Outstanding Islander Graduate Amy Ayala ’23 Earns Mechanical Engineering Degree

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas – On May 20, Amy Ayala ’23 will be one step closer to her goal of working and teaching in the engineering field when she graduates with a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering as the Spring 2023 Outstanding Islander Graduate for the College of Engineering at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi. She is taking part in a record-breaking ceremony that includes 1,319 graduates, the most Islanders to ever graduate in a single semester in the history of the university.

The daughter of a structural engineer, it wasn’t hard for Ayala to choose a major. 

“​​I was always amazed by how my dad could look at a house or bridge and know immediately what was wrong with it,” Ayala said. “I wanted to develop keen problem-solving skills, just like my dad, so I decided to pursue an education in mechanical engineering.”

As a Corpus Christi native, it was an equally easy choice as to where she would pursue her education. 

“It is my home, and I love living here,” she said. “I was ecstatic that I could pursue a degree in a field I love without having to go to a faraway university.”

Financially, it also made sense for Ayala. A recipient of the prestigious Presidential Scholarship along with multiple endowed scholarships, Ayala said it made a huge difference for her academically. 

“Because of my scholarships, I did not have to spend time worrying about how I was going to come up with the funds for school,” she said. “Instead, I was able to focus on learning and dedicate my time to studying, research, and teaching.”

The focus worked. Ayala has had a stellar academic career, taking increasingly difficult coursework that catered to her interests in engineering. 

“Over the past few years, Amy designed a difficult curriculum for herself and has been very successful in combining graduate seminars and advanced undergraduate reading courses to fulfill her passion for mechanical engineering,” said Dr. Aref Erfan Mazloum, TAMU-CC Assistant Professional Professor of Mechanical Engineering. 

And she did that while maintaining a 4.0 GPA. As she advanced into her program, she also began tutoring for the Center for Academic Student Achievement (CASA) in fall 2021. It was a tumultuous time for her family, as within two months of the semester’s start, she lost her grandmother to COVID-19 and learned her mother had been diagnosed with stage 4 colon cancer. The experience, she said, continues to inspire her to do her best.

“My mom overcomes the side effects of her chemotherapy to continue living her life to the fullest,” Ayala said. “She inspires me every day to be strong and put my all into everything I do.”

Meanwhile, her love for teaching was taking off. From her role at CASA, she expanded into tutoring more difficult engineering courses. Ayala taught supplemental, problem-solving sessions for Fluid Mechanics and Design of Machine Elements.

“I have a great time teaching these courses,” she said “I look forward to teaching my weekly Fluid Mechanics class. It is through my teaching experiences at TAMU-CC that I realized that teaching in the engineering field is my passion.” 

While Ayala has future plans to attend graduate school and eventually earn a Ph.D., she looks forward to working for her father’s private engineering firm first.

“Working with my dad will enable me to earn professional experience I will need to obtain my Professional Engineer (PE) license in the future,” she said.

As her final semester comes to a close, Ayala has been busy gaining professional experience serving as the project lead for her capstone project, an aquatic robot to remove debris in marine environments. 

“This project has enabled Amy and her team to consider health and safety, economic, social, environmental, local and global impacts of their project during their design process,” said Dr. Ruby Mehrubeoglu, Professor and Program Coordinator for Electrical Engineering and MS in Engineering Programs. “Their project will serve the Coastal Bend area by helping users remove floating debris by collecting it and bringing it to shore.”

It is experiences like these, plus the community of students and professors she has met, that Ayala credits for helping her discover her future plans as a working and teaching engineer.

“I have learned a lot since my first day as an Islander,” Ayala said. “Without my time at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi, I may have never discovered where my passion in the engineering field lies.”