From Student to Sponsor: Q&A with Matt Mette

Feb. 15, 2024


Five students stand in an engineering lab
Matt Mette is mentoring Team 24032, which he says is doing a great job on a project with a big scope.

Matt Mette graduated from the University of Arizona in 1999 with a degree in mechanical engineering and has spent most of his career at Roche’s Ventana Medical Systems campus, where he now works as a mechanical engineering manager and staff engineer. A longtime partner of the Interdisciplinary Capstone program, Roche has sponsored numerous student teams and awards. Mette is now one of the primary capstone mentors with Roche, leading multiple student teams like the one he was once a part of.

Tell us about your capstone project during your UA education.

I was part of a capstone team that designed and built an apparatus to automatically test and calibrate liquid flowmeters used in the semiconductor industry. At the time, the flowmeters were tested by hand and all the calibration data was manually entered by the tester. We built a system that automated much of the process and reduced testing time by about 80%.

It was a great experience and exposed us to many different aspects of engineering, design and teamwork. Our project encompassed designing mechanical components, integrating them with fluidics and motion controllers, writing code, assembling, testing and documentation.

Did your experience in the capstone program prepare you for your career?

The project helped me learn more about fluidics and motion control, which I now use quite a bit in my career. We designed our parts in CAD and produced drawings. We worked with different machinists and often made our own parts, and then assembled everything. That was the first time we used many of these tools for a real application, and it helped us think about the manufacturing process.

Aspects of project management, working with a team, meeting deadlines, defining requirements and managing scope are all areas that the capstone program initially exposed us to, and are still part of my day-to-day work. I even went on to work for the company my capstone project was sponsored by for several years. That first engineering job was an excellent foundation for my overall career, and I'm so grateful for all my experiences.

What teams have you worked with? Can you share a little bit about the team you currently work with and how they’re doing?

I have worked with several teams. The most recent one focused on automating specific cleaning processes in the lab and another on automatic level detection of fluids on certain instruments. My current team is looking at a possible method for automating the handling of certain patient samples. This team is doing a great job so far, especially since they are tackling a big scope.

We try to identify projects that will give students exposure to many areas, such as motion control, mechanical interfaces, machine vision, digital input and output, software control, and interface constraints. I'm impressed with their creativity and talent so far.

What are some of the most rewarding moments?

It's great to see all the hard work and creativity the students are putting in. Their excitement and enthusiasm remind me of why I love engineering so much, and it inspires me in my job. 

It is most rewarding to see the students try something that doesn't work, learn from that, and then iterate on an even better concept. It's also rewarding to see the appreciation the students have for the teachers, mentors and program in general. I was especially grateful when one student told me they weren't sure they wanted to continue as an engineer, but after being on our project they were very excited about their future in engineering.

Would you recommend the sponsor experience to other companies and alumni?

I would definitely recommend this experience. Steve Larimore and the instructors continue to improve the capstone program, and I think it is such an important part of the success of our future engineers. I hope the students learn some things from me, since I learn from them each time. The students bring fresh perspectives to the projects that we may not have tried ourselves. We use the projects to help the students learn, but also to provide us with great foundations that we can further develop. Mentoring the students helps strengthen my skills and knowledge as well. And of course, I get to meet some amazing young adults who sometimes turn into longtime teammates down the road.

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