Although the locations and challenges have changed, there has always been one constant for Omar Khalid – learning as much as he can, in a variety of fields and disciplines.
Khalid, a native of Iraq, earned his B.S. in Computer Science in October 2003. But following that, he worked in a variety of fields, with an emphasis on supervising teams, project management and strategic planning in conflict zones. He also earned a B.S. in Civil Engineering in 2018, and a B.S. in Business Administration in 2020.
“I come from an educated family,” he said. “My older sister has a Ph.D. in Civil Engineering, and she was one of the main people who motivated me. My wife has a Ph.D. in Geology, my other sisters have a Master's in Physics and Mathematics. I've always loved to learn more and go forward with my education career.”
That educational journey has taken Khalid to the University of Houston, where he is pursuing a Master's degree in Civil Engineering, studying with Dimitrios Kalliontzis, Ph.D., an Assistant Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering. With his work already, Khalid has earned a national award, as he is the 2021 recipient of the Paul and Helen Lenchuck Scholarship Program, administered by the National Concrete Masonry Association.
“I was so happy for winning the scholarship,” Khalid said, admitting that the award came at a time when he was facing some financial difficulties. “I was thinking about how it was going to be so hard for me to cover the required costs, especially since I have three kids in school. The scholarship came in the right time to make my life easier.”
Khalid first came to the United States in 2016 with a special immigrant visa. He is applying for citizenship in November. Khalid knew he was likely relocating to Texas, and after looking into universities in the state, he chose the University of Houston to continue his studies.
“I did my research about each university, and I found that UH is one of the best universities in the country, not just the state,” he said. “When I contacted the university, the way they treated me and the professional communication made want to join them and finish my degree at this university. I'm so happy for choosing UH, as I find it the perfect community to learn and have very good professors. I've also made many good friends, and the first one is my advisor.”
While Khlaid wasn't initially sure if he wanted to focus on engineering, he is now interested in pursuing a doctorate degree, as he has gotten deeper into his studies.
“I was thinking of studying law after engineering, but two reasons made me change that,” he said. “I found out that engineering is a different world, and I love it so much. The other reason, I always remember that when I had my undergraduate graduation project presentation, the head of the committee – professor Sabih Al Zuhairy – asked me what I want to do after the graduation, and I told him I would like to go deeper in the engineering field. He was the first person who told me I needed to finish my graduate school. He talked to me for more than 30 minutes about it, and he advised me to do it in the United States and not somewhere else.”