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Morrill Engineering Program
 
 
MEP Connections: March 2015
 
 
 
MEP Students Named Knights of St. Patrick
 

With great pleasure, MEP is extremely proud of four of its seniors, Marrissa Hellesen (CS), Ruben Robles (ME), Asha Kirchhoff (BioE), and Stephanie Lona (Eng. Physics), who will be named as Knights of St. Patrick and join the 66th class of Knights. All four have made outstanding contributions within the engineering community.

Pictured are Marrissa and Ruben. They both have been part of about a dozen MEP leaders involved in bringing back the Association of Minority Students in Engineering (AMSIE) to grow the MEP community. Marrissa entered the college as a transfer student but has wasted no time leaving her mark on campus. She has been a mentor to transfer students and female computer scientists and has worked to increase the presence of Native Americans in engineering.  Ruben left the Actuarial Science major to become a Mechanical Engineering student after getting involved in SHPE. His leadership is outstanding having developed his leadership skills through SHPE and Engineering Council. His efforts to impact current and prospective students have been truly amazing.

There have been MEP students recognized as Knights of St. Patrick for seven consecutive classes now. This goes to prove that underrepresentation in engineering is simply a measure of quantity and not quality.

 
 
 
Spring Retreat
 

This year, the MEP wanted to try something new and host a retreat in the Spring. There is usually a lot of success with the S.O.S. retreat that occurs in the Fall semester, but we really wanted to continue engaging students year-round.

Students who participated met each other through a short ice-breaker, engaged in an activity called Leadership Island, and also had an opportunity to physically and mentally challenge themselves by going up the climbing wall at the ARC. It was great to see students encouraging their peers to reach the top. If nothing else, that sense of community and helping others "reach the top" truly embodied the goals of the MEP.

 
 
 
MEP Alumni Spotlight
 

Miguel Guerra graduated from Illinois with a BSME in 2009. During his collegiate career, he served as President of SHPE and led the chapter to win the National Chapter of the Year Award. Additionally, he also received the honor of being knighted with the 2009 Knights of St. Patrick Class.

Miguel joined ExxonMobil, where his roles have included that of a Subsea Engineer in Equatorial Guinea. Currently on a rotation assignment where he's responsible for keeping oil production equipment and pipelines operational, Miguel says that "every working month has the intensity of finals week." He cites patience and people skills as necessary for getting his work done. Some of his work includes developing complex solutions for a Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) to perform tasks that would normally be easy for a person.

MEP and SHPE alumni and mentors have had a great influence on him and how he shaped himself as a professional. Since he has had those strong leaders in his life, he would also like to bestow some advice unto current students. Regarding school, Miguel advices students to "Focus primarily on school and up to two more things...a lot of people [try] to do it all and they struggle to keep up. Also, do the easy things: go to every class (and stay awake) and study at a place where you can focus. Finally, surround yourself with friends and not accomplices."

In the foreseeable future, Miguel would like to stay in a similar role and hopefully transition to a better location. For everyone starting their careers, Miguel had one last piece of advice: "sometimes the biggest corporations aren't the best fit, especially if you want a more technical path or more dynamic environment." Thanks for sharing your experiences Miguel!

 
 
 
Student Spotlight
 

Chemical Engineering sophomore Ivan Villamar (far right) has advanced to the final stage of BP's Ultimate Field Trip (UFT). The Ultimate Field Trip is BP's initiative to foster innovation and collaboration amongst the private sector and leading academic and scientific institutions. His project involves using a bioreactor to treat wastewater from oil fracking processes.

When asked how he got involved, Ivan cites one of his mentors who had previously won the UFT competition and decided it was something he would strive for as well. Although not the Project Lead on paper, Ivan states he was a main driving force in putting the team together and thought carefully about whom he would work with.

This is a great learning opportunity, one in which Ivan hopes to learn not only more about the oil industry, but also about the time and processes that go into projects and project management. He's found that "in class, you have all of the data. I am gathering the preliminary data needed so that the classroom knowledge makes sense."

Wish Ivan luck at the UFT National Competition in Houston on April 9th. The winning team will earn a trip to BP's facilities in Trinidad.

 
 
 
Alumnus Builds Company through Acquisition
 

Wilbur Milhouse is the Founder and CEO of Milhouse Engineering and Construction. Wilbur has been an outstanding supporter of the MEP and has provided students with scholarship opportunities and has also provided alumni with employment opportunities. For that, we continue to thank Wilbur for being a strong alumnus and continuing to contribute to the next generation of engineers.

The MEP was proud to learn that Milhouse is growing through acquisition of the woman-owned Zroka Engineering, P.C., which will help position the company to become more competitive and develop expertise in new markets. As a result of the acquisition, Milhouse retains its status as the largest African-American owned engineering and architectural firm in Chicago, and one of the fastest growing in the country. Congratulations Milhouse Engineering and Construction!

 
 
 
Alumni Update
 

To receive the latest up-to-date news about the MEP, make sure we have your most current information. This will allow us to better reach out to you with opportunities to re-engage, or just to keep in touch. Please head to go.illinois.edu/mep_alumni_update