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Posted on May 9, 2014


In May, more than 5,200 new graduates received degrees from NC State. Their post-graduate work will create prosperity for North Carolina and the world, and the experience-based education they received here will prepare them well for the years ahead.

More than three-quarters of NC State grads go directly into graduate school or full-time careers. And those careers pay big dividends for the time, talent and energy they’ve spent here: In recent rankings, NC State has emerged as a leader in return on student investment and average graduate salary.

Meet five spring 2014 graduates who are moving on to exciting careers with major employers:

A Bike, A Chair, A Job at Coca-Cola

Industrial design graduate Ami Sueki’s how-I-got-my-first-job story starts with a position she didn’t land, ends with an unexpected offer, and prominently features a bike that’s also a chair.

Industrial design grad Ami Sueki

Industrial design grad Ami Sueki

In early 2013, Sueki shared her portfolio with a Coca-Cola design manager. Several months later, solely on the strength of her work in the College of Design, Sueki got a full-time offer to start working in Coke’s marketing department before her last semester at NC State.

What sort of work gets an undergrad a job with Coke, with no interview and no application? For Sueki, it was a project that had consumed her for more than a year: the quest to design and build a bicycle that folds into a chair. The idea struck Sueki after seeing people outdoors, either riding their bikes with folding chairs strapped to their backs or sitting uncomfortably on their bike wheels at parks.

The bike began as a five-week project her junior year, but it became an 18-month (and counting) quest. After rounds and rounds of sketching, she realized she needed a hinge that didn’t exist. So she made it on a 3D printer. Sueki hasn’t made a bike prototype, but she’s still working toward realizing her vision.

“I don’t like to settle for a mediocre idea,” she said. “I would rather spend more time developing the idea than settle for something just because I have to turn it in.”

Value for Value

Best Return on Investment

According to, NC State offers the best return on student investment among public North Carolina universities.

Turning Ideas Into Solutions

Brian Coffin, a biomedical and textile engineering major, got a head start on research as an undergrad. After graduating, he took his research experience and his degrees to work for Secant Medical, a medical device manufacturer in Perkasie, Pa.

While research is more often an endeavor for graduate students, Coffin took advantage of NC State’s emphasis on undergraduate research. He worked with faculty on developing carbon nanotubes as a junior and on plant-based automotive parts during a summer internship in Germany.

Textile and biomedical engineering grad Brian Coffin

Textile and biomedical engineering grad Brian Coffin

As a senior, Coffin worked with faculty at the National Science Foundation ASSIST Center to create a portable gait monitor. The device would allow people recovering from a stroke or other trauma to remotely monitor their progress in regaining the ability to walk and transmit data to their medical team.

With that diverse portfolio of research experience, Coffin is working as a business development engineer at Secant. He’ll help turn technologies from inventors, small businesses and universities into products ready for the marketplace. That work — making solutions from good ideas — flows naturally from his efforts as an undergraduate.

“There has definitely been that drive at NC State: not just stopping with the idea, but making something of it,” Coffin said.

Turning Tassels

Spring 2014 Commencement

The class of 2014 graduates Saturday, May 10. Offer your advice to the newest Wolfpack alums on our Facebook page.

From a Passion to a Profession

For graduate Bethany Vohlers, statistics is more than an academic pursuit. It’s “an artistic form of math.”

“It’s my passion,” she said. “It gives me a reason to get up in the morning, as cheesy as that sounds.”

Statistics and computer science grad Bethany Vohlers

Statistics and computer science grad Bethany Vohlers

Since June, she’s been getting up in the morning and putting her statistics and computer science degrees to work at the SAS Institute in Cary. SAS, consistently rated one of the best companies to work for, was a second home for Vohlers during her NC State career. She held three internships there. Her late one was a position she conceived and proposed: she took massive datasets and optimized them for use in SAS’s visual analytics software.

NC State offered Vohlers opportunities to study across disciplines while still working in the broad field of analytics. That flexibility had a direct effect on her connecting with SAS. Vohlers said her double-major in statistics and computer science was the reason she got considered for the SAS position.

“It’s not so much about theory in statistics at NC State,” she said. “There’s a lot of application.”

Job-Ready Graduates

Top NC State Employers

In a Wall Street Journal survey, recruiters rated NC State grads among the most desirable job candidates.

A Deeper Approach to Design

Ryan Foose came to NC State two years ago to become a more complete designer.

“My undergrad was all about how we can make something look really, really good,” says Foose, who is graduating with a master’s in graphic design. “NC State’s worried about how you can make the experience great for the user. So it doesn’t just look pretty, it’s super-functional.”

Master's of graphic design grad Ryan Foose

Master’s of graphic design grad Ryan Foose

With his master’s degree in hand, Foose is now working to make great user experiences for IBM. After interning with the company for a year, he joined its developerWorks program full-time. IBM is one of the largest employers of NC State graduates.

