Family tradition brought Ameren engineer Luke Maichel to UMSL

Luke Maichel graduated summa cum laude from the UMSL/WUSTL Joint Undergraduate Engineering Program in December with a job lined up at Ameren. (Photo by August Jennewein)

Luke Maichel graduated summa cum laude from the UMSL/WUSTL Joint Undergraduate Engineering Program in December with a job lined up at Ameren. (Photo by August Jennewein)

One of five homeschooled brothers, Luke Maichel was the third to attend the University of Missouri–St. Louis and the second to major in mechanical engineering.

Then, this December, he was the one who walked across the commencement stage –­ summa cum laude.

Maichel – whose height shouts at his former class 3 homeschool basketball career – might have followed a family tradition to UMSL, but once at school, it was numbers that called to the UMSL/Washington University in St. Louis Joint Undergraduate Engineering Program graduate. Math’s definitiveness and the inherent starkness of its true or false answers drew Maichel’s interest.

Engineering, though, holds an entirely different appeal.

“There’s more room for imagination,” Maichel said. “There’s more room to design. There is also a big variety of things you can do with engineering, which is something I like. I didn’t want to be at a desk all day.”

Maichel won’t be sitting at a desk much this year, thanks to a job offer from Ameren. Since Dec. 16, he’s been a turbine engineer for the energy provider. He credits faculty and built-in joint program opportunities for where he is today.

Though Maichel’s home office is in south city, he’s part of an eight-person team troubleshooting on-site at large energy centers in south, west and north counties as well as a handful of smaller area centers.

Working on the turbines is as large a challenge as the machinery itself.

“That’s a big piece of equipment,” he said. “It spins at 3,600 RPMs, so it has to be really precise.”

Maichel came to this position thanks to a co-op at Ameren, which he discovered at an UMSL Society of Future Engineers meeting. The recruiter was an UMSL alumni, and Maichel listened with interest to her discussing her job and Ameren. He applied and started last summer.

“We did inspections of different equipment, making sure everything’s running how it should be,” he said. “Also, I did a little bit of designing of a piping system for water and air systems. I actually got to learn a whole lot about the whole energy center.”

This wasn’t Maichel’s only career experience during school. The summer before last, he interned at Spire in pipeline safety and compliance. That position taught him a lot about what he wanted to do and where he wanted to work.

It was the structure of the joint program – night classes that leave the daytime for co-ops and internships – that allowed Maichel to fully take advantage of work opportunities. That’s something Maichel values along with guidance from instructors such as Assistant Teaching Professor David Covert, who helped further Maichel’s love for math; Mechanical Engineering Program Director Mark Jakiela, who taught the mechanical engineering capstone course; and Ameren Sr. Manager of Environmental Services Craig Giesmann.

“Luke has an extremely positive can-do attitude all the time and always approaches his studies and projects with that same attitude,” Giesmann said. “I think Luke learned some of the softer side or the business side of engineering and project management as a result of going through those classes which allowed him to see things a little bit differently.

“Oftentimes in the early stages of our engineering careers, there’s a lot of number crunching, a lot of calculations, etc. As you get through those initial stages, the softer side or business side of engineering really begins to show through. I believe that’s what a lot of our current students are looking for – ‘I understand that theory, the mathematics, but tell me about the real world.’  Luke personified that those notions, was super excited about that next step, and wanted to learn more about those opportunities. Luke is a super smart, conscientious student.”

Giesmann’s class on engineering project management was Maichel’s favorite joint program course. He’d come into school with an interest in business, so finding a class that utilized both skill sets appealed to him.

“We learned how to run projects,” Maichel said. “We learned how to make time frames, how to lay out a project, think about what comes before what and different strategies for how to make projects go smoother. We actually used that a lot in our project and our senior design class, figuring out individual structures and delegating.”

Connections with faculty members were not the only benefit of the program. Maichel was also the recipient of the UMSL Chancellor’s Scholarship and the Boeing Engineering Scholarship, which he applied for his junior year. Having a business take an interest in him felt good.

His positive experiences made Maichel want to give back to the program. That brought him to volunteering for the Joint Mechanical Engineering Student Advisory Board for 2019-2020 academic year. He met with Dean Joseph O’Sullivan, Associate Dean Haiyan Cai and faculty and liaised with the student body.

That’s all in the name of making a superior program for others.

“It’s really just talking to students and thinking about what they need, what they would like to be different,” Maichel said. “Maybe having a class offered at a different time or changing the focus or maybe a new class that focuses on, say, airplanes or something like that. I really liked the program. SAB is a way to kind of look at what’s good and what could be improved and make it better for the future.”

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