Zeina Barghouti, a mechanical engineering graduate from TAMUQ, talks about her university experience and her future plans
You won’t hear too many teenagers saying Physics was their favorite subject in school, but that was the case with the now 20-year-old Zeina Barghouti, a Palestinian citizen. Born and raised in Qatar, she found a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering would best suit her interests.
When asked why she chose Texas A&M University at Qatar (TAMUQ), a Qatar Foundation (QF) partner university, she said: “I was a rather shy 18-year-old introvert, having gone abroad would have been a bit too much for me to handle then. The choice to go to TAMUQ was a simple one, it’s a world-class university, and I would still be close to friends and family. It was the perfect deal for me.”
She explains, as a shy teenager the tight-knit community at TAMUQ was exactly what she needed, and that had she gone to a bigger university with large classes, she would have definitely gotten lost in the crowd.
The amount of assistance I got from not just faculty but also fellow students, it almost felt like they had a personal stake in my future
“The amount of assistance I got from not just faculty but also fellow students, it almost felt like they had a personal stake in my future. For me, that kind of support was very important in ensuring I succeed, especially in the first two years.”
Thanks to her outstanding academic achievements, Barghouti was awarded the QF merit scholarship which she successfully upheld until graduation. She also served as President of the Mechanical Engineering Honor Society, Pi Tau Sigma, as well as the Vice President of the Student Government Association.
“These leadership roles and the experiences that came with them played a major role in transforming my personality. They instilled confidence in me. The grades were all there even before coming to QF, but for some reason I didn’t believe in myself. Thankfully, that part of me is long gone. Things I would have never thought I was good enough for then, today, I don’t hesitate for a second in going after them and often with success.”
She says the perfect testimonial to this 180-degree transformation is her being accepted to Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) for a master’s degree.
They made me realize how the simplest of technologies that most of us take for granted are still nonexistent for a lot of people and how big a toll this takes on their everyday life
“I remember when I was applying for my Bachelors, I only applied to a few universities and steered clear of big ones. In contrast, when I was applying for my Master’s earlier this year, I was brimming with confidence and ambition, I applied to the world’s best universities. And in February, I was accepted for a Master of Science (MSc.) in mechanical engineering at MIT – the world’s top engineering school.
For her MSc., the specialization Barghouti has chosen is Global Engineering Design, where her focus will be designing economical but reliable engineering systems for developing countries. Topics she is particularly interested in include smart irrigation systems for crops, low-cost pumps to ensure access to clean water and efficient power distribution.
“My inspiration to pursue this field came from the two service learning trips I went on as a TAMUQ student. Frankly, they were both life changing experiences for me. They made me realize how the simplest of technologies that most of us take for granted are still nonexistent for a lot of people and how big a toll this takes on their everyday life.”
I genuinely believe TAMUQ and QF offered me everything and more that a student can ask for. I didn’t just learn but I also grew as a person
When asked how the ongoing pandemic affected her senior year, she said: “Honestly, it was extremely frustrating initially, especially as a senior student, but I do think, eventually we found ways to adapt.”
Barghouti’s senior design project consisted of designing a robotic arm to allow patients with upper body disabilities to feed themselves independently. The pandemic of course added additional challenges to the project but nevertheless her group of six managed to finish the prototype in April.
Barghouti said she was very grateful to the staff at TAMUQ for doing everything they could in these difficult times to make sure we didn’t miss out on any important milestones. “The Aggie Ring Day – an event where graduating seniors are awarded with a ring - was organized as a drive through event instead of the standard event, and it actually ended up being way more fun and memorable.”
Similarly, for graduation, a physical ceremony was ruled out and students were told their degrees would be home delivered. “I was expecting them to be delivered via a carrier, but imagine my surprise when I saw the Dean of TAMUQ, Dr. César Malavé, at my front door, delivering my degree himself!
“I genuinely believe TAMUQ and QF offered me everything and more that a student can ask for. I didn’t just learn but I also grew as a person. Four years ago, I would have been happy just being a part of the change I wanted to see in the world, today that isn’t enough for me – today I want to be the one driving that change.”