Mechanical Engineering Pre-Grad Intern Luis G. Gutierrez

Luis GutierrezThere are rare moments in our rushed lives in which we find ourselves stopping for a moment, just trying to see where are we, what are we trying to accomplish, where are we heading, and how are we getting there-moments in where we try to see ourselves with a bigger scope, in a greater time-space dimension. This semester, the IE Pre-Grad School internship gave me one of these unique opportunities.

To be honest, I was not sure about what to expect from this program. Actually, at the beginning, I was skeptic because it seemed to me too open, too ambiguous, and without any defined path to follow. But it turned out that in fact that huge degree of freedom enhanced my overall experience at UT during this semester and helped me redefine what I would like to do with my career. I also discovered that this autonomy and ambiguity, actually, are not rare in many graduate courses; I learned that many times in grad school there is no syllabus to follow, and you are supposed to find your own way out; everyone expect you to do so.

One of the key aspects that impacted my Pre-grad experience was my collaboration as an Undergraduate Research Assistant in The Department of Mechanical Engineering. I have been part of a team whose objective is to increase the efficiency of Amorphous Silicon Photovoltaic Cells by designing and manufacturing optimized nanostructures into the silicon surfaces. As I have been part of such a great endeavor, working with such brilliant and prepared individuals, I developed my own ambition of doing great and meaningful things. I have learned priceless knowledge that I would have never acquired in a classroom. This experience has given me true contact with engineering day-to-day work, awakening a personal desire for research and innovation. I have discovered the power of analytic thinking, creativity, and teamwork. It gave me the opportunity to realize how much I love doing research, and not just that, but I also recognized the real necessity of fostering this research culture in many of our Latin American countries.

In the process, this has given me the chance of applying, in many ways, the concepts and knowledge that I have acquired as a student. Applying real engineering concepts in my role as an URA has helped me with my regular courses, as well. For instance, in the Heat Transfer course I am taking this semester, we covered Radiation Heat Transfer -one of the most complex topics in this course and in the Mechanical Engineering field in general. During the lab sessions I carried out as an URA, we measured the absorptivity and transitivity properties of silicon surfaces at different light wavelengths and the impact of this in the photovoltaic process. This gave me a basis and sufficient experience that led me to understand the radiative heat transfer covered in my class in a better and deeper way. I noticed that it was much easier to understand those hard concepts for me than for many of my engineering friends thanks to the experience and familiarity I had with them.

As part of this experience, I also attend the ASME International Conference at Houston. As I have stated in the reflection I wrote for this trip, it really was a unique opportunity and a true learning event for me. Attending my mentor presentation set an example for me on how to communicate others in the professional world of engineering. I really tried to analyze every aspect of her presentation to learn from her: the structure of her presentation, the language she used, her non-verbal language, and the visual resources she implemented. I could conclude that she used all of these resources to draw a clear path and take the audience from some very basic information to a completely different and complex plane, where she could transmit importance and deepness of her research. I also attended other conference series that I enjoyed, and discover the great variety of research that is currently being carried out in the Mechanical Engineering world. In short, I think this was one of the best experiences I had this semester since it opened my eyes to bigger span in many terms.

I also audited a graduate course, Application Perspective of Nanotechnology, at the ME school, as part of the IE Internship experience. As its name suggests, the course gave me a full perspective of this relatively new area of engineering, which I find overwhelmingly interesting. I never had the chance to study these topics in my undergraduate courses, so the course exposed me to completely new knowledge, which in fact have direct application on the research I'm collaborating.

Another activity, which I loved, was the faculty member interviewed. I learned something new about myself; it seems that I really enjoy interviewing people. I had the opportunity to interview four UT professors; three from the Mechanical Engineering Department and one from the Business School. They were true learning experience for me and I really liked the conversations. It's rare having the opportunity of getting to talk to such a distinguished, prepared, and experience persons. It really helped me that they shared part of their experience and personal philosophy with me; it inspired me to keep on going and aim for more keeping an open mind for the future.

I believe I am, as a Mexican citizen, presented with great opportunities, individually responsible and committed to actually making a difference. I think that the difficult and sad situation, in which my country currently is, has only two real long-term sustainable solutions: education and entrepreneurship spirit. I am determined to use everything I have acquired so far: values, education, knowledge, along with creativity and hard work, to make my personal and lasting contribution to my environment, my community, and my country. In this sense, I see the possibility of graduate school as a continuation of this quest, as a chance to absorb the best of the opportunity, the resources and experience it offers me, to grow and become capable of offering opportunities honest and hard-working people in my country deserve.

My goal as an engineer and a social entrepreneur - to generate ideas and solutions based upon knowledge, science and technology in order to change reality - has steered my life-project into a clear direction, and the IE Internship program was the perfect excuse to start exploring and developing this idea.