Spring 2018

Engineer for Ethiopia

Photography by Alex Messenger

When sophomore Eleni Beshah was an 11-year-old in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, she took a book off her father’s shelf. Following the diagrams, she lit up a light bulb by connecting it to a battery. Next, she made a simple circuit, a parallel circuit, and a parallel series—all by herself.

Such projects inspired Beshah. When she came to the University of Minnesota Duluth to study chemical engineering, she received the Elliott Scholarship for the Sciences, which honors Elliott John Bayly, founder of an innovative wind generator company in Duluth. 

The award is given to female students from developing countries to empower them to pursue better lives for themselves and others. “I want to know everything—physics, chemistry, engineering—so I can join others who are making big changes,” she says. “This scholarship is going to help me help others.”

After earning her undergraduate and graduate degrees, she plans to return to Ethiopia and spend time with her father in his workshop, where he still keeps his textbooks.

“I would like to create my own independent area of work that will provide opportunities for minorities and women in the engineering field,” she says. “I’m part of a new generation coming to make a change not only in Ethiopia but also on the whole continent of Africa.”