RALEIGH, N.C. -- In 1954, the paper industry established a pulp and paper program at N.C. State in part to help man a pulp and paper industry boom in the southern United States. Students in this program were able to receive a B.S. degree in Pulp and Paper Technology (PPT). The students could also stay for one additional semester and receive a second B.S. in Chemical Engineering, a program feature then not available at any of the other schools offering paper science degrees. With strong regional support, an outstanding scholarship endowment, and this unique dual degree program, the NC State program began to establish itself as a dominant program in the United States. In 2004, this program became jointly administered by the College of Natural Resources and the College of Engineering, and its name was changed to Paper Science and Engineering. In 2005, the program became ABET accredited.
Aitana Blevins is a student in the program, and she shares some of her experiences at N.C. State.
-What attracted you to the Paper Science and Engineering program?
The hands-on classes and lab experiences. I vividly remember touring the paper machine pilot plant and thinking "I can't wait until the day I can run that machine!"
-Were you looking into pulp and paper when you were in high school?
Not at all. I only knew about mechanical engineering when I was in high school, but I am lucky that the Engineering 101 class exposed students to all the engineering majors offered at NC State.
-Tell us about the internships and/or co-ops you have had.
In Summer 2018, following my freshman year, I worked as an undergraduate researcher at NC State. I worked with Dr. Pal's research team in developing hand sheets made from various parts of banana plants to be used in farming development.
In Fall 2018 I worked for DuBois Chemicals in Niagara Falls, New York. It was a great experience to see what chemical sales entailed and get the chance to run trials on a recycled linerboard paper machine.
In Summer 2019, I returned to DuBois Chemicals, but worked in Crossett, Arkansas. I developed my engineering skills by developing trial plans and visiting a couple of mills in the Arkansas and Louisiana regions.
In Spring 2021, I worked for WestRock at the West Point, Virginia mill. I had the chance to work in the pulp mill and develop my lean six sigma skills.
In Summer 2021, I worked for Rovisys in Holly Springs, North Carolina as an engineering consultant. This was my first experience working with automation and information solutions, and it propelled me to get a certificate in process controls at NC State.
-What does this program mean to you?
The paper science and engineering program means growth to me. It is a place where I've made some of my best friends, mentors, and role models. It is also program that has allowed me to develop skills that I don't think I ever thought imaginable before I came to NC State.
-Where do you see yourself in five and 10 years, and what are your career aspirations?
In five years, I see myself working in the paper industry as an engineering consultant. At this stage in my career, I have a personal goal of visiting all the paper mills I can. So far, I've been to nine different mills, and I love seeing the different machinery.
I think of myself as a lifelong learner. In ten years, I would love to see myself develop new skills by learning another language and working abroad, or switching industries.
-What would you recommend to anyone who might be interested in getting into pulp and paper?
Pulp and paper is one of the most exciting fields to be in. It's sustainable, it's global, and the career options are limitless. I highly recommend reaching out to the NC State pulp and paper program for a tour or information session if you'd like to start your pulp and paper journey.
-Please tell us what year you are in the program, your hometown, and anything interesting you might do in your free time.
I'm a super senior in the paper science and engineering program and I'm from Greensboro, North Carolina. When I'm not in class, you can find me biking around Raleigh or writing reviews on local restaurants and breweries.