Skip to main content

Wolf of the Week: Stories from the Field

Each week, the Graduate School will feature a graduate student or postdoc who exemplifies exceptional leadership and communication skills both inside and outside of the classroom. The Wolf of the Week student will share research, personal NC State anecdotes and some tips for success. By sharing these stories, we encourage our campus community to celebrate graduate students and postdocs who represent the diversity of programs and projects that can be found on campus.

May 1, 2019 | Latasha Williams

Latasha Williams is a Ph.D. student in the Department of Food, Bioprocessing, and Nutrition Sciences. She holds a B.S. degree in Textile Chemistry from NC State University and in Food and Nutrition from NC Central University. After becoming a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN), Latasha obtained her M.S. degree in Food and Nutrition from Meredith College. Her current research focuses on the experiences and the role of RDNs who work with mothers of preschool age children who face low to very low food security.

Latasha Williams
Latasha Williams is a Ph.D. student in the Department of Food, Bioprocessing, and Nutrition
Sciences.

Can you tell us about your research/teaching experience?
While working as a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN), I spent many days listening to patients describe how low to very low food security during childhood influenced their dietary habits as adults. Not fully understanding the phenomena of food security, I started doing research on my own. After running across a report from the Life Sciences Research Office, I came to learn that food security encompasses the “access by all people, at all times to enough food to live a healthy and active life.” After reading this report, it did not take long for me to discover that nothing about the human diet makes sense except in light of food security. With this new knowledge, I made the decision to learn how I could do more as a RDN, specifically working with mothers of preschool age children experiencing low to very low food security. My initial research goal is to learn about the experiences of RDNs working with mothers who do not always have access to enough food to eat. Ultimately, I hope this research will lead to the development of systematic and sustainable interventions that can be used by RDNs to make a positive impact at all levels of food security.

What do you like the most about NC State? Or why did you choose to come to NC State?
When I graduated from high school, NC State was my first and only choice for college. When I decided to pursue a Ph.D., NC State was my first choice for graduate school. There are so many things I enjoy about NC State, but what stands out most are the people. From faculty and staff, to graduate students and undergraduate students, there is a wealth of diverse knowledge across campus. The diversity at this university lends to an almost overwhelming abundance of resources available for anyone to succeed.

What is something that you have learned from The Graduate School’s professional development programs that you’re applying to your work or teaching?
Through the professional development programs (PDP) I learned how to avoid death by PowerPoint and the perfection trap for writers. I learned how to do things with Moodle that I did not know was possible in regards to grading and creating interactive online content for students. Through the New TA workshops, I learned how to create an inclusive environment as well as several steps to improve my teaching. And even though they are both still works in progress, I started writing a teaching philosophy and creating an online professional portfolio. But so far, my two favorite PDP programs have been Camp Completion and Communication Strategies for Teaching and Beyond (CSTB). Participating in Camp Completion taught me ways to develop better writing habits and how to tailor the Pomodoro Technique to fit my writing style. In CSTB, the best thing I have learned is the ABT model – And, But, Therefore or Always Be Telling (stories). The ABT model has transformed how I discuss my research, especially with those outside my discipline.

Can you tell us a fun fact about yourself?
I have been a Jazzercise Instructor since 2005 and I currently teach classes 5-6 days/week.


April 25, 2019 | Ciera Cipriani

Ciera Cipriani is a Master’s student studying Textile Chemistry at Wilson College of Textiles, co-advised by Dr. Melissa Pasquinelli and Dr. Nelson Vinueza. She won first place in The Graduate School’s Three Minute Thesis Competition (October 2018), thus advancing to the regional competition. Ciera is a North Carolina native who showcases her musical talent as a drummer in local band Soccer Tees and as a DJ at NC State’s radio station, WKNC. She also works as a teaching assistant, and she is a Pentair Fellow at NCSU Libraries.

Ciera Cipriani
Ciera Cipriani won the Graduate School’s Three Minute Thesis in the fall.

Can you tell us about your research/teaching experience?
The goal of my research is to narrow down the chemical reaction mechanisms that happen when dyes widely used for polyester and other synthetic fibers are exposed to sunlight. When these dyes break down, they lose their color. Also, the chemical compounds formed as a result of this process can be more toxic than the original dye molecules. I combine computer models with experiments on dyed fabrics to fundamentally describe the reaction mechanisms of light degradation. My work brings us closer to preventing the loss of color and formation of toxic products from these dyes.

