Learning to Lead: Ryan Mackie

What makes competitive online gaming and research similar? Ryan Mackie would be the one to know. He’s a transfer student here at Michigan Tech and spends his time in two different worlds. He’s a varsity member of the Tech Esports team and a member of the Perrine lab.

Originally a music major at Middlesex College in New Jersey, one class would change the course of his life forever. What started as a simple chemistry credit became a passion that caused Ryan to switch majors to the chemistry department. Wanting to expand his horizons and look for a different perspective, he found Michigan Tech. It was in a climate and location that he’d never experienced before, and he wanted a strong chemistry department. Tech fit the bill perfectly.

Ryan Mackie during a Esports competition. He is seated, wearing headphones and a Michigan Tech Jersey.

Environmental Chemistry was the clear choice for Ryan, as he describes it as the “Middle ground between realistic and isolated chemistry. It focuses on the facts of the environment.” He got involved in undergraduate research opportunities after speaking with his professors. He found a special interest in the Perrine Lab, which looks at different types of corrosion on metallic elements and had openings for volunteers. Not only was he able to learn field skills, but his time in the lab offered him opportunities to work on leadership skills. Ryan mentions, “I’ve been learning when to let others lead and when to lead when I know I have the knowledge to help others.” He also has revealed that both participating on the Esports team and in the Perrine Lab were great foundations for communication.

Esports: It’s More Than “Just Video Games” 

Ryan is an active Esports team member, which has been another positive influence on his life. The team meets online and competes in both virtual and in-person competitions, together or as individuals in events. While the whole team is about 70 members, Ryan spends most of his time working with players who compete in Super Smash Bros, a mele-style game. Recruited within the Super Smash Bros club, he was able to receive a scholarship to compete as a member.

An image of Ryan and another Esports member, at a competition. They are facing away from the camera and at a screen.

Virtual sports have more in common with in-person sports than first meets the eye. Players on the Esports team work out each week to have both healthy minds and bodies and rely on teammates to grow as competitors. Having previously been involved in other sports in high school, he compared his time as a virtual competitor saying: “[They] use the same skills, but virtual sports use mental capacity instead.” Participating in team competitions requires strong communication and collaborative skills to succeed. But it’s not all work. From their time together, the Super Smash Bros team has become a close-knit bunch, often spending time together outside of practice.

“I’ve been learning when to let others lead and when to lead when I know I have the knowledge to help others.”

-Ryan Mackie

With an accelerated Master’s degree on the horizon, Ryan looks forward to putting his communication and research skills into real-life applications. He credits his unique time here at Tech to his ability to thrive.