Alumnus Profile: Andreas Schmidt ’15
Eight years ago, Andreas "Andy" Schmidt was studying sensors in a Cox Hall lab under Prof. Leslie Sombers, his advisor. Let’s navigate with him along his path of success, from his first day at NC State University to his current job as a Digital Product Engineer at Sealed Air.
Q: Why did you choose the Chemistry Graduate Program?
A: After graduating from high school, I decided to enroll in the Undergraduate Chemistry Program at NC State University. I chose this institution due to its highly-ranked status and value for in-state students. In 2010, I received my B.S. in Chemistry with a minor in Chemical Engineering. Following my undergraduate studies, Professor Leslie Sombers encouraged me to further my education and pursue my Ph.D. in Analytical Chemistry under her supervision. I completed my Ph.D. in 2015.
The campus and Hillsborough Street have evolved tremendously over the years.
Q: What did you enjoy most about the Chemistry Graduate program?
A: Even though the Chemistry Program was challenging, I was always empowered by the positivity I perceived from my professors and colleagues. My excellent time on campus helped simplify the management of my time and tasks as a Graduate Student and Teaching Assistant. I loved being on-site, by Hillsborough Street. “The campus and Hillsborough Street have evolved tremendously over the years,” Andy says, “so I like to visit the area yearly and wander between the Talley Student Union, Centennial Campus, and the Main Campus, particularly the COX Hall, where my lab used to be.”
An Atmosphere of Diversity, Collaboration and Fun
In the lab, Andy was actively involved with his colleagues. The atmosphere was one of high diversity and collaboration, and the lab he worked at in COX Hall was isolated, with no other labs on the same floor. So Andy made many friends within his research group, especially with a student he used to play tennis with over the weekends. They shared the same passion for motorsports and kept in touch over the years. Andy also practiced soccer and with several students in the lab, they played on the same soccer team in the Triangle Adult Soccer League.
Andy remembers having a great and fun time every day in Prof. Sombers’ lab. They had the opportunity to engage in outreach programs, visiting schools and performing science experiments for students; for example, they would confection ice cream from liquid nitrogen and make fiery black carbon snakes rise from the ground.
When asked who the most influential people were during his time at NC State, Andy mentioned Prof. Sombers and her husband, Prof. McCarty to whom he is very grateful for their mentorship. In addition, Andy remembers very well Prof. Ghiladi, who taught him both in the Undergraduate and Graduate Programs. Andy learned from him how to work hard and have fun at the same time.
An Interesting Journey
Andy’s time at NC State has had an exciting impact on his professional journey. Prof. Sombers’ lab was interdisciplinary, and thus, her students in the Analytical Chemistry Program would collaborate with the Chemical Engineering and Biomedical Engineering Programs. This provided Andy with an extensive background, preparing him well for jobs with rotational positions that created exposure to different business units in an organization. On the other hand, Prof. Sombers’ lab developed solid industry connections, and thus, Andy ended up being hired by Sealed Air from the first day he graduated from college. He started working for a rotational program that went from working on sensors that measured neurotransmitters to working on sensors deployed in sanitizer dispensers and dishwasher machines. From there, he went to a more vision-based and digital space. Now, he works on machine vision and AI. In summary, Andy says, joking: “My path started with working in the Sombers lab on sensors, and now I work on robots. It’s been an interesting path.”
My path started with working in the Sombers lab on sensors, and now I work on robots. It’s been an interesting path!
To this day, Andy contributes to the Chemistry Graduate Recruitment Weekend at NC State every year by sponsoring a winning poster at the annual poster session or participating in the judging committee.
Q: Do you have any advice for our current and future chemistry students?
A: My number one advice to students is to try to sell their research and sell themselves simultaneously. Students often get caught up in the details of their work and forget that not everybody understands what they’re talking about. Students must learn to communicate their research in a language that anybody can understand. On the personal side, learning to sell themselves is essential, too. They know their research, so let them present it enthusiastically, be happy about it, and be proud of it. They must prove their capability of expanding and learning new things.
Be a Salesman for Yourself and your Research
Concluding the short but engaging conversation, Andy hoped that the chemistry department would maintain organizing frequent poster sessions and growing industry connections. He extended an invitation to contact him for potential job openings that would hire freshly graduated students. Andy added: “I would be happy to help!”