What do you like the most about NC State? Or why did you choose to come to NC State?
I’m from the area and naturally considered NC State for my undergraduate degree since it was close to home. I committed to NC State after attending the Polymer Day Camp at the Wilson College of Textiles in 2013. I was intrigued by the incredible research being done at NC State and the close-knit, collaborative community of Wilson College. I decided to attend NC State for undergrad, and continued as a master’s student in order to round out my research project into a thesis (and because I wasn’t ready to say goodbye just yet).

What is something that you have learned from The Graduate School’s professional development programs that you’re applying to your work or teaching?
I participated in The Graduate School’s workshop for the Three Minute Thesis Competition. In a short time, the workshop taught me a lot about communicating my research to a broad audience. I took the draft speech that I wrote during the workshop and crafted it into my winning Three Minute Thesis talk for the university competition. Now, I use the framework that I learned in The Graduate School’s workshop to have more productive scientific discussions with my colleagues, professors, employers, and students in the class for which I TA.

Can you tell us a fun fact about yourself?
I moonlight as the drummer in the band Soccer Tees. As the drummer in the band Soccer Tees, I moonlight as a comedian called Snowbiz, providing hopefully entertaining banter between songs while my bandmates tune their guitars.


April 11, 2019 | Vivek Samu

Vivek Samu is a postdoctoral research scholar in the Department of Civil, Construction, and Environmental Engineering, where he also completed his Ph.D. He won the People’s Choice award at The Graduate School’s Three Minute Thesis competition in 2018. In his presentation, Vivek described using low-cost hammer testing to assess the condition of bridge foundations for which there are no extant records. In addition to his Ph.D. in structural engineering, Vivek completed a graduate minor in applied mathematics.

Vivek Samu
Vivek Samu is a postdoctoral research scholar in the Department of Civil, Construction, and Environmental Engineering, where he also completed his Ph.D.

Can you tell about your research/teaching experience?
I have had a very rich research experience and exposure at NC State. My research is related to testing of bridge foundations using wave propagation methods to assess its current condition. I have been involved in both theoretical and experimental research and this has helped me develop a unique skill set which will be the foundation for my future endeavors. I have been a teaching assistant for different courses and also had the opportunity to teach an undergraduate course. I have always had the fear of facing a big crowd and the extensive amount of teaching experience has helped me conquer my fears. I have been lucky to be mentored by several extraordinary professors in the Civil Engineering department over the years which has helped me become a better teacher.

What do you like the most about NC State? Or why did you choose to come to NC State?
My association with NC State started in fall 2012 when I decided to join for my Master of Science in Civil Engineering and quickly fell in love with NC State and Raleigh. I was amazed at the amount of resources available for the students and the constant encouragement by my advisor, professors and peers. I am particularly a fan of the NC State Libraries and their Tripsaver program which has been very helpful.

What is something that you have learned from The Graduate School’s Professional Development Programs that you are applying to your work or teaching?
Apart from research, NC State has provided me with several opportunities to learn essential personal and professional skills without which I could not have succeeded in my academic pursuit. I have participated in professional development programs such as Preparing the Professoriate (PTP), Three Minute Thesis (3MT) and Camp Completion. PTP was a unique program which has provided me with a lot of resources to prepare myself for an academic career through workshops, collaboration with experts and teaching experience. Often as researchers we focus a lot on details and forget the broader view and implications of the research. Participating in the Three Minute Thesis competition helped me take a step back in an effort to explain my research to a non-technical audience, at the same time improving my science communication skills.

Can you tell us a fun fact about yourself?
I love sports and to stay active! Whenever I get time, I like to play cricket, tennis or table tennis. I have been playing in the Triangle Cricket League over the years and never miss an opportunity to get into a cricket ground.


April 2, 2019 | Whitney McCoy

Whitney McCoy is a Ph.D. student in educational psychology. She is a native of High Point who worked as a K-6 math and science teacher before coming to NC State. She holds degrees from Winston-Salem State University as well as UNC-Charlotte. Whitney is heavily involved in improving the graduate student experience through participation in the College of Education Graduate Student Advisory Board, the Teacher Education and Learning Sciences Graduate Student Association, and the Black Graduate Student Association.

