I always wanted to go to UT, but it was out of reach until I was awarded a Texas Exes scholarship.
As told to Rose Cahalan.
I was about 6 or 7 years old when my dad took me to an open house at his work—he’s a mechanical engineer—and I saw this huge, shiny compressor blade. I just stared at this giant blade and thought, cool. That was the beginning of me wanting to be an engineer.
The first time I visited UT was in my junior year of high school. I immediately had this feeling of belonging. I never got that feeling at other schools. But the price was really a sticking point for my parents. Texas A&M offered me an engineering scholarship and because of that, it looked like I would be going to College Station.
Then I got the email telling me I’d gotten the Texas Exes scholarship, and immediately it was an easy decision. It was like, OK, now we don’t have to worry about debt anymore. Now I’m a senior here, and I’m still surprised that I got the opportunity.
My favorite class was heat transfer with Dr. Jayathi Murthy, who is also the chair of the mechanical engineering department. I liked how she brought up the history of the material, how things were discovered and when. You hardly ever learn about history in engineering classes. She just has this way of putting things into context.
When I’m not studying, I like to go to Barton Springs, go canoeing with my friends, and play the oud, which is an Egyptian guitar. There’s a pretty strong Egyptian-American student community at the University. Some friends and I like to get together and just play old Egyptian music.
My donors, Jack and Beverly Randall, are really great. I’ve visited them at their home in Houston. When I was applying for internships, Jack really helped me out, because he has so many contacts in the oil industry.
Last year over winter break, a professor whose class I’d just finished, Dr. Lew Rabenberg, sent me an email. He wrote, “I think you’re really talented and you would do well in grad school.” When I got back to campus, we met and talked it over, and now I’m applying to grad school. I don’t think I would have ever considered it if he hadn’t sent me that email.
What makes UT special is the people. Yes, we have great facilities, but not without the people inside them. I’ve visited other universities, and they didn’t have that same driven, close-knit community that exists here. That’s a rare thing.
Mark Mikhaeil is a recipient of the Beverly R. and Jack P. Randall Family Challenge Grant.
Above: Mikhaeil at work in UT’s Fluid Mechanics Teaching Laboratory. Photo by Anna Donlan.
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