Students come from all over Houston and the world to pursue their dreams and build their careers at the UH Cullen College of Engineering. They find much more – mentors, lifelong friends and, sometimes, the love of their life.
Isabella Torres, 22, and Joaquin Maldonado, 24 – both electrical engineering majors – met in electronics lab, a workshop experience. Torres, known for her bubbly personality and her readiness to laugh, was decidedly flustered and grumpy that day in early 2017.
“I’d always rush there after work, flustered from traffic,” she said. During one of the first weeks, Torres came in late and sat alone in the back. However, workshop involves working in a group, so the facilitator asked her to move, twice. “So I got up again, even more flustered, and sat down at this table and was immediately met with Joaquin’s smile,” she recalled. Her next words were: “Ugh, my phone is dead.”
Maldonado immediately offered her his charger and was quickly shot down with, “I have an Android, you have an iPhone”. He responded, with an even bigger smile, that he had a wireless charger. At that point Torres chuckled her thanks and sat her phone down on the wireless pad.
“As an electrical engineer, I was impressed that he had a compatible technology that wasn’t so common at the time,” she said, adding that on a personal note she appreciated that he not only solved her problem, but also cheered her up.
“I think we do that for each other every day and that’s why we love each other so much,” she said.
Meeting Torres, a Tier One scholar, was life-changing for Maldonado. “When our worlds collided, we became one,” he said. “I felt this sense of progress in life. I had entered Isabella’s world and there were plenty of “buckle up” signs. So I figured we should tie the knot and hold on tight together.”
Torres and Maldonado got married on May 26, 2017.
Since that first meeting, the couple has done almost everything together.
“We have most of our classes together, so we can discuss homework problems anywhere and everywhere,” Torres said.
“We always know where the other is,” he said. “We can eat together and study anytime we want.”
They both work as Cougar Impact tutors through the College of Education’s Advancing Community Engagement and Service Institute. “We support students at local underserved high schools,” Torres said. “It’s both challenging and fun.”
They added that the UH campus offers great places for picnics and romantic walks, and Shasta’s “is always a nice stop for ice cream.”
The couple has even taken their UH experience overseas. Torres, who is a member of the UH Honors College, went on an Honors Study Abroad trip last year and took Maldonado with her. They spent 10 days in Italy, spending time in Rome and some smaller cities.
“It just so happened that this trip ended on our anniversary,” Torres said. “We thought of it as enrichment and celebration.”
This summer, both will be working for the Dow Chemical Co. Torres will be on her third Co-Op term and Maldonado will pursue an internship. They are both looking forward to graduating in December.
“We hope to both work for Dow – in different departments – after graduation,” she said.
Torres and Maldonado are one of many couples that make up the Cullen College family.
A familiar two-some, enjoying 45 years of married bliss, is made up of Suresh Khator – professor of industrial engineering and associate dean of graduate programs and computing facilities at the Cullen College – and his wife, Renu Khator, the University of Houston System’s chancellor and UH president.
He offered some insight –
“On our 40th anniversary, someone described a situation to us: ‘A couple was celebrating their 50th anniversary. A reporter asked the wife if during these fifty years she ever thought of leaving her husband. Without hesitation, the wife replied, ‘Leaving never, killing several times.’ I think Renu may feel the same about me.
It was 45 years ago when I [met] this bright, intelligent, beautiful and shy girl in India in her teens in a 20 minute encounter and immediately said ‘YES.’ How about her? You guessed it right, she said a big, fat ‘NO.’ Lucky for me that her father was on my side.
What advice would I give to married men, ‘Listen to your wife!’ I am still trying to perfect that skill. Happy Valentine’s Day!”