Matches Made in ChE

Blake Eskew, B.S. ‘77 & Martha Eskew, B.S. ‘77

Blake & Martha Eskew How did you meet?
In Dr. Stice’s Thermo class.

Do you have a story to share about your time as a ChE couple?
Back when our oldest son was doing his high school chemistry homework, he came in and asked for help.  When he said it was balancing redox reactions, we both said, ‘sure, but let us look at your textbook first.’  To which he replied, “Aren’t you both chemical engineers? Don’t you do this every day?”

What are you both doing to now?
Still working – Martha is in technical sales and I’m in energy consulting.

Does chemical engineering still provide a connection for you-is it something you chat about?
We still like to snuggle up and talk about Thermo.

Dr. Peter Ching, B.S. ‘93 & Dr. Laura Suggs, B.S. ‘93

Peter Ching & Laura Suggs How did you meet?
We met at freshman orientation.

Do you have a story to share about your time as a ChE couple?
When we both showed up at orientation, I knew I wanted to major in ChE. Peter was Plan II/pre-med and had checked the box that he wanted to major in engineering. At orientation, they had tables set up for different engineering disciplines. At the end of the presentation, they told us we should go to the table for the discipline we wanted to sign up for. Then they asked if we had any questions. Peter raised his hand and asked, “What are the different engineering disciplines?” I thought, ‘Who is this guy that he doesn’t know what he signed up for?’. They explained the different types of engineering and I turned to Peter and said, “If you’re pre-med you should really do ChE. I am going to do Bioengineering and ChE is the best.” For some reason, he followed me over to the ChE table and the rest, as they say, is history.

What are you both doing now?
I’m an associate professor of biomedical engineering here at UT Austin and Peter is a general surgeon at St. David’s Hospital.

Does chemical engineering still provide a connection for you-is it something you chat about?
We are both somewhat removed from traditional chemical engineering at this point. When we do talk about our time as undergraduates it’s usually not just about the material but the professors. It’s Dr. Guy’s rational and irrational Swiss cheese, when Dr. McKetta explained how venturi flow can never go past the speed of sound because the molecules in front are shouting at the ones behind, or when Dr. Stice let us take our process control exams in pairs. It’s a wonder we still got married!

Dr. Chris Nelli, B.S. ‘95; Ph.D. ‘97 & Michelle Nelli B.S. ‘98

Chris & Michelle NelliHow did you meet?
Chris: After graduating with my Ph.D. and no job prospects, I was wondering how I could stay in Austin without a source of income. Then I heard Dr. Koros, department chair at the time, needed instructors for ChE 354 Unit Ops. Fortunately, I had taught ChE 354 previously with Dr. Allen as a mentor and had been a TA to Prof. Himmelblau for his intro ChE course. Thus, out of sheer luck and a little talent, I was the most qualified, non-faculty person to teach ChE 354 the summer of ‘97.

You could say that without the confidence that Professors Himmelblau, Allen, and Koros placed in me as an instructor, I would have never met my wife. The summer of ‘97 was a very momentous time for me.  I got a job with Huntsman Petrochemical Company in June-where I am still employed-and after inviting my class for beer and two-stepping after the last day of classes, I met Michelle for the first time outside of the classroom.  Everyone had a good time and we agreed that we should do it again after final exams.  The rest is history, as they say, and after 16 years, I still have the same job and companion.

I can personally vouch that what starts at Texas changes the world!

Do you have a story to share about your time as a ChE couple?
Michelle: When Chris was starting his first year at Huntsman and I was a senior, it was definitely helpful to have him as a resource to help explain my, often puzzling, unit operations lab results and as a source of support and encouragement during my job search.  After graduating in 1998, I worked in the software industry in Austin (remember the years?), so we didn’t have much chance to talk chemical engineering then.

