Back to top
Skip to main content
  • Home
  • News
  • Meet the Grads: Maria Rincon-Perez

Meet the Grads: Maria Rincon-Perez

Graphic with photo of Maria Rincon-Perez and Juan Rincon on orange background with text on right that says 'Meet the Grads Maria & Juan'

Maria and her father Juan have attended WVU together since 2020 as Maria pursued her undergraduate degree in chemical engineering and Juan worked toward his doctorate in mechanical engineering (Photo supplied).

Welcome to our Meet the Grads series, highlighting the incredible students from the Statler College who are earning their degrees during the 2024 Spring Commencement. 

Q & A with Maria Rincon-Perez
Photo supplied


Tell us a little about you and your father's journeys here at WVU and Statler. 

Maria: I was actually born in Morgantown. That's where our story starts. My dad did his master's here at at Statler College and when he was doing his masters, I was born here in Morgantown. But then we moved back to Colombia. I was raised in Colombia and came back for my undergrad, so we both came back in 2020 and that's when I started. So I'm doing chemical engineering and I'm graduating in May. Outside of academics, I do research and I've been doing research for two years now with Dr. Samuel in our department and I am the president of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers.

Juan: Let me put a little bit more spice to that history. So back in 2000 when I was working as an engineer back in my country in Bogota, Colombia and we were a family of three, my wife and my older daughter. At that time, I remembered I was kind of switching jobs and there was a situation with one of the companies I was working for. So I said it will be the time for me to have this objectives in life and that it will be a good for me to do a masters degree. So I said I'm gonna apply to universities to see what happens. About Morgantown, I didn't know if it existed in the map.

I just applied to several universities. At that time my research gave me some good data that WVU is very good quality and affordable. West Virginia University contacted me and offered me a graduate research assistant, it was Dr. Morris who I was working with at that time. So I said yes, I'm pleased, I will go there and I just started to research about Morgantown and I said 'Oh my God, it's not easy. It will be cold for us, but we'll be ok.' So we came here to Morgantown and I started my master's degree in mechanical engineering in 2001. And in 2002, that little one that is with us today came to this world fortunately, and then I finished my master's degree. 

The economy wasn't so good, so we decided to return back and then after that many years of working in my industry, I dreamed about teaching at the university level. I taught in three universities back in my country and after 20 something years of being in the industry working, I thought it will be a nice opportunity for me if I got a doctorate degree in America. At that time, Maria Paula was reaching, the end of high school and I told her 'Hey, why don't we do this? Let's let's try to do this together, I know that you are applying to several universities.' And she got accepted in several of them. But what would you know? WVU was one of them and I told her, you know what? If I am accepted to be a graduate student again there at the PhD level, it will be great because we will be partners and it will be a blessed story. So that was the thing. And actually we just shared, as she said, that possibility. I am very grateful because I was working in my research here while my daughter was working here, very far from from our country home.

What has it been like to be at the same university together while you're pursuing your degrees?

Maria: It's nice, like in the hallways I see him and I say hi. It was really nice when I was doing interviews for my internships and my jobs. For the internship I got last summer, right after I did my interview I went to his office so I could give him the good news that I think I'm going to get the job. So it was nice knowing that someone like my dad is around.

What has your academic journey been like?

Maria: I always knew I wanted to do engineering. And so I was in high school. I was honestly moving towards either mechanical or industrial, but I thought he was too much physics and I did enjoy a lot of chemistry, so I basically — you're going to hear these from many chemical engineers — you combine chemistry and math and it gives you chemical engineering. So that's why I picked it out and because after when you have the degree you have like the area where you can work the industry is so big. You can go anywhere and everywhere so that's also why I wanted to work well, just study comical engineering and I actually already got a job I'll start the week after we graduate in a water treatment company outside of Pittsburgh.

How have you helped each other?

Maria: I mean I've helped him with English. Yeah, English is our second language so I guess some expressions that we hear. Since I am more with people my age and I'm talking more in English, and he was more in his office he would be like, 'Oh what's the meaning of these words?' I would help him with that, like cultural things. WVU also as a culture, I invite them like 'Let's go to the football game, let's go to the basketball game. My mom is also here, so we all go as a family. Because when he was a master's student, graduate level lifestyle is not the same as the undergraduate lifestyle. They are also living an experience that they didn't live before in their undergrad because undergraduate in Colombia, that experience is very different from here so it's more of like an American experience.

Juan: She has been like a trainer for me — I just imagine her as one of my students, because here I have people her age, or even younger, as my students. So I'm training myself being a teacher here, and being a teacher here in America is a little bit different than being a teacher in my country, because you've seen another culture, it's in another language, so that is one of the pluses that I have been having here with her. I just tell her 'OK, I have this lecture, so I'm gonna do this lecture with you and you're gonna critique me.' She has really been my partner and I am blessed for that.



Contact: Paige Nesbit
Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources
304.293.4135, Paige Nesbit

For more information on news and events in the West Virginia University Benjamin M. Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources, contact our Marketing and Communications office:

Phone: 304-293-4135