In his new role with IBM, Foose does some traditional graphic design — creating graphics and cleaning images that teach users about IBM products — and some user experience work, actually improving software and other products. The role marries two of Foose’s passions: education and design.

As a graduate student in the College of Design, Foose has worked on developing an iPad platform that would help rural students find possible career paths and choose the right colleges and universities to follow those routes. The design mirrors the look of Twitter, MTV and other entertainment channels popular with high school students. The content is based on his own research, which encompassed everything from analyzing data on rural disparities to visits to Greene Central High School in Snow Hill, N.C.

“It’s just a way of looking at the problem of how to have a student get an interest in something and follow through on it,” he said.

From Raleigh to Hogwarts

What college graduate wouldn’t want to celebrate with a post-commencement trip to a Florida theme park?

For Michelle Phillips, a mechanical engineering graduate, heading to Orlando after graduation entailed more than blowing off a little after-exams steam. She began a full-time job with Universal Creative in July to fulfill every kid’s dream: building amusement rides and animatronic features.

Mechanical engineering grad Michelle Phillips

Mechanical engineering grad Michelle Phillips

Phillips got an internship there last summer after attending a meeting of the American Society for Testing and Material F24 subcommittee, which oversees safety standards for all amusement rides and devices. As an intern, she worked on the new Wizarding World of Harry Potter Diagon Alley Expansion, the $400 million addition to the park that will open this summer.

In her final year at NC State, Phillips worked with another University Honors Program student, Kevin Young of Apex, N.C., to build a wooden animatronic wolf for the Hunt Library. The 4-foot-tall, 120-pound creature was unveiled in late April on the second-level lobby.

Now, mechanical engineering degree in hand, she’s off to pursue her longtime dream.

“Becoming a ride engineer [is] about the coolest thing in the whole world,” she says.

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Posted on May 7, 2014

A Research Treasure Trove

The next generation of cutting-edge NC State solutions in forensic science, cancer treatment, solar energy and more may come from a decidedly old-school source: dye.

The Eastman Chemical Company has donated its Max A. Weaver Dye Library — more than 100,000 dye and fabric samples in all — to NC State. After decades as a tool for Eastman scientists and engineers, it will be available to researchers from across the academic spectrum and around the world.

“This priceless collection could contain the dyes for the next generation of solar panels, the next generation of photodynamic cancer therapies, the next generation of environmentally responsible textile dyes,” said NC State textile chemist David Hinks, director of the emerging Forensic Sciences Institute, who will oversee the dye library research.

The dye collection will be a “treasure trove” for NC State’s world-leading faculty and researchers doing innovative, interdisciplinary work in a range of fields, Hinks said.

Textile chemist David Hinks (left), director of the emerging Forensic Sciences Institute, and analytical chemist Nelson Vinueza (right) inspect samples from the Max A. Weaver Dye Library.

Textile chemist David Hinks (left), director of the emerging Forensic Sciences Institute, and analytical chemist Nelson Vinueza (right) inspect samples from the Max A. Weaver Dye Library.

Medical researchers and dye chemists such as NC State Ciba professor Harold Freeman use dyes to develop targeted cancer treatments. “The dyes are designed to dye cancer cells and not healthy cells,” Hinks says. “That allows doctors to identify the cancer but also, by focusing a tunable laser onto that area, the dye will absorb the energy of the laser and ultimately kill the cancer cell. So this is a form of targeted chemotherapy.”

Professor David Muddiman’s research group in chemistry is developing state-of-the-art analytical techniques for forensic analysis of dyed fibers.

Assistant professor Frank Hunte’s group in materials science and engineering is interested in developing new dye applications with improved infrared absorption signatures that can prevent military personnel from being detected by night-vision scopes.

NC State is hiring a cluster of interdisciplinary researchers in forensic science, including analytical chemist Nelson Vinueza, as part of the Chancellor’s Faculty Excellence Program.

Hinks says the next generation of analytical chemists and forensic scientists will build their skills through experiential education opportunities as undergraduate and graduate researchers who contribute to the forensic science database. Textiles scientists and engineers will study it for ways to create environmentally responsible dyes that can be applied to textiles, paper, packaging, cosmetics, hair coloring and a host of other products and applications.

Thanks to Internet sharing tools, chemists around the world will be ultimately be able to use data such as 3-D crystallographic models of the chemical structures that the late Max Weaver, longtime dye research leader for Eastman, drew by hand on glass vials. NC State will digitize and post the structures along with key cheminformatics data using ChemSpider, a free online resource by the Royal Society of Chemistry, which is partnering with NC State on the dye library. The tool allows users to search for chemical compounds or fragments of compounds.

The donation of the dye collection builds on NC State’s existing partnership with Eastman. Under a 2012 agreement, NC State became an Eastman Chemical Center of Excellence and the recipient of $10 million over six years.

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Posted on Sep 27, 2013

Park Promise

With the largest single gift in university history, NC State is taking steps to ensure a viable future for a program that brings some of America’s brightest students to campus.

