Isis Mejias has been busy lately. She received a scholarship from the Rotary Club of Humble Intercontinental, secured a $50,000 grant for Engineers Without Borders – Central Houston Professional Chapter, and became a US citizen, all while successfully taking her qualifying exam for the Ph.D. in environmental engineering at the Cullen College of Engineering.
“I got involved with Engineers Without Borders (EWB) about two years ago and started working on a project to bring water to a hospital in Maseno, a town in western Kenya,” Mejias said. “The project was to install a water distribution system, a two-kilometer pipeline to bring water from a spring to a hospital.” Mejias learned that Rotary Club of Humble Intercontinental wanted to help in this endeavor, so she applied to the organization for a grant. Last year they awarded it.
Mejias had planned to travel to Kenya to work on the project for the third time, but her plans were preempted by the arrival of more good news. She received a scholarship, also from Rotary, that will enable her to go to Brazil for a year. There she will work with a colleague of Professor Debora Rodrigues, her faculty advisor. Although she will not be able to join the team of engineers in Kenya, Mejias participated in the implementation of the first phase, playing an integral role in pursuing the grant that made the project possible, and helping to form a partnership between the two organizations.
This month, Mejias received an unexpected honor for her outstanding achievements. “Bill Davis, from Rotary Club of Humble Intercontinental, invited me to a meeting so that they could say goodbye before I left on my trip to Brazil,” Mejias noted. “They said they had a special guest, who turned out to be Congressman Ted Poe. I was amazed to see such an important politician speak, and when he called my name, I couldn’t believe it!” The congressman presented Mejias with the US flag that was flown over the capitol on December 14, the day that she received her citizenship. “It was a complete surprise for me,” Mejias said. “I was very moved to have been recognized this way.”
Mejias is excited to go to Brazil to conduct research at the University of Sao Paulo on techniques to remove heavy metals from water. “I’m honored to be part of the environmental program here; it’s quite challenging and very rewarding to be among such great faculty,” said Mejias. Her path to the environmental field began after she received a B.S. in chemical engineering from UH. She had been working for The Shaw Group in process engineering, designing ethylene plants. “My involvement with EWB inspired me to go into the environmental field, especially water quality and treatment projects,” she said. “It pushed me to leave my job as a process engineer and decide that I want to work in environmental projects, and perhaps do something greater with that at an international level because it’s one of my passions.” She credits her undergraduate degree with giving her the skills that she is using now. “My undergrad degree has helped me tremendously to make this move,” she said.