U of I winners of Big Ten scholarships both from MechSE
Each year, the Big Ten awards postgraduate scholarships to two student-athletes from each university in the conference. For 2014, both of the University of Illinois scholarship winners are MechSE students.
Tennis player Bruno Abdelnour (BSME ’14), an Academic All-American, and swimmer Anne Goering (BSME ’14)—varsity athletes who reached high academic standing and demonstrated strong leadership qualities—each received a monetary scholarship to continue their education in graduate school.
We sat down with Abdelnour and Goering to talk about their scholarship achievements.
Where do each of you plan to go for graduate school?
Goering: I’m staying here, so I’ll be back in August for my MS in mechanical engineering. Maybe a PhD, too, we’ll see!
Abdelnour: I don’t know yet. I’m planning on working for a year after I graduate, then maybe coming back here, or maybe going to Stanford or Berkeley, depending on what offers I get.
Goering: When I was selecting undergraduate schools, I looked up the top 25 engineering schools and then looked at which ones I could possibly swim at, and just went down the list and cross-referenced them. I had never been to Illinois before in my life, and I came here on a four-hour recruiting trip. I liked it here, I liked the swimming coach, everything. I met with Dr. Jim Phillips, from MechSE, and he walked me through the curriculum but he also took me around to see the concrete crusher and Talbot Lab, and all of that. Illinois made me feel like the people here really cared if I came to school here. Coming from Alaska, I would go on several college visits at a time. So I had visited some other schools right before visiting Illinois, and it felt like they didn’t really care whether I was there or not. I received scholarships from Illinois, too, so both swimming and engineering is really what got me here.
Abdelnour: I grew up in Syria until I was 15. Syria is a really poor country and tennis is not popular at all. I got really good at tennis, but there was no one for me to practice with. My dad could hit with me, but I eventually got to be better than him. I had to go somewhere else in order to keep improving, so my parents sent me to France by myself to go to an academy for three years. I did pretty well tennis-wise, and I got recruited by a lot of schools—not Illinois—but schools like Berkeley, Texas, Texas A&M, and Georgia Tech. I was really looking at both engineering and tennis. Berkeley wasn’t as good at tennis that year and Illinois was ranked in the top ten. So I contacted the coach, Brad Dancer, who was looking for players that year. I got lucky and he took me in.
Abdelnour: My dad is a doctor and I always thought I would be a doctor. Even coming into school I thought there might be a chance for me to do mechanical engineering, take a few biology classes, then switch to a pre-med major and go to medical school later. I really thought I would do that, but I liked engineering better. I liked the excitement of it better than medicine.
Goering: My father is a mechanical engineer. I’ve always been really good at math and science. I looked at some of the really good engineering schools, and I actually visited some business schools as well, because I thought about going to school for business. During my senior year of high school, I was on the robotics team, and I loved the whole concept—getting a problem and having only a certain set of constraints that I could solve the problem with. I knew then that I wanted to apply to a mechanical engineering program.
What area of engineering are you hoping to pursue?
Goering: I’d like to work in renewable energy. I’m hoping that after grad school I can work for the National Labs or the Department of Energy. For now, that’s my goal. It might change!
Abdelnour: I’m pretty open to a lot of things, but I’ve done some research here with nanotechnology, energy transfer, and heat transfer at the small scale, and it seems really interesting to me. But that is more of a research topic than something I could likely find a job in. And I still don’t know if I’m going the research route or if I’ll get my masters and then find a job. If I don’t go the research route, I’m open to other areas of focus. I’m most interested in the energy industry right now, whether it’s renewable energies, or small-scale nanotechnology, or innovative energy systems.
Goering: My senior design project was one that I brought back from Alaska. For two different summers I did research at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. The research I did was designing an innovative hydrokinetic device. I was looking for a senior design project and the device had been developed into a testbed, but we hadn’t figured out what we were going to do with it yet. The people who were working on it with me were leaving for the year, so the University of Alaska decided it would fund my senior design project so I could continue working on it.
Abdelnour: For me, there isn’t really one specific memory. But in ME 371 this semester, we were starting our project 10 days before the due date, which was very early compared to everyone else. We had to get a ball up in the air two feet, then get it in a down-track and repeat that process in a cycle. We were working a lot on our design, and the day before it was due, we tested it and it just didn’t end up working at all. It was a really innovative design, but the setup didn’t work. So we realized it would be an all-nighter and just aim for a B at that point! I’m pretty strict about getting straight A’s so this was a bit of a bummer for me because we had worked really hard. We decided we would just build something really big. Our design was six feet tall compared to everyone else’s designs, which were about three feet tall. We figured if it wasn’t going to be as innovative, it would at least be big! We ended up getting an A+ on that project, after pulling an all-nighter. I was proud of that moment. Of course, it was with the help of all my teammates, too.
Did anyone in your family play or participate in your sport?
Goering: My dad did, but swimming in Alaska previous to my generation was almost nonexistent. There weren’t a lot of people swimming. And he was pretty good for being in Alaska and not really having any sort of program, but he didn’t swim in college or anything. That’s the extent of the swimming history in my family! In my career at Illinois, I was a sprint free-styler, so I do the short stuff. I don’t like distance!
Abdelnour: My dad played tennis at an older age—he started at about the age of 20, which is old in that sport—and he was in medical school in France at the time, where tennis was really popular. He fell in love with it, became really good for his age, and competed nationally in Syria, ending up ranked second or something like that. When my older brother and I came along, it was tennis all the time.
What do you consider your proudest achievement at Illinois—either athletically or academically?
Goering: I’m just proud of making it! I don’t have one single proud moment.
Abdelnour: Winning the Big Ten tournament in 2012 against Ohio State. They hadn’t lost in the Big Ten tournament yet, and they had won 92 matches in a row. We were having a rough patch at the time. We were #22 in the country; they were #3 in the country. And we beat them 4-3. That was definitely the proudest I’ve felt. And overall, just being able to achieve at both tennis and school at a high level. I wasn’t expecting myself to do that well in school. I came into it more focused on tennis, but I found myself doing well my first semester, getting a few awards, a few achievements, and so I kept working hard at it. So having a good GPA while playing tennis is what I’m proud of, too.
Photos courtesy of University of Ilinois Athletics.