Brothers journey from Jordan in pursuit of Ph.D. at UNT
DENTON, Texas (UNT) — It’s hard to miss the striking resemblance between Omar and Khaled Almahmoud, but their similarities don’t stop on the surface. Right now the brothers are both at the University of North Texas – both are working on doctoral degrees and both are studying mechanical and energy engineering.
“We aren’t just brothers. We are best friends,” said Omar. “We think the same way. He’s the one person who always understands me, even the silly jokes.”
“Sometimes we don’t even have to talk to understand each other,” said younger brother Khaled.
Omar was the first to come to UNT back in August 2015 after getting his undergraduate degree at the University of Jordan and his master’s degree in Los Angeles, all in mechanical engineering.
“It took me months of studying different programs to determine that UNT was the best fit for me,” he said. “It was the first in the country to do mechanical and energy engineering as one program and that grabbed my attention.”
When he got to UNT, Omar didn’t know anyone in Texas, but quickly found what he needed.
“I’ve found a lot of support here — the support I’ve been looking for,” said Omar. “I got in a department where all the professors are so helpful. When you talk to any of them about a problem, they will try to sit down and help you solve it. You really feel like they are concerned about you and truly care.”
Omar became such a fan of his program that he convinced his brother to enroll in it as well. Khaled even changed his line of study from electrical to mechanical and energy engineering to be part of it.
“My brother has always helped me,” he said. “Moving is not easy, but having your family member is a blessing.”
Khaled first started his studies in electrical engineering at German Jordanian University, then like his brother got a master’s degree in Los Angeles. He came to UNT in Fall 2016 and the brothers were able to take classes together.
“We do lots of brainstorming,” said Khaled. “You can’t even imagine. Sometimes I come up with ideas for Omar, and sometimes he initiates ideas for me. We use each other’s backgrounds as a benefit. Most people don’t get that kind of advantage.”
Of course, having your brother in class can have some disadvantages.
“During one final exam, Khaled got mad because he messed up and without him saying a word, I knew it,” said Omar. “I couldn’t stop laughing and had to apologize to the professor.”
It’s not just Omar and Khaled who have a love for engineering. Their father was an engineer back in their home country of Jordan. The brothers say his dream was for all six of his kids to get their doctoral degrees. Their older brother is already a medical doctor. They also have a sister studying medicine, another sister studying computer science and a third sister who is an accountant.
“Our parents are so proud. They tell stories to all our friends and family. Our dad especially loves to brag about our achievements. I’ve found whatever we tell him, he will repeat the story a hundred times,” said Omar.
Both brothers say they miss the rest of their family and their home country of Jordan, but both are extremely grateful for the opportunities they have here.
“The U.S has given me everything I dreamed about,” said Omar. “Jordan is always my country, but the opportunities are limited there. In the U.S., if you have an idea, it’s supported. Here people believe in you for the work that you do. I have a great job as a research assistant and in my country I wouldn’t get that chance.”
While Khaled is just starting his doctoral research studies and working on multiple projects, Omar is currently researching a new idea for HVAC systems. He hopes his work will eventually lead to air conditioners becoming more energy efficient, saving homeowners money every month. He is doing his research alongside engineering professor Tae-Youl Choi.
“I am just so thankful for Dr. Choi. He really believes in me Omar said.
In turn, Omar believes in UNT.
“I would guide anyone here,” he said. “I would say you guys should hire me as an ambassador. Many people back in Jordan know the University of North Texas because I always talk about it.”
The one thing the brothers don’t like to talk about is having to go their separate ways when Omar finishes his degree.
“I try not to think about our time together ending,” said Khaled.
His brother quickly added, “I would try to bring him wherever I go. I mean, it’s worked with our master’s degrees and now our doctoral studies. It could work when we get careers. I mean, it’s always better to have family. We’ll eventually get our older brother here too.”