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Sisters Pursue Their Master’s Together at the Wilson College of Textiles

Emily Potok (left) and Laura Potok (right) stand on either side of a white sign that reads "Textiles Complex" at the Wilson College of Textiles campus.

By Elyse Boldizar

Sisters Emily and Laura Potok have always been close, but neither of them imagined they would end up pursuing the same field. After individually earning different dual-enrollment undergraduate degrees at NC State University and Meredith College, the sisters find themselves together again at the Wilson College of Textiles pursuing a master’s in textile engineering

Differing paths to the Wilson College

Laura Potok, who is younger by three years, has always had an interest in clothing. But it was not until watching her older sister pursue an engineering degree at NC State that she seriously considered textile engineering as a viable major.

“Emily was applying to colleges when I was in my first year of high school,” Laura Potok says. “She was looking into biomedical engineering and honestly, in ninth grade, I didn’t even know what that really meant. But she inspired me to look more into engineering. As I started looking at possible majors, I learned about textile engineering. The more I learned about it, the more I realized it was what I wanted to do.”

Both sisters ended up double-majoring through NC State’s dual-enrollment program with Meredith College. Laura Potok earned her undergraduate degrees in textile engineering at the Wilson College and chemistry at Meredith. Emily Potok studied biomedical engineering at NC State and mathematics at Meredith. 

Laura (left) and Emily (right) sit at a table with a black sweatshirt and embroidery tools.
“I would not be an engineer at all if it were not for Emily,” Laura Potok (left) says. Emily Potok is pictured on the right.

Emily Potok’s path to the Wilson College had a few more twists and turns. After earning her undergraduate degrees, Emily Potok went on to pursue a master’s degree in pharmaceutical science at Campbell University. It was in her last year of pursuing her master’s that she decided to make the switch to textiles.

“I did a research project where I did a lot of animal testing, which steered me away from the pharmaceutical field and made me realize it wasn’t for me,” Emily says. “I took a semester off and actually helped Laura study a lot during that time. I grew up doing sewing projects and always had an interest in textiles. Seeing Laura pursue textile engineering really spurred me to go back into textiles.”

Facing grad school together

The sisters say pursuing their master’s together has been an invaluable experience.

“I couldn’t imagine going to grad school without Emily,” Laura Potok says. “It truly has been the best experience. College is thirty times better knowing that you have somebody that understands everything you’ve gone through. Emily is my best friend, so it’s been great doing this with my best friend.”

This built-in support system has been especially valuable when it comes to difficult, late-night projects. Laura Potok remembers one long night in the design lab when the software they were using crashed multiple times.

“I really just wanted to close the computer and stop working on it, but Emily encouraged me to keep going,” Laura Potok says.

Emily (left) and Laura Potok (right) embroider a pink appliqué to a black sweatshirt.
Emily Potok (left) and Laura Potok (right) collaborating on one of their embroidered sweatshirts, which they are in the process of starting a business selling.

The only downside of going to the same college as a sister? Professors and classmates frequently mix the sisters up.

“One person thought that Laura’s name was Emily Laura Potok so they would reach out to me and be like, ‘Hey, Laura.’ And I’m like, ‘No, that’s not me.’” Emily Potok says.

What’s next?

Emily and Laura Potok will co-lead a section of NC State’s Imagine Engineering Camp for high schoolers as a way to encourage those students to get involved in textile engineering. 

The sisters are also in the early stages of starting a business making and designing hand-made holiday-themed sweaters, for which Laura Potok has become notorious. 

Both Potok sisters are passionate about textile engineering and are interested in product development and design after graduation. As they near their final months of graduate school, it is clear that they will not be alone in their pursuits. 

“Pursuing a master’s in textile engineering has been super helpful because you can really dive into the whole process, start to finish,” Emily Potok says. “And doing it with Laura has been the best part of it all.”

This post was originally published in Wilson College of Textiles News.

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