#ILookLikeAnEngineer: Jon-Marc McGregor
1) Why did you decide to attend UConn Engineering?
Besides being one of the top tier public research universities in the United States, I decided to attend the UConn School of Engineering because it was evident that faculty members and staff had their students’ best interest at heart and that the university itself had a great emphasis on diversity and inclusion with the goal of reducing the minority gap for engineering. This impacted my decision as I was looking for a university where I can feel as if I am a part of a family, and I got that feeling from UConn. In addition, from my admitted student’s day visit, I was also persuaded that engineering students on campus have a plethora of resources and opportunities at their disposal aimed to help them excel academically and succeed professionally. As such, I wanted to indulge myself within such a rich culture of excellence and student development. Hence, it was a no-brainer for where I wanted to pursue my chemical engineering degree for the next four years.
2) Tell us about your background. Where do you come from and what’s your family like?
Well, I just want to mention that I wasn’t born in this country. I am proud to have been from a beautiful tiny island within the Caribbean deemed “Land of Wood and Water” — Jamaica. To be more specific, the majority of my life has been spent residing in a relatively small community called Eltham Park within the parish of St. Catherine. I was raised in a single-parent home with my lovely mother being my sole provider, due to my father abandoning us. As such, it has been quite difficult for us financially with all the burden resting on her. Nevertheless, despite our unavoidable situation, my mom ensured that I would be provided all necessities and guidance to earn a good education so that one day we can have a better life. It is evident that she made countless sacrifices for me, ones that I will forever be grateful for because if it wasn’t for her, I definitely would not be the person I am today.
3) When you’ve told people you were studying engineering, what kinds of looks or reactions have you gotten?
Whilst growing up, becoming an engineer wasn’t really a career path that was common. Main career choices we would always hear about as kids were the possibilities of becoming a doctor, lawyer, teacher, accountant, police officer or even joining the military. So, when I told my friends and family that I wanted to study chemical engineering, I got a lot of raised eyebrows and pondering questions as engineering on a whole was a field multiple persons, including myself, were just uninformed about. One reason is that chemical engineering isn’t even a course or degree offered at any university in Jamaica. So, I knew I had to leave my home country and basically start a new life in order to pursue my dreams and aspirations. Nevertheless, through my passion and excitement for this field of study, in the end, they all supported my decision and wished me the best of luck before my departure to the United States, where my journey began.
4) Why did you decide to pursue engineering? Was there a specific moment or person who inspired you?
As I mentioned earlier, engineering isn’t a common career choice where I’m from. Hence, growing up I didn’t really know what engineers do on a day-to-day basis. I just knew that I always loved math and science and that those courses were primarily my strongest subjects in high school. So, I somewhat knew that my future career had to be STEM-related whether that was to be a chemist, doctor, geologist, environmental scientist etc. But the question remains, why engineering? Well, there was indeed a specific mentor/role model in my life who inspired me to study chemical engineering. In 10th grade, due to my academic performance, I was recommended by my previous math teachers to enroll in a more advanced math course called Additional Mathematics which then led to taking Pure Mathematics. In that particular class, I had a teacher of the name Shaven Hendricks who was an alumnus of Ardenne High School — my alma mater — who was also a chemical engineer by profession. His teaching methods and enthusiasm for the subject, and his past jobs simply increased my passion for science even more and cemented the idea that I wanted to be a chemical engineer.
5) What are your career goals?
In all honesty, I am on the fence of whether I would like to go to graduate school or work for a chemical industry after graduation. Nevertheless, my goal in the mere future is to indeed become a chemical engineer within the research and development sector and someday afterward gain a higher level degree, whether that be a Master’s Degree or Ph.D., in analytical chemistry. I am hopeful that I will have a clearer mind and a better sense of direction in what I would like to accomplish in the future after my upcoming summer internship/co-op assignment with ExxonMobil’s Research & Engineering Company’s Process Technology Department.
6) What’s your favorite experience been so far in your time at UConn Engineering?
I have had many great experiences so far during my years here at UConn, whether that be involved in my UConn NSBE-Chapter, doing independent undergraduate research or from being a BRIDGE Calculus and Chemistry tutor this past summer. But if I was to pick one, my favorite experience thus far definitely stemmed from my involvement in Engineering Ambassadors (EA). EA is an outreach-based organization that aims at inspiring students in K-12 about engineering through the fundamentals of science and engineering. So, in entirety, we facilitate a lot of on-campus visits from elementary to high schools, but as Presentation Team members, we also go out to schools within the Connecticut area to educate students about STEM. I just love being a part of this as there is just a fulfilling feeling obtained when you see the students engaged and happy, and when both teachers and students show their gratitude and appreciation for how much our visit meant to them. Personally, it doesn’t get better than that. It is times like those that sort of continue to motivate me every day to pursue engineering. Reason being is that the end goal, after all, is to one day positively impact society similar to how this organization impacts the wider community.
7) If you could start over, and go back to your senior year of high school, do you think you still would have chosen to pursue engineering?
If I could go back to my senior year I definitely would still choose this career path of becoming a chemical engineer. It is such a multidisciplinary field that challenges you and forces you to think differently to solve problems, and I like it!! I love being challenged, and I love the idea of one day being able to make a contribution to society through science and engineering.