Faces of Texas Engineering

As we prepare to celebrate LGBTQ+ Pride month throughout June, we sat down with two recent Texas Engineering graduates, Emil Yongoueth (B.S. ASE 2020) and Joey Saad (B.S. ChE 2020), to talk about their experiences as students and professionals and their involvement leading the Out 4 Undergrad (O4U) Engineering Conference, an event put on by the O4U organization geared toward helping LGBTQ+ undergraduate students excel.

Katharine Fisher is this year's Outstanding Scholar-Leader for the Cockrell School of Engineering — an award that recognizes one graduating student annually for hard work and leadership inside and outside the classroom. However, things may have been very different had she not decided to check out an engineering outreach program on a whim in high school. The California-born, Texas-raised Fisher was always interested in building things and solving hard problems as a kid, a staple of the engineer's brain. But her early schooling did little to encourage this mindset, and slowly her interest in engineering and science drifted away.

Carmen Wright is the first Black woman to graduate with a Ph.D. in chemical engineering from UT Austin. We sat down with Wright to learn more about her other "firsts" and how she encourages others to not let being the first deter you from reaching your goals, to let your idea of success evolve and change as life evolves, and to enjoy the journey rather than solely focusing on the end goal.

Catherine Dominic, a sophomore aerospace engineering major from Sugarland, Texas, was selected to receive a Brooke Owens Fellowship for 2021. Dominic joins two former students in the Department of Aerospace Engineering and Engineering Mechanics to receive the award — Josefina Salazar in 2018 and Mykaela Dunn in 2019.

ervin perry

Along with the Precursors, who were the first Black undergraduate students to enroll at UT Austin in 1956, Ervin Perry — who, in 1964, became the first Black faculty member at UT, a professor of civil engineering — helped pave the way for continued desegregation across the university and showed the importance of having Black professors at UT. He was also one of a small handful of Black graduate students at his time of enrollment and the first Black engineering Ph.D. student at UT.

For two and a half years, fear and chaos defined Cockrell School alumna Azita Sharif’s daily reality as a teenager in the 1970s living through the Iranian Revolution – a revolution that led to a short civil war and a long, brutal international war with Iraq.

Some little girls grow up wanting to follow in their father’s footsteps. Houston-native and recent Cockrell School of Engineering graduate Corrinne Cassel (B.S. ChE 2020) took this dream seriously, following her father’s footsteps right to the Forty Acres to pursue a degree in chemical engineering just like her dad, Craig Cassel (B.S. ChE 1987), did over 30 years earlier. Corrinne and her father now share a unique experience that few father-daughter duos can tout: they are both graduates of the Cockrell School’s McKetta Department of Chemical Engineering.

In celebration of Black History Month, the Cockrell School of Engineering hosted a panel featuring some of Texas Engineering’s most accomplished and dedicated Black alumni leaders: Tejuana Edmond (B.S. ChE 1998), Milton Lee (B.S. ME 1971) and Dr. Chad Wilson (B.S. ChE 1997). The Feb. 2 event was moderated by Alexander Tekle, a senior in the Cockrell School and current president of UT Austin’s chapter of the National Society of Black Engineers. Over a hundred people tuned in.

Cockrell School of Engineering alumna Columbia Mishra has been named the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) Foundation’s inaugural Lakshmi Singh Early Career Leadership Award winner. The award, named for a 31-year-old ASME leader who died unexpectedly in 2015, honors a young female engineer who distinguishes herself as a rising volunteer leader within ASME.

Jeannie Leavitt in cockpit of jet

As a young Air Force ROTC cadet at The University of Texas, Maj. Gen. Jeannie Leavitt was fascinated with the idea of flying, and at that point, it was purely an idea. Family travel during her childhood consisted only of cars, trains and busses. She was 18 years old the first time she flew in an airplane, and from there, she progressed to a private pilot's license. "I started slow and worked my way up," Leavitt said.