Whitney McCoy
Ph.D. student Whitney McCoy is currently working on a research study that examines how African American students experience racial microaggressions at predominately white institutions.

Can you tell us about your research/teaching experience?
Currently, I am working on a research study that examines how African American students experience racial microaggressions at predominately white institutions. My dissertation research will focus on racial and gender equity in engineering education. The purpose of my dissertation is to understand and examine the experiences of African American adolescent girls (i.e. Black female intersectionality) who are participating in an informal summer engineering program. I have been a teacher assistant for a graduate level course and will teach an undergraduate course this summer. The courses focus on adolescent development. I have also guest lectured on the disciplinary procedures that lead to the push out of African American girls in K-12 schools.

What do you like the most about NC State? Or why did you choose to come to NC State?
I love that there are so many resources here on campus to support doctoral students. On this campus, you can collaborate with multiple colleges such as the College of Education and the College of Engineering, attend professional development programs, and there are speakers that visit the campus to educate students on numerous topics. Also, being supported by faculty members like my advisor Dr. Jessica DeCuir-Gunby made it very easy to make the decision to come to NC State.

What is something that you have learned from The Graduate School’s professional development programs that you’re applying to your work or teaching?
In the Preparing the Professoriate program, I learned the value of peer review and feedback as you write. Writing can be a tedious task when you are working on papers for classes, manuscripts for publishing, and statements for job applications. Collaborating with peers that can give you feedback has helped me become a stronger writer and more open to sharing my writing with others. This led me to form an accountability group with other doctoral students that are in various stages of their programs.

Can you tell us a fun fact about yourself?
Before coming to NC State, I was a K-6 educator. I loved science, but never taught engineering in my classroom. After learning about the NC State Summer Engineering Programs and participating in the Learning Experience for Teachers, I fell in love with the magical “E” that allows us to solve problems to help people through design and innovation. Now, I am able to train K-12 educators on how to integrate all content areas (i.e. literacy, mathematics, science, and history) to teach engineering in their classrooms and engage K-10 campers in hands-on engineering challenges on campus and in surrounding public schools.


March 25, 2019 | Mary Adams

Mary Adams is a Ph.D. student in the Joint Department of Biomedical Engineering at UNC & NC State. She completed her B.S. in biological engineering at the University of Florida. Her undergraduate studies included a summer in Germany studying special engineering topics related to energy conservation and renewable energy. At NC State, Mary focuses on the pharmacological applications of engineering.

Mary Adams
Mary Adams is a Ph.D. student in the Joint Department of Biomedical Engineering at UNC & NC State.

Can you tell us about your research/teaching experience?
My research is in cancer drug delivery with the goal of reducing off-target side effects. I have worked with clinicians at UNC as well at NC State’s College of Veterinary Medicine to set up cutting-edge drug delivery experiments and even learned how to perform rodent brain injections. My teaching experience has involved undergraduate research mentoring and tutoring high schoolers in foster care at the Hope Center on Pullen Road. I am also in charge of running the week-long Engineering Place summer camp put on by the biomedical engineering department for high schoolers to learn and solve challenging problems in our field.

What do you like the most about NC State? Or why did you choose to come to NC State?
I love how diverse the Raleigh area is and the friendly people I have met throughout my graduate career. Whenever I need help there is a resource on campus that can accommodate my needs. NC State has the perfect mix of academics, sports, and nightlife and my love for this school has grown bigger every day.

What is something that you have learned from The Graduate School’s professional development programs that you’re applying to your work or teaching?
The Graduate School’s professional development programs have helped me to organize my research ideas, hone my writing style, and have aided in my presentation skills. I have participated in the Accelerate to Industry™ program to learn about getting an industry job as well as attended writing workshops. From the Graduate School’s resources, I have learned how to create an eye-catching resume, portray confidence to industry recruiters, and logically explain my research to people from different backgrounds.

Can you tell us a fun fact about yourself?
Along with the research I am doing, I am fascinated by small sea organisms and am starting a nano reef tank. I am learning how to obtain proper water conditions and eventually want to get seahorses in my tank! I also enjoy playing volleyball, scrapbooking, and cooking.


March 13, 2019 | Yunkai “Kai” Xiao

Yunkai “Kai” Xiao is a Ph.D. student in Computer Science. His research involves using data science to improve student learning outcomes. As part of the Teaching and Communication certificate program, he designed a course that would teach programming through the hands-on application of basic game design. One of his goals is to increase the accessibility of computer programming to a broader and more diverse group of students.

Kai Xiao
Yunkai “Kai” Xiao’s research involves using data science to improve student learning outcomes.

Can you tell us about your research/teaching experience?
I was a graduate assistant at UNC Wilmington for three years. I worked at the Institute for Interdisciplinary Identity Sciences (I3S Lab) on campus for two years doing computer vision research on faces as well as natural language processing. As a teaching assistant, I mentored lab sessions for around 200 students as well as doing office hours, grading, etc. for 400 students.

Currently, I am a Machine Learning and Natural Language Processing researcher in the Peer Logic Lab, and my research focus is educational data mining and using peer-review to enhance students’ learning experience and boost their performance.

What do you like the most about NC State? Or why did you choose to come to NC State?
The spark of ideas. There are so many people I can talk with, fellow Ph.D. students, lecturers and guests, almost every time I can come back with something learned or new research ideas.

Advanced topics. There are so many classes that would only be taught at universities of this scale. I found so many useful topics to fit into my limited schedule.

What is something that you have learned from The Graduate School’s professional development programs that you’re applying to your work or teaching?
The A2i program has revealed some true business insight and helped me reshape my perspective toward industry; this has helped me in my job search.

The Teaching and Communication certificate program made me aware of what to deliver to students, how to convey messages and clear expectations. This has helped me significantly in clearing up confusion between instructors and students as well as preventing potential disputes over grades.

New TA Workshop was a very useful event for incoming TAs; it addressed many things that really did happen in our work. I was able to deal with students violating rules in exams, asking for extra credit, as well as other issues.

Can you tell us a fun fact about yourself?
I spent a year raising cows and ducks in West Virginia while in a high school exchange program and received another high school degree.


March 7, 2019 | Madilynn McCollum

Madilynn McCollum is a Ph.D. student in the Wilson College of Textiles Textile Protection and Comfort Center whose research focuses on particulate blocking textiles. She received her Masters in Textile Chemistry also from the Wilson College in 2017. In addition to teaching within her department, Madilynn has supervised numerous undergraduate researchers and is one of six graduate students collaborating on her current project.

Madilynn McCollum
Madilynn McCollum is a Ph.D. student in the Wilson College of Textiles Textile Protection and Comfort Center.

Can you tell us about your research/teaching experience?
My current research as a part of the Textile Protection and Comfort Center (TPACC) focuses on cancer prevention for firefighters through the means of particulate blocking hoods. Cancer is very prevalent in the firefighting community due to the carcinogenic and toxic particles found in smoke and soot. My research involves the evaluation of these particulate blocking layers as particulate filters as well as the comfort trade-off of introducing another fabric layer into the burdensome firefighting ensemble.

I have been teaching at the Wilson College of Textiles as a Teaching Assistant since my first semester here and am now an Instructor of Record! I was first assigned to teach a textile wet processing lab and I am currently teaching an introductory fiber science course to all years and majors of Textile students.

What do you like the most about NC State? Or why did you choose to come to NC State?
I chose to come to NC State because of the state of the art Wilson College of Textiles. This college has the capacity to do basically any textile manufacturing process or test you need all under one roof! The technology available to students and the industry collaboration within the Wilson College of Textiles is truly incredible. I am so honored to have come here for graduate school working with such amazing faculty, staff, students, and industry partners!

What is something that you have learned from The Graduate School’s professional development programs that you’re applying to your work or teaching?
The Graduate School’s Professional development programs have immensely helped elevate my teaching as well as my professional resume. Through attending seminars and being a part of the Preparing the Professoriate program I have been able to keep my teaching up to date by implementing new activities and techniques. I have also learned how to market myself as a professional, learning crucial tips about the job search and the interview process. I know I will graduate as a more confident and knowledgeable researcher and professor because of The Graduate School’s programs.

Can you tell us a fun fact about yourself?
Every Thursday night I teach tap, hip hop, and jazz to dancers ages 3-13 at a dance studio in Cary!


March 1, 2019 | Chasity Skusa

Chasity Skusa is a Master’s student in the Department of Communication with a wide range of research interests in the general area of public relations. Chasity hails from Rennert, North Carolina, and completed her B.S. at UNC-Pembroke. She currently works as a senior marketing intern for a nonprofit specializing in equine assisted psychotherapy. She also owns her own photography business.

Chasity Skusa
Chasity Skusa works currently works as a senior marketing intern for a nonprofit specializing in equine assisted psychotherapy.

Can you tell us about your research/teaching experience?
My relationship with research can be summed up as “interested in everything and dedicated to nothing!” It’s true, since starting my graduate career at NC State I’ve had focuses on Divorce Communication, Near Miss Communication in connection to airplane safety and pedestrian crosswalk safety, Anthrax poisoning, The #MeToo Movement, USA Gymnastics and the Larry Nassar Scandal (one of my favorites), SlutWalks, Non-Profit Communication and I am currently working on an autoethnography. I come from a family of public school educators and administrators so deciding to teach was something I rebelled against for a long time. I’m not sure when it happened, but teaching now is the one thing in the world I want to do because of the change I know I can make in the way students see the world around them. I know that sounds cliché, but with the field of Communication growing so rapidly it is important that students in the discipline are taught to understand they have moral and ethical values to uphold for their society.

What do you like the most about NC State?
What I love most about NC State is the diversity that is found in the classroom. At times I’ve sat next to people in my classes from Russia, Africa, India, China, Singapore, Ethiopia, and the list continues; that moment is inspiring in and of itself. I am from a small Native American (Lumbee) community that has a population of 381 so you can imagine the lack of diversity. Meeting these people and learning how other cultures live has made me, a future instructor, swear to keep my classes as culturally inclusive as possible.

What is something that you have learned from The Graduate School’s professional development programs that you’re applying to your work or teaching?
I understand so much more about effectively communicating as an instructor from the Teaching and Communication certificate program offered by The Graduate School. I’ve learned about different types of students, how they learn, and even external factors that an instructor should take into account when introducing material to their students for the first time.

Can you tell us a fun fact about yourself?
I own my own Photography business, JC Photography, that I founded in 2016 when I was still in undergrad.


February 20, 2019 | Sugandha Singh

Sugandha Singh is a Ph.D. student in the Department of Civil, Construction and Environmental Engineering working in the field of Structural Dynamics. She is from Uttarakhand, India. She has participated in professional development activities such as the Teaching and Communication Certificate and Academic Packways. Sugandha is also VP of Academic Affairs in the Graduate Student Association where she coordinates and works with a committee to award grants to graduate students for their conference travel.

Sugandha Singh
Sugandha Singh is a Ph.D. student in the Department of Civil, Construction and Environmental Engineering.

Can you tell us about your research/teaching experience?
My research is in the area of earthquake engineering, specifically looking at how components within a structure respond to earthquakes in the Central and Eastern United States. I have been teaching the structural behavior lab for the past four semesters and each semester, I have learned something new from my students. It has been a very profound experience to teach at NC State which has prepared me well for my future career as a professor in India.

What do you like the most about NC State? Or why did you choose to come to NC State?
NC State is where my life took me as a master’s student but in the last 4.5 years, my love for NC State has only increased and mostly because of the people I have met as a graduate student. Everyone is trying to help each other as much as they can. I believe that the support I received from my peers at NC State is going to help me succeed in the future.

What is something that you have learned from The Graduate School’s professional development programs that you’re applying to your work or teaching?
I have learned a lot from a variety of professional development programs offered by the Graduate School. Most importantly, through the Teaching and Communication Certificate, I first got the confidence that I needed to teach well in my class. I learned different teaching techniques and I apply most of them in my class and sometimes in the presentations I give. Since I plan to go into academia in the future, these techniques will also help me to develop my courses and teaching style. Moreover, I also got a lot of help in preparing my application materials for applying to jobs which is one of the hardest tasks after we graduate.

Can you tell us a fun fact about yourself?
I am an amateur photographer and am slowly developing my skills by taking photos in and around Raleigh but mostly of my little puppy, Penny. I have managed to get four of my photos to be digitally exhibited in various exhibitions in Europe and very recently got a photo published in one of India’s biggest national newspapers. However, I like to take photos only as a hobby; my passion will always be in teaching.


February 11, 2019 | Lyniesha Wright

Lyniesha Wright is a Ph.D. student in the Department of Chemistry. Her research area is chemistry education and she has extensive teaching experience both as a teaching assistant at NC State and as a high school teacher. In “They’re Just a Little Bit Taller,” her contribution to The Mole Storytelling Jam at the Biennial Conference on Chemical Education 2018, Lyniesha tells a story that compares her experience as a new teacher of physics, biology, and chemistry with that of a graduate student teaching assistant.

Lyniesha Wright
Ph.D. student Lyniesha Wright’s research area is chemistry education.

Can you tell us about your research/teaching experience?
My research combines chemistry with the science of teaching and learning. I use educational research to design materials to better enhance undergraduate chemistry students’ visualization of molecular concepts. With a focus on spectroscopic techniques, I create physical or augmented models for students to interact with. One of the best parts of my research is that I can incorporate it into the classroom as a teaching assistant to obtain a firsthand understanding of the success of the approach.

What do you like the most about NC State? Or why did you choose to come to NC State?
I chose NC State because my advisor, Dr. Maria Oliver-Hoyo, is a champion in the field of chemistry education. I love that NC State has so many resources for students to tap into. If you want to improve upon or learn a new skill there is likely a class or workshop here that will teach you how.

What is something that you have learned from The Graduate School’s professional development programs that you’re applying to your work or teaching?
The great thing about these programs is that they attract students from different colleges and departments. During the workshops, we exchange papers, observe others’ presentations, and give feedback. Not only has this improved my work and opened my perspective, but it has also helped my teaching become more interdisciplinary. I can often incorporate things I have learned from others into the work I am doing.

Can you tell us a fun fact about yourself?
As an undergraduate student, I did a sustainability internship in Panama where I lived in a rancho in the rainforest without electricity or running water for 11 weeks. It was the best summer of my life.


February 5, 2019 | Dylan White

Dylan White is a Ph.D. student in the Department of Marine, Earth, and Atmospheric Sciences whose research focuses on tropical meteorology. In addition to teaching labs within his program, Dylan has collaborated on a teaching module for the Statistics department and regularly shares his LaTeX expertise with others. Dylan is a North Carolina native who will begin his career by working for the federal government.

Dylan White
Dylan is a Ph.D. student in the Department of Marine, Earth, and Atmospheric Sciences.

Can you tell us about your research/teaching experience?
My research is on tropical meteorology, specifically on large weather systems over tropical Africa. I’ve taught a few upper-level lab courses at NC State, and that was actually pretty scary at first because I had never actually taken the course I was teaching! But I’ve learned a lot about how to teach students through that experience and through the Teaching and Communication certificate program. I think now I prefer teaching to doing research.

What do you like the most about NC State? Or why did you choose to come to NC State?
I actually went to NC State for my undergraduate degrees as well, and I stayed for graduate school in a different department. I love NC State! It’s perfectly geographically located next to the coast and mountains, Raleigh is a great city, and the university has a lot to offer. As a graduate student, I really value the focus on professional development. It is so often portrayed that a graduate student is simply a tool to earn the school more published research, but at NC State I feel like the school is investing in me as much as I am in it.

What is something that you have learned from The Graduate School’s professional development programs that you’re applying to your work or teaching?
I’m definitely over-simplifying, but if I could sum up everything I’ve learned from The Graduate School’s professional development programs, I would say it is to keep everything clean and simple. Whether it’s teaching, professional documents, or even just professional conversations, this has been the best approach for me. I used to have a tendency to make things flashy or to try to demonstrate my capabilities when I was in these professional settings, but it always came across in the most abrupt and jarring way possible. Now, I find that taking it easy and keeping everything tidy, organized, and simple communicates my point in a much more elegant and understandable way. Some people do a great job at combining complexity and efficient communication, but that just isn’t me.

Can you tell us a fun fact about yourself?
In a little under a year, I will be moving to Virginia to start my first job for my career! I still have no idea what I want to do when I grow up, but I’m looking forward to learning new things and applying what I have learned. It’s also the perfect time to get a second dog, and that’s really what I am looking forward to the most.

Leave a Response

Your email address will not be published. All fields are required.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.