Humans of St. Thomas introduces us to some of the incredible members of the St. Thomas community. Read about more of our fellow Tommies here.
When I met up with Carol Mikhael on the first floor of the Facilities Design Center, I was greeted with a warm smile. The building is a familiar spot for the senior – as an electrical engineering major she spends a lot of time working and studying in the space. At St. Thomas, Mikhael’s been able to do research on renewable energy and the environment, topics she’s passionate about. A recipient of an Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Power & Energy Society Scholarship, her current internship at Xcel Energy gives her a “big grid view” of the issues surrounding renewable energy.
Mikhael came to Minnesota from Egypt when she was in elementary school. At Academy of Holy Angels in Richfield she was valedictorian of her senior class. When it came time to choose a college, she knew she wanted to pursue electrical engineering and applied to only two schools. Ultimately, she was drawn to St. Thomas because of its reputation along with small class sizes and the chance to work closely with her professors.
During our conversation, I asked Mikhael about her time at St.Thomas, her dream job and what she likes to do to relax. Here’s some of what she had to say.
What drew you to electrical engineering?
I always liked to play with things – open them up and see what’s inside. My mom is a biomedical engineer, so that was interesting, too. I was good at math and science so my teachers said I should think about engineering. Electrical engineering seemed mysterious – you can open up a computer, look at this green board and you’re like, ‘What in the world is this doing?’’
What is your dream job?
I would like to do research with solar panels or batteries – the renewable energy field. I don’t have one concrete dream job, but there are things that I want it to have. I really want to travel, and I don’t want to be stuck in a cubicle. I want it to be interesting, worthwhile – a job that serves people. There’s a lot of emphasis on the problem of climate change and pollution. We’re going downhill and we need to stop quick. We need to change. I would like to be part of the solution to that and engineering is a great way to do that.
What have you learned about yourself during your time at St. Thomas?
I’ve learned more about what I value in life and in work. I’ve learned that I value service, but also time. I feel like I have to have a job that is worth my time, because time is valuable. The outdoors – I appreciate nature a lot more now than when I started college. It is a beautiful campus, and there is also a lot of information about the environment and issues related to the environment here. I also started camping, which is something I had never done before.
What is your favorite place on campus?
For studying, I like to be on the second floor of the Facilities Design Center, because that’s where a lot of other engineering people are … you’re not completely isolated. You can walk over and talk to people. I really like the Grotto, too, because it is pretty.
Your faith is important to you. Can you tell me more?
I’m Orthodox Christian and in Egypt what religion you’re a part of is a really big part of your identity. When I came to Minnesota, it’s a part that I brought with me. It grew also with the types of people that I’ve met, and the different faiths I’ve encountered. You start to question your own faith and get deeper into it. For me, the part that really stands out is the service and humility, and love through service. It’s trying to balance all the different parts of your life for a bigger purpose.
Being loving through all of that is something I need to keep in my head all the time.
What is your biggest fear?
Being lonely, being alone. I want to feel like I’m contributing to society — not just sitting watching TV or something. I have a fear of not finding value in my being.
What is the last thing you ordered online?
The shoes I’m wearing — Dr. Scholl’s. My feet hurt a lot, so I need nice shoes.
What do you do to relax?
I end up mostly spending time with my family or my friends. We would maybe watch a movie, play cards, or just sit and chat. Maybe do some shopping. If I’m alone, I browse the internet or read.
What are you reading right now?
I suddenly got into Lord of the Rings. I started listening to the audiobook and I was like, ‘This is amazing.’ Right now, I’m in a phase of reading books about Lord of the Rings. There’s a book about the philosophy of Tolkien, which is mind-blowing.
I like books with a deeper meaning. Philosophy and theology books are cool because they help you learn how to live — see deeper things in life. The one I’m reading now is about our connection with nature and why our society is falling away from it. Because we’re spending time away from nature, we’re losing the value of it so we’re less connected.
What is the last TV show you binged?
“Avatar: The Last Airbender.” It’s a cartoon, but it’s just a classic, beautiful show. I watched it with my mom because she hadn’t seen it. I would recommend it to anyone. It’s deeper than the usual children’s shows.
If you could have dinner with any famous person – dead or alive – who would it be?
C.S. Lewis would be cool. J.R.R. Tolkien would also be cool, because I’m obsessed with Lord of the Rings. I would let them talk, while I just sat there and listened.