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A Love of Engineering
Parents' Immigration Story Inspires Daughter to Excel

Laura Malcotti-Sanchez

2018-2019 Cullen College Outstanding Junior
Laura Malcotti-Sanchez

Graduation Year: 2020
Major: Mechanical Engineering
GPA: 3.976

“My parents are my biggest examples for never giving up,” she said. The family left Venezuela in 2005, after a volatile period of political turmoil that left her father unemployed. “I saw how my parents just kept working hard and looking for the best in all situations. They inspire me.”

As a high school student, Malcotti-Sanchez earned a Gold Award from the Girl Scouts of America in 2016 for her project addressing needs at the Casa Juan Diego Immigrant Shelter. She worked with more than 20 volunteers to renovate four residents’ rooms and paint a children’s mural. She also coordinated three workshops that taught volunteers how to sew curtains, handle repairs and paint.

That same year, she won a Tier One Scholarship to the University of Houston. She chose mechanical engineering because it combined her love of physics, calculus and troubleshooting. “I love mechanical engineering and I can’t see myself doing anything else,” she said.

She shares her love of engineering by seeking out opportunities to mentor other students. The summer after her freshman year, Malcotti-Sanchez served as a counselor at G.R.A.D.E. (Girls Reaching and Demonstrating Excellence) Camp, a one-week program at Cullen College that introduces girls ages 13-17 to the wonders of engineering, science and technology.

The following fall semester, she worked as an undergraduate teaching assistant for the Introduction to Engineering course and the following semester she became an Honors teaching assistant for the Computing for Engineers course.

Laura Malcotti-Sanchez

“My favorite part of being a TA is answering questions and giving students tips and hints that took me hours to figure out when I was in their shoes,” she said. “It’s gratifying to see students overcome their challenges and become better thinkers.”

“Even though engineering is difficult at times, I always try to show my students that it is fun and, most importantly, worth it,” she added.

Malcotti-Sanchez’s exposure to teaching inspired her to join the Society of Women Engineers (SWE) Pros Mentorship program, where she mentored a foreign exchange graduate student. She now serves as a mentor for SWE and the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, working with three underclassmen on resumes and applying for internships.

In addition, she has bolstered her academic learning with real-world experience in engineering. In 2018, Malcotti-Sanchez served as a mechanical engineering intern at Hewlett Packard Enterprise. There, she won second place in the Best in Class Contest for presenting project findings involving evaluation of thermal potting materials to a panel of Hewlett Packard employees. The same project earned her the People’s Choice Award during the Intern Fair.

This summer she’ll explore the oil and gas industry as a drilling and completions engineering intern for BHP Billiton. She is looking forward to conducting well design and construction.

Meanwhile, she’s landed a research position with Haleh Ardebili, Bill D. Cook associate professor of mechanical engineering, who is well-known for her research on creating flexible, stretchable and bendable batteries and electronics.

“I’m still exploring what I really want to do,” Malcotti-Sanchez said. “I want to see if I like research so it will help me determine whether I want to go pursue a Ph.D. or go into industry.”

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