Chancellor Randy Woodson announced the $50 million donation from the Park Foundation on Sept. 27. The gift will plant the seed of an endowment that, with others’ support, will provide permanent funding for the university’s prestigious Park Scholarships.

The Park Scholarships program was created in 1996 through a generous gift from the Park Foundation, itself the creation of NC State alumnus Roy H. Park ’31. Park Scholars are selected on the basis of their outstanding accomplishments and potential in scholarship, leadership, service and character.

“Park Scholars repay the investment in their future many times over through their service to the community and efforts to solve the most pressing challenges of society,” Woodson said. “They do an exemplary job of carrying out NC State’s mission of creating economic, social and intellectual prosperity.”

Roughly 40 freshmen a year receive the Park Scholarship. Full funding for their education is only the beginning of what the scholarship provides.

More Than a Scholarship

In addition to paying for tuition, room and board, the Park Scholarship also supports the scholars’ development as thinkers, doers and leaders.

With Park Enrichment Grants, Park Scholars can do nearly anything they can imagine. Students have used grants to study abroad, work in medical internships in Nepal and do service work on the U.S. Gulf Coast.

Park Scholars also participate in intensive research. Sophomore Mia de los Reyes, a physics and math major from Raleigh, is studying supernovas in a campus physics lab and working at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences.

She spent last summer interning at the Space Telescope and Science Institute in Baltimore, home of the Hubble telescope. That internship may yield a research publication, she said.

“That was really just amazing for me, and I learned a lot,” de los Reyes said.

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The Park Scholarships Endowment

The Park Scholars are learning to change the world. See how the Park Scholarships Endowment is supporting them.

A Network of Achievers

Park Scholars are a diverse group. They come to NC State from across the country, and they go into nearly every academic field. The Park Class of 2013 included graduates from all nine of NC State’s bachelor’s degree-granting colleges.

Those students are part of a network that has a profound impact on campus. Park Scholars have occupied leadership positions in student government, student media and a wide range of other student organizations.

They’ve also provided significant service to their community. Park Scholars founded two of the largest student-run charity efforts in the Triangle: Service Raleigh, an annual day of service led jointly with Student Government, and the Krispy Kreme Challenge, which draws thousands of runners each year and has raised more than $500,000 for the North Carolina Children’s Hospital.

“The one thing that I value most about the Park Scholarships program is the community that I’m surrounded with,” said William Coe, a senior Park Scholar studying philosophy.

Park Scholars’ achievements don’t end at graduation. Park alumni have gone on to work for some of the world’s top companies, including Apple, Google, SAS, IBM, Cisco and GlaxoSmithKline. Those who continued their academic careers have earned Goldwater, Fulbright, Gates and Truman scholarships, and they’ve gone on to study at Oxford, Cambridge, Stanford and Ivy League schools.

No matter how far they travel, Park students and alumni are a tight-knit group. As a freshman trying to choose a faculty mentor, senior Lauren Caddick reached out to recent Park graduates for advice.

“I don’t think I’ve had an email come back as fast as those have since I’ve been at NC State,” the design major from Gastonia said. “They truly value each other, and they value the huge network of people that they build every year.

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From Lark to Legend

A group of Park scholars’ test of endurance has become a signature NC State service event: the Krispy Kreme Challenge.

A Transformational Gift

The founder of the charitable Park Foundation and the namesake of the Park Scholarship, Roy H. Park, was born in Dobson, N.C., in 1910. He graduated from high school at the age of 15 and enrolled in NC State, where he majored in journalism. Park began working as a reporter at Technician in his freshman year, and he eventually became the paper’s editor-in-chief.

After college, Park worked in public relations and advertising for agricultural associations. In 1949, he launched a business relationship with famed restaurant expert Duncan Hines. The first product of Hines-Park Foods was Duncan Hines Cake Mix, which helped start a revolution in food preparation. Procter & Gamble purchased the company in 1956, allowing Park to launch his second career: mass communications. Park Communications Inc. ultimately built or acquired 22 radio stations, 11 television stations, and 144 publications, 41 of which were daily newspapers.

In 1961, Park helped create the Chancellor’s Circle of donors at NC State, making the first donation of $1,000 himself. He also served as a trustee of the university from 1977 to 1985. NC State awarded Park the Watauga Medal in 1975, and in 1978 he received an honorary doctor of humanities degree from the university. In 1989 he received North Carolina’s highest civilian honor, the North Carolina Award. When Park died in 1993, he bequeathed more than 70 percent of his holdings to the foundation that bears his name.

“If my father were alive today, this would be one of the most exciting days of his life. He loved NC State and credited the university for his success,” said Park’s daughter, Adelaide P. Gomer, president of the Park Foundation. “My father perceived scholarships as a way to provide opportunities to young students. It was a way that his legacy could ‘pay it forward’ to assist future generations.”

See photos from the Sept. 27 gift announcement:

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