very successful career as an engineer and it all started back in Davis,” Robert Caligiuri said. “I don’t know where I would be now if I hadn’t met Professor Mukherjee.”
Robert Caligiuri is a corporate vice president and principal engineer at Exponent Inc., a consulting firm that solves engineering, science, regulatory and business issues. He started full time in 1987, investigating accidents and working with manufacturers to help improve the safety of their products. After almost 20 years in executive positions, he now focuses on client work and mentoring younger staff.
What I remember most about Professor Mukherjee is his ability to convey ideas with a lot of energy and enthusiasm; that’s what really connected me with materials science. I was energized about the whole subject and enjoyed his encouragement to push myself. — Robert Caligiuri
After graduation from UC Davis, Caligiuri earned a Ph.D. in materials science at Stanford University under Professor Oleg Sherby. It wasn’t until recently that he reconnected with UC Davis.
“I knew Jeff Gibeling, the former interim dean of the College of Engineering, because we both attended Stanford at the same time.” Caligiuri said. “We started talking in spring 2021 about ways I could reconnect with the College of Engineering, and particularly the MSE department,” he said. “I decided to join the advisory board to help enhance the department’s reputation and increase Exponent recruits from UC Davis.”
During his time on the board, he has brought colleagues to guest-lecture in the department and encouraged more recruiting activities by his firm.
“After contributing to the board, I felt it was time to recognize Professor Mukherjee’s impact on my experience and help the department grow,” he said. “Both Carolyn and I believe that if we support students, more top faculty will be attracted to the program — that motivated us to give back to UC Davis.”
Caligiuri was one of many Aggie engineers whom Mukherjee inspired in his five-decade career at UC Davis.
“Amiya was an inspiration not only to his students but also to the faculty around him,” said Yayoi Takamura, professor and department chair. “This generous donation will allow us to continue Amiya’s legacy to educate the brightest minds in materials science and engineering.”
Mukherjee joined UC Davis in 1966 after being recruited by the College of Engineering’s first dean, Roy Bainer, to establish a materials science program. Mukherjee single-handedly developed and taught 14 courses in his first few years and established an official materials science curriculum in 1969.
He continued to teach the college’s introductory materials science classes until his retirement in 2007 and served as a “materials ambassador” to his students, making sure they knew how materials enable everything from spacecraft to bridges to circuits. This introductory class is what got Caligiuri interested in materials science.
“What I remember most about Professor Mukherjee is his ability to convey ideas with a lot of energy and enthusiasm; that’s what really connected me with materials science,” Caligiuri said. “I was energized about the whole subject and enjoyed his encouragement to push myself.”
Beyond his teaching, Mukherjee established himself as a pioneer in materials science and an international leader in the field of creep deformation, where materials deform after being subjected to heat and stress. He worked on processing, characterization, mechanical and physical properties, failure and modeling for metals, nanocrystalline materials and ceramics; authored more than 700 publications; and won numerous campus and international awards for his research and teaching.
Mukherjee’s wife, Annemari, expressed her and her family’s gratitude in a statement: “Professor Amiya Kumar Mukherjee had a tremendous joy in teaching and instilling a love of learning, and he cared deeply for all his students. He would be delighted and honored to see the tremendous support given for the future Ph.D. students in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering.”
This story was featured in the Fall 2022 issue of Engineering Progress.