What are you both doing now?
Michelle: We just celebrated our 13th wedding anniversary Feb 5. We have three children, ages 5, 7, and 9, which I have been homeschooling for the past three years. Having a degree in chemical engineering has certainly provided me with confidence that I am qualified to teach my own children. If you can obtain a chemical engineering degree, you can do anything!
It also enabled me to facilitate a chemistry course (Real Science-4-Kids) for my daughter when she was in 2nd and 3rd grade, solely because she thought the subject matter was cool and she enjoyed having something technical to discuss with her Daddy at the dinner table.

Chris: My current job in technology licensing and business development requires me to visit clients and partners overseas-I have taken 20 international trips in the last 3 years. I have visited 15 countries across Europe, Middle East and Asia, including approximately 30 visits to China. I try to get away from work when I can, and with Michelle’s homeschooling, our schedule is flexible enough for us to vacation during off periods. We like to take vacations during the Chinese New Year because that is when I am least interrupted at work from business in China.

Does chemical engineering still provide a connection for you-is it something you chat about?  
Michelle: Chris will occasionally discuss some Aspen modeling work that he is doing or supervising. I can relate from my time spent struggling with it and trying to get it to work when I was in reactor design.

Chris: Most of our chats over the dinner table usually focus on our kid’s education now. It’s been a pleasant surprise to learn that my kids are genuinely interested in the work I do (i.e., plan, design, and commission chemical plants overseas for our clients and business partners).

Dr. Thomas Truskett, B.S. ‘96 & Dr. Van Truskett, B.S. ‘96

Tom & Van TruskettHow did you meet?
We met in a Unit Operations I course in the summer of ’94. Our first date was on June 17, 1994. It was memorable for a lot of reasons (including the fact that it happened the same night as a now famous, televised low-speed police pursuit of a white ford bronco!).

We both spent a lot of our “free” time in CPE while at UT Austin, since we were both involved in undergraduate research projects. We also took a few more classes together before graduating, including Chemical Engineering Reactor Design & Analysis and Process Design & Operations. Being on the same plant design team taught us quite a bit about what we could expect from one another under the pressure of deadlines, which has turned out to be useful.

Do you have a story to share about your time as a ChE couple?
Chemical engineering at UT Austin has always felt a bit like a big family. We’re still close to many of our classmates and former professors. We loved the picnics once a semester at John and Pinky McKetta’s house on Lake Austin. We both remember the day the department posted the oversized $1 million check that they received from Dr. McKetta after his 80th birthday, effectively returning his career UT Austin salary and matching alumni contributions to the first McKetta Challenge fundraiser. We have fond memories of AIChE’s Fridays in the Park. We’ll never forget the hours that we spent studying together for classes that were challenging and, as it turns out, extraordinarily useful for our future careers.

What are you both doing now?
Van is the Jetting Technology Manager at Molecular Imprints, Inc. in Austin, and Tom is the now chair of the McKetta Department of Chemical Engineering. In our free time, we are keeping our 3-year-old son and 7-year-old daughter busy (treasure hunts, play-doh, hikes, reading, pulling weeds, painting pictures, and climbing hills, etc.).

Does chemical engineering still provide a connection for you-is it something you chat about?
Of course, once you’re in, you’re in. But we don’t have time for too much shop talk at home these days. The fact that we both know the culture of the profession means we can focus on other things we enjoy when we’re not working.

Aldin Dollens & Kathryn Dix, current ChE undergraduates

Aldin Dollens & Kathryn DixHow did you meet?
We met in CHE 317 our sophomore year when we were assigned to be in a homework group together. The group worked well, so we ended up working together for the rest of the semester, and then again when we were in Transport the semester after that.

Do you have a story to share about being a ChE couple?
Aldin is also completing a degree in economics, so he already knew all of the finance stuff covered in Plant Design. We recently had an exam over the topic, and Professor Poehl was joking with us about the drama it would create in our relationship if I made a better grade on it than he did. I guess we’ll have to wait until the exams are graded to see what happens.

What are you both doing now?
Both of us are wrapping up our chemical engineering degrees, and we are applying to study abroad together in Singapore for the fall semester.  We got engaged over the holidays.

Does chemical engineering provide a connection for you-is it something you chat about?
We still have classes together, so we study together and talk about chemical engineering all the time!



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