January 4, 2021

Eric Imhoff ’22 is among the third generation in his family to pursue an engineering career. Yet his studies at Texas A&M University are steering him in a new direction toward renewable energy and biological engineering—and finding ways to support life on Mars.

The junior’s academic pursuit of these leading-edge subjects is supported by the Martha R. and Eugene P. Neugebauer ’41 President’s Endowed Scholarship (PES). This merit-based scholarship, which is awarded solely on academic achievement and demonstrated student leadership, inspires high-achieving high school seniors to attend Texas A&M.

Eric Imhoff '22 is gaining out-of-this-world experiences thanks to the generosity of the late Martha and Gene Neugebauer '41.

While Eric’s PES brought him to College Station, he never dreamed it would also take him to Mars.

Family Influence

In a family full of engineers, one of Imhoff’s grandfathers is a civil engineer while the other grandfather, both of Imhoff’s parents and his brother, Benton ’20, are chemical engineers. “They definitely pushed me toward engineering because everyone’s been successful so far,” he noted.

The Woodlands native discovered his own aptitude for STEM areas as a teenager. “In high school, I started to notice that I excelled at math and science, which led to engineering,” he said. “I’ve always found science interesting outside of the classroom. There is so much out there to know, and I feel compelled to learn it. I want to be able to answer any question thrown at me. That’s what science is about: answering your questions and finding new ones to answer.”

Imhoff also credits his burgeoning interest in STEM to his high school math teacher, who worked as a chemical engineer for several decades before becoming an educator. “He was a great teacher, very funny and very charismatic,” Imhoff said.  “I think it was generous of him to give back to the younger generation. That rubbed off on me—I realized I could be an engineer for a while and then become a teacher.”

With those influences, Imhoff started researching universities with strong engineering programs and scholarship support. The National Merit Scholar considered several options, including an offer for a full ride to the University of Oklahoma. Ultimately, he was swayed by Benton’s college experience, his own interactions with Texas A&M’s engineering faculty, the college’s rankings, College Station’s close proximity to his home and the opportunity to be part of the Aggie Network.

Galactic Growth

Imhoff hasn’t regretted his decision to attend Texas A&M and is taking full advantage of his time in Aggieland. Outside of the classroom, he is a member of the American Institute of Chemical Engineering, serves as the secretary for the Omega Chi Epsilon Chemical Engineering Honor Society and plays clarinet in Texas A&M’s Symphonic Band. He has also been active in the Bryan-College Station community through volunteering with the Aggie Humane Society.  

The College of Science's Mars Box project offers Imhoff valuable hands-on engineering experience. 

Yet Imhoff is also pursuing his own path as a chemical engineering major, which diverges from his parents’ engineering careers at Shell. “I’ve always been interested in renewable energies like next generation materials, battery design and solar cells,” he said. “The other thing that interests me is the biology side of chemical engineering like bioprocessing, pharmaceuticals or chemical manufacturing.”

The Aggie likes that engineering spurs his creativity. “Engineering incorporates a lot of interesting problems,” he said. “It’s not the same formulas thrown at you over and over. It requires critical thinking, and, in a bigger sense, it has a real impact on the world. With engineering, you apply what you learn and some sort of impact results.”

Imhoff is learning this firsthand as a student researcher on the Mars Box project through the College of Science’s Department of Chemistry. In this project, a team of engineers is creating a metal framework and infrastructure that could support the eventual exploration of Mars and other planets. As part of this project, an interdisciplinary team is inventing a device that could capture carbon dioxide from the box’s atmosphere and then use that carbon dioxide as part of a greenhouse to grow plants.

The young engineer’s efforts are specifically focused on designing the greenhouse, giving him hands-on experience in building something from scratch. He is also soaking up knowledge from the Mars Box’s interdisciplinary research team, which is comprised of chemistry graduate students who serve as mentors. “It’s been great to work with this diverse team of chemical, civil, electrical and mechanical engineers to achieve a common goal,” he said.

Interested in supporting tomorrow’s rising stars with an Aggie education and the experience of a lifetime? Contact Marcy Ullmann ’86 by completing the form below to discuss scholarship opportunities.

Curious about how you can support Aggieland with a planned gift and receive income payments during your lifetime? Contact Angela Throne ’03 at giftplanning@txamfoundation.com.

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