Ask someone to describe the average engineer and you’ll likely hear the words smart, studious, serious. But stand-up comic, fashion editor and roller derby queen can also apply.

Cockrell School students Eleanor Seaborne, fashion magazine publisher, Andrew Pish, stand-up comic, and Catherine Bacon, roller derby jammer, offer proof that, while those terms may be accurate, they don’t tell the entire story.  Yes, each qualifies as a university honors student and each spends a significant amount of time seriously studying.  But they have also allowed their insatiable intellect, natural curiosity and sense of fun to guide them into other, perhaps less serious pursuits.

Andrew Pish

A junior electrical engineering major from San Antonio, Pish impulsively signed up for a comedy class last summer to fill his weekends while interning for AMD.  He now performs stand-up about once a week.

Student Andrew Pish

While his major and hobby appear to have little in common, Pish points out that comics rely heavily on constantly refining and fine-tuning a script, a process similar to approaching complex engineering problems from many different angles. Performing also hones his communication skills, something he believes would be difficult to acquire strictly from college classes.

Pish carries around a notebook to jot down joke ideas, and tries to work engineering into his material. But fellow students needn’t worry about being made the butt of a joke. “Much of comedy is insulting, but I don’t want to go that way to be funny,” he says. “It’s not my personality.”

His dream job would be working in the video game industry near Los Angeles, performing stand-up on the side. “I want to make funny games, though. I think there are avenues the game industry hasn’t explored, ways games can develop more as a media form.”

Rounding out his unorthodox schedule, Pish spent this year's spring break bringing cheer to children in an orphanage in India through The Miracle Foundation.  He helped on educational projects, and refurbished the facilities with paint and minor repairs.  The experience was both challenging and grounding. 

Pish says fellow students could benefit from trying stand-up. “If the audience doesn’t laugh, you realize it isn’t the worst thing that can happen.” Just don’t ask him to tell a joke. “When classmates find out you do comedy, they expect you to be funny all the time. But it doesn’t work that way.”

Andrew Pish holds a B. N. Gafford Electrical Engineering Scholarship.

Eleanor Seaborne

A spring break visit to SXSW a few years ago inspired senior mechanical engineering student Eleanor Seaborne to create a fashion magazine.

Student Eleanor Seabourne

“Surrounded by all this great music, art, and stylish people, I was thinking about a way to showcase the wide variety of personal style and fashion at UT,” Seaborne says. She posted fliers to recruit other students, and the group spent hours in computer labs working on the magazine, named The Peacock. Seaborne paid for its printing, anticipating the next issue would attract more advertisers. There has yet to be a second issue, but Seaborne doesn’t count that as a failure. She gained valuable skills, she says, including working as a team, delegating, taking risks, and meeting deadlines.

“Besides, I met some of my best friends through this experience.”

The child of an artist mother and architect father, Seaborne showed a creative side early on. “My mom used to draw figures and my sister and I would draw clothing on them. I was always the one starting a pet sitting service or lemonade stand. Now I design and make my own clothes, often with vintage fabrics and patterns from garage sales and thrift stores.”

She also applies her knack for design to bake and decorate 100 cupcakes once a month to share at Austin's Salvation Army monthly birthday party.

Seaborne chose mechanical engineering for its hands-on nature, and became interested in transportation engineering after an internship at Trek Bicycle and later studying in Sweden, which has excellent public transportation. She’ll definitely meld design with engineering somehow. 

“I like the idea of taking something, revamping it and making it your own, whether bicycles or public transportation.” She doesn’t rule out another issue of The Peacock, either.

Eleanor Seaborne holds the Jaclyn Suzanne Randall Endowed Scholarship in Engineering.

Catherine Bacon

Bacon, a freshman biomedical engineering major from Tucson, takes an interest in hands-on to a different level. She plays a full-contact sport: roller derby. “Players race around the track,” she explains. “One, the jammer, earns points for passing members of the other team, while opposing players try to stop her.”

Student Catherine Bacon

Bacon plays on the Hell Marys, a team in the Texas Rollergirls league, which holds bouts the fourth Sunday of every month in spring and summer. Players use made up names; hers is Luce Bandit. 

Today’s game doesn’t fit the old roller derby stereotype, she says. “For one thing, there’s a lengthy rule book. Mainly it’s about women getting to look good and play a strong sport at the same time. It’s more sport than spectacle. 

“Roller derby has helped me be more vocal than I used to be,” Bacon adds. “I used to be quiet, and now I’m better at talking to people. As an engineer you have to work with people, so that’s definitely a valuable skill. It has made me a more confident, more assertive person.” As she zips around the track, dodging falling bodies and flying elbows, that statement rings true.

Catherine Bacon holds the William D. Moore Endowed Friends of Alec Scholarship.

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