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New programs in physics and engineering fill demand for critical thinkers and problem solvers.

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Engineers are creators and inventors who solve complex, real-world problems using science and math. Engineers leave their mark on every building constructed and technology invented.

To meet the demand, UST offers the following Bachelor of Science degrees: Physics, Engineering Physics, Electrical Engineering, Chemical Engineering and Mechanical Engineering.

Dr. Birgit Mellis, chair of the Physics and Engineering Department, has a message for students about these challenging degrees.

“It takes your dream of becoming a great engineer to start with your studies, your desire and hard work to keep going, and your determination to cross the finish line at graduation. But you can trust that our team of professors and staff will be supporting you each step of the way.”

Engineering Degree Programs 

It was Mellis’ vision that launched an aggressive plan to offer engineering degrees at UST. She took its lone 3+2 Program, where students graduated after earning a math degree at UST in three years and an engineering degree at Notre Dame in two years, and transformed the entire program. Mellis began the first two 4-year bachelor’s degree programs in the spring of 2019; three additional Engineering programs have been added to UST’s offerings since then.  

With scholarships and the necessary tools for success, UST recruits Hispanics and students with limited financial means to realize their dreams of becoming engineers. Winning highly competitive grants gives UST the momentum to secure the students, upgrade technology and nurture an Engineering Success Center.

“Notably,” Mellis said, “we are breaking down barriers. Not only does our Engineering student population consist of more than 65% Hispanic students, most of them first generation, but 50% of the engineering faculty and more than 34% of the engineering students are women.”

New Engineering Facilities

Last spring, UST unveiled its newly renovated space, including labs, lecture halls and a Success Center occupying most of Robertson Hall. Students have access to a dedicated study room and student lounge on the first floor that offers tutoring, proactive academic advising, peer-facilitated study groups, a peer-mentoring program, internship opportunities and more. 

Philanthropic gifts from longtime friends of UST, Lee Butler ’70, Dick Evans and Ray Kwan ’95, plus $3 million in Title V funding from the U.S. Department of Education helped fund scholarships and the renovation project. 

Butler’s generous gift establishes the Braden-Butler Endowed Scholarship to help Hispanic and first-generation students in engineering to have a shot at a good life and career like his. The scholarship will support budding engineers and physicists for decades to come. Evans’ generosity will support the Dick Evans Chemical Engineering Endowed Scholarship. Kwan established the Dr. Sik Hung Kwan Physics Scholarship in honor of his father, who was a physics professor in Hong Kong.

UST Next Gen Researchers Project

UST’s Physics and Engineering Department also participates in a three-year, $750,000 Minority Science and Engineering Improvement Program (MSEIP): The UST Houston Next Gen Researchers Project. The program includes a research program for cohorts of UST MSEIP Scholars and students from the nonprofit STEM Bridges Houston program, which serves a population that is 86% first-generation and 99% underrepresented youth. MSEIP scholars will participate in a unique summer research experience with the option of continuing their research projects during the academic year.

Summer Internships get results 

“Summer internships are crucial to receiving job offers after graduation,” Mellis said.  “Therefore, we strongly encourage all our engineering students to apply for internships. We recently started offering an internship course as an elective part of the engineering degree plans. Two participants, Chris and Jason, applied successfully to very competitive internship programs at major companies, Shell and CenterPoint. Their summer internships led to job offers even before their graduation next spring. We are very proud of them!”

Getting positive results

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Christopher Alducin ’23 

ME Student

Mechanical engineering is among the oldest and most popular fields of engineering. As a mechanical engineer, you will apply physical science concepts to address real-world problems. 

Flashing his engaging smile, senior mechanical engineering student Christopher Alducin explained how he landed his dream internship with Shell by applying to hundreds of internships through INROADs, a nonprofit organization, with which UST’s Engineering programs collaborate to create pathways to careers for ethnically diverse students across the country. 

“Coming from a family of seven that emigrated from Mexico at the age of six, I am thankful for all of the people who have helped me,” he said. Alducin wanted to be an engineer since he was a child. He attended Dulles High School in Sugar Land and participated in its Engineering Academy. By the time he graduated, Alducin had already earned an associate’s degree.

Because of his efforts, Alducin received several internship offers from McKinsey and Co., Saudi Aramco, BP, Western Digital, and a variety of consulting, energy, engineering and medical companies.

Ultimately, Alducin selected Shell’s Subsea Engineering Group for his summer internship. 

“My driving factor in choosing this internship is my interest in robotics and having an opportunity to obtain technical experience with Shell’s autonomous underwater vehicles and remotely operated vehicles,” Alducin said. 

During his internship, he worked on various projects, including Gulf of Mexico oil platforms, pipelines and robot surveillance data. 

“I took every opportunity to travel with the company to visit contracting companies, even visiting offshore platforms after completing a helicopter underwater escape training,” he said. “I met engineers and professionals from the USA, Nigeria, The Netherlands and Brazil. I am thankful for the opportunity, which allowed me to learn about different components of the oil and gas industry from top professionals.

“Following my successful summer internship with Shell in New Orleans, I was offered a six-figure position after graduation this spring with UST’s first B.S. in Mechanical Engineering class,” Alducin said.

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Jason Brown ’23

EE Student

Electrical engineers design, test and develop electrical systems ranging from smartphones to motors and household appliances to large-scale systems such as power stations or communication systems. Employment opportunities cross a widespan of industries. In Houston, the chemical and petrochemical industry, NASA and aerospace-related companies offer an abundance of electrical engineering positions to graduates, and the job potential is growing. Texas is one of the top two employers of electrical engineers in the United States. The average salary in the U.S. is $98,530, and the average salary in Texas is $101,000. These jobs are growing nationally at a rate of 5%.

Senior and first-generation electrical engineering student Jason Brown also attended Dulles High School. His love of baseball and making the UST team, along with his desire to become an engineer, led him to UST. 

Applying the same grit as his fellow student Chris Alducin, Brown found his internship with CenterPoint.

“I am working on several projects at CenterPoint,” he said. “I am the Rhode and Swartz product support for mobile generators that they will roll out in case of a natural disaster as well as for CVR (combined high and low voltage relay) battery and breaker projects. Lately, I am learning about interconnection programs for solar farms.” 

“The modern-day world doesn’t work the same without electrical engineers,” Brown said. “Electrical engineering has grown and will continue to grow exponentially,” Brown said. “Finally, I am highly intrigued by all the electrical engineering laws, theories and discoveries.” 

Brown has reason to celebrate his wonderful internship at CenterPoint because when he graduates in May, he has an offer to join the company as an associate engineer. 

Brown loves his college experience at UST and highly recommends the Engineering program to prospective students. 

“UST is a great place to grow,” he said. “The University and professors do a terrific job of ensuring you understand and learn the material. The smaller class sizes allow you to interact with the professors. Bigger universities tend to push you in and out as a number with a piece of paper (degree). UST prepares you for the workforce waiting for new talent.”    

Dr. Birgit Mellis

“Our goal is to ensure each engineering student has access to the resources available to enhance their education and be successful in their career.

The unveiling of this state-of-the-art facility gives engineering students new facilities, equipment and undergraduate research opportunities.

Labs are a crucial part of each engineering degree program.”

– Dr. Birgit Mellis

About the Author — Sandra Soliz, MLA '01 Soliz

AvatarSandra Soliz, director of Communications for University of St. Thomas, has served the University for 20 years in Marketing Communications Department. In her position, she handles media relations and serves as the editor of the Encounter Magazine.

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