Engineering Student Turns Love of Cars into Fulbright Scholarship to Germany

May 2012 By

OXFORD, Miss. - Playing with cars in the front yard as a child has led a University of Mississippi student to study engineering and be chosen as a Fulbright Scholar to continue his interests.

Martin Ducote, a Corinth native who calls Oxford home, always knew he wanted to do something related to engineering. His father, an amateur mechanic, taught his son everything about each component of the engine compartment and how each system affected the running of the entire engine. From there, it is easy to see the trajectory of Ducote's decisions.

As a mechanical engineering major in the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College and a German Language Initiative student, Ducote's Fulbright project will take him to Germany, where he will study automotive engineering at the Institut für Fahrzeugsystemtechnik , or FAST, at Karlsruhe Institut für Technologie, or KIT. "I had studied with the German Language Initiative program one summer and I knew I wanted to go back to Germany," said Ducote, who graduated May 12 from Ole Miss. "Eventually, I wanted to work with the auto industry there; that's why I learned the language. Andrus Ashoo encouraged me to apply for the Fulbright, and it worked out perfectly."

FAST works to teach students a deeper understanding of vehicle systems and to provide more efficient, safer and luxurious automobiles, which fits with well with Ducote's goal of one day designing parts for an automotive company. One of Europe's leading institutions in the field of composite manufacturing, KIT is the perfect place for him to continue his work toward that goal.

The Fulbright offers fellowships for U.S. graduating college seniors, graduate students, young professionals and artists to study, conduct research or be an English teaching assistant abroad for one academic year.

"Ole Miss has been great," Ducote said. "I like the size of the School of Engineering and being in the Honors College here. I also like how the engineering school has a liberal arts feel; there is a lot of writing involved and there are smaller class sizes."

His research interests are in the field of composite materials and manufacturing, which is something he developed during his internship with GE Aviation in Batesville last year.

"My friend Omar Hamid told me about the GE internship opportunity, and it was awesome," Ducote said. "I worked there for about six months, and it's what got me interested in composites and that is the basis for my Fulbright and my honors college thesis."

Ducote has distinguished himself as an outstanding student as he has pursued German language studies in addition to his engineering courses, said Ellen Lackey, professor of mechanical engineering.

"Martin is especially well-prepared to quickly adapt to and integrate with the new social and cultural environments he will experience in this program," Lackey said. "He is very outgoing, and it is evident that he enjoys interacting with a variety of people. He will be an excellent representative of the United States."

A.M. Rajendran, chair of the mechanical engineering department, is equally impressed with his student.

"As the former chief scientist at the U.S. Army Research Office in Durham, N.C., and as a person who had worked with Army generals during 2000-2008, I am a firm believer of discipline, hard work, trust and integrity," Rajendran said. "Martin Ducote is an exemplary student who indeed exhibits all these characteristics or qualities. In my opinion, his successful internship experience has prepared him to learn engineering and industry related concepts and to exhibit leadership skills outside a university campus."

Ducote is also a member of Tau Beta Pi Engineering Honors Society, for which he served as president, and he helped with the Togo Water Purification Project for Engineers without Borders. He enjoys tennis and running as hobbies.

After his year in Germany, Ducote plans to attend Michigan State University to work in the composite vehicle research center and possibly earn a master's degree in mechanical engineering.

Ducote is the university's 10th Fulbright U.S. Student Award winner since 2000. Last year, Deeneaus Polk won a Fulbright to teach English in Frankfurt at Hans-Böckler-Schule.

Established in 1946, the Fulbright U.S. Student Award Program is funded by the U.S. government and designed to increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries. Each year, the program sends approximately 1,700 recent graduates or graduate students to one of over 155 countries to study, teach, conduct research and to exchange ideas and contribute to finding solutions to shared international concerns.

Students interested in applying for the Fulbright U.S. Student Award are encouraged to contact Andrus Ashoo, the Fulbright program adviser of the Office of National Scholarship Advisement.

To learn more about the Fulbright Program, visit fulbright.state.gov.