Where are they now - Kai Morganti (SPC 1998-2003)
author: Lorrie Liston
The College reconnections with Kai Morganti (SPC 1998-2003) who is now working in Saudi Arabia and responsible for the development of engine-fuel systems for future vehicles!
Where has life taken you since leaving SPC?
I graduated from SPC in 2003 and was accepted into a Mechanical Engineering/Computer Science degree at the University of Melbourne degree for 2004. However, I chose to defer my studies for 12 months to travel, work and learn more about the world. Although it is extremely common to defer your studies today, it was almost unheard-of at this time.
In 2005, I commenced a Bachelor degree in Mechanical Engineering at RMIT University in Melbourne. After graduating with first class honors in 2008, I spent some time at Ford Australia as a member of the T6 (Ford Ranger/Mazda BT50) Prototype Planning & Build group, before enrolling at the University of Melbourne to commence a PhD in engine combustion in 2010. This was a remarkable time in my life, and included a stint on exchange at Princeton University.
Shortly after completing my PhD in 2013, I joined Saudi Aramco after a chance encounter (with my now Chief Technologist) in the food court at the SAE World Congress in Detroit. Saudi Aramco is probably best known for being the largest exporter of crude oil in the world. We produce in excess of 10 million barrels each day. However, the company has also built a global research network for both upstream and downstream activities. In my current role as an Engine Combustion Specialist, I am responsible for the development of engine-fuel systems for future vehicles. My team works closely with almost all of the major automakers, as well as governments and policymakers in the key global markets.
Life in Saudi Arabia is nothing like what most people would expect. Saudi culture most closely resembles Italian culture: lots of food, family and good hospitality. I always laugh when I hear the country referred to as the “secretive kingdom” – it couldn’t be any further from the truth. The more time you spend abroad, the more you realize that all people are pretty much the same below the surface. Picking up my life in Melbourne and moving to Saudi Arabia was certainly a big plunge, but I have absolutely no regrets.
What are your favourite memories of your time at St Patrick’s College?
I have so many fond memories from my time at SPC. But the thing I value the most is the people. Although it’s really challenging to keep in touch while living abroad, I still have a group of friends that I speak with at least every few weeks. Nothing has really changed. We still share the same jokes, and reminisce about what was an amazing time in our lives.
Which teacher from your time at SPC had the greatest impact on you? Why?
The most notable ones included Howard Clark and the late Stephen Callahan. Howard taught me a lot of things about life that I didn’t fully appreciate until well after my time at SPC. Honesty, respect for others and discipline were just a few things that Howard both practiced and preached. The late Stephen Callahan was a tremendously intelligent, and yet, humble person. He was also the person that inspired my interest in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics). If it weren’t for Stephen, I probably would’ve studied law.
How has your education shaped your professional life?
I have spent a lot more time in the education system than most, including nearly eight years of graduate and post-graduate study. But I still am, and always will be, an educator at heart. I am fortunate that Saudi Aramco allows me to hold a joint appointment at King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) on the west coast of Saudi Arabia. My regular teaching includes advanced combustion and GT-Power (an engine simulation code). I am also supervising Masters and PhD students. It’s clear that education is still continuing to shape my professional life.
How has your time at SPC shaped your personal values and your family life?
I adopted many of my personal values from my parents and my time at SPC. Again, you develop a greater appreciation for these things later in life because it becomes more apparent that the values you internalize as a young adult remain with you for a lifetime. In many ways, my time at SPC taught me to do your best and appreciate the simple things in life, including family, friends and good health. I have little doubt that this has contributed towards my past achievements, and hopefully there’s more to come in the future too.
If you could pass on one message to the students of today, what would it be?
Reflecting upon my own experience, it’s clear that the things that kept me awake at night 10 years ago have all but fallen off the radar today. And the things that keep me awake today are areas that I knew nothing about 10 years ago. The most important advice is to work hard, challenge yourself and keep an open mind. Finally, let yourself be guided by your own measures of success, rather than those of others. With challenge comes opportunity.