Where's Edward J. Machek Jr. headed after graduation? Right back to a lab in Auburn Science and Engineering Center.
Machek, who has been chosen to speak on behalf of the Summer Class of 2013 as the student responder at the 2 p.m. ceremony on Saturday, Aug. 17, will be awarded a B.S. in Civil Engineering, magna cum laude. And when the fall semester begins on Aug. 23, Machek will start work on a master's degree while continuing to assist Dr. Stephen Duirk, an assistant professor of civil engineering, with his safe drinking water research.
The Springfield High School graduate arrived at UA set on engineering as his major.
"I chose engineering because of the upper level thought required and the idea of creating new things, particularly in environmental engineering," says Machek. "I'm interested in the physics of how things work. For example, the surface tension of water and how spillways are built to minimize the pounding of water."
For Machek, the logical career path is civil engineering.
"Civil engineering is very cool," he explains. "Engineering is a combination of science and math. Physics is all physics and chemistry is all chemistry, while engineering is a blend of all of them — and civil engineering is the most blended of all of them."
At UA, Machek not only found the opportunity to pursue his interests, he found a place to belong — through participation on the concrete canoe and steel bridge design teams, by tutoring students on a variety of subjects in Bierce Library and in leading study sessions in the Civil Engineering Lounge.
He also assisted Dr. Teresa Cutright, an associate professor of civil engineering, whom he regards as a mentor, with her research into improving the longevity of road surfaces. The project was a good fit with his two cooperative education assignments — Machek worked for the Ohio Department of Transportation on State Routes 8 and 303 projects.
It might surprise the students he has tutored to know that Machek entered UA with a GPA of 2.0. He credits math teacher Carrie Salmon with giving him much-needed encouragement. "She helped me get through high school and I really appreciate everything she has done for me," says Machek.
But the once indifferent high school student, who says he felt like an outsider, earned a 3.7 at the end of his first semester at UA and was admitted to the Honors College.
"The College of Engineering is a community and I've made a lot of friends, especially through the teams," says Machek.
"I would say that through my Akron Experience, I have gained a lot more confidence in myself and in my value as a person, and my willingness to take on challenges, like public speaking," Machek continues. "I was not good at it, but I worked at it and became better at communicating effectively, and communicating my ideas."
He will be well served by those skills when he reaches his ultimate career goal.
"I will earn my master's degree and then a Ph.D.," says Machek. "I want to teach at the college level."
Perhaps at his alma mater.