Each semester, the Environmental Sciences Academic Program highlights alumni who represent the diverse and involved alumni population that graduated from our program. This semester the spotlight focuses on, Jerry Guo.
Focal Area: Biochemistry
Graduation Date: May 2014
1. How did your experience at NC State help you find a job after graduation? What initial steps did you take when you were looking for a job?
I was linked to my current employer, RTI International, through an unpaid undergraduate internship position they posted on the university websites. I remembered that Erin sent a batch email to the ES students reminding us to look into the opportunity if interested. I applied for the position and received the offer to intern at RTI during my final semester, and was offered a full-time position after graduation.
Sometimes, an internship position could be an important beginning of your career – this allows your employer and yourself to know more about each other and see if this is the best fit. We have quite a few coworkers at RTI who followed this approach to become a full-time employee. So please do use the resources wisely and pay attention to the opportunities around you. Career fairs, ePACK, and the various programs and activities on campus may get you very well started.
2. Did having a degree in ES and your focal area open the door to more opportunities than you initially expected?
I believe so. I majored in biochemistry for about 2 years before joining the ES program, thus kept it as my focal area. I personally felt that the combination of environmental science and biochemistry prepared me very well for my current job as an environmental scientist in the Air Quality Engineering group. Here we deal with both the technical and regulatory aspects of air pollution control, energy planning, health risk assessment, policy development, etc. As you all know, environmental science is a multi-disciplinary major that provides great coverage and flexibility. It provides a real “big picture” and you can dive into almost everything you are interested in to get more detailed knowledge.
3. If you decided to not continue your education upon graduation, do you plan to return to school? If yes, what do you plan to study?
I love campus life so do not hesitate to get back to school at all. Given my past education and work background, I could continue my education in various fields such as environmental engineering, chemistry and chemical engineering, meteorology, and even social sciences. This continues our conversation in the previous question – given the nature and degree setup of the Environmental Science Program, you can really do a lot more things than you would expected.
4. Name a class you took at State that you took the most away from?
To be honest, I learned a lot from every single course at State. Each course provides unique perspectives to help you “pull the puzzle together”. Do not ignore anything since you might need it sometime in your future career.
5. While you were at State what was your biggest challenge?
The biggest challenge I had was the transition from school to the real world. In my opinion, you will need to obtain sufficient knowledge and skills to meet the perspectives of the industries and ensure a successful career before graduating from the university. This is why the majority of courses and labs at State are challenging. Through these courses, NC State teaches us how to think and do so we can get ready and be better off when competing with other candidates. So do not freak out or get frustrated – I’m sure you will appreciate the efforts made during these 4 years.
6. What major piece of advice would you give to the Freshman class?
To our future world-class environmental scientists: Congratulations! I am so glad that you’ve made one of the most important decisions in your life to join us in the Environmental Science Program at NC State. Get exposed to various courses and expand your knowledge in those fields. Be sure to pay attention to everything you learn, as those will help you get prepared no matter what path you would take. Stay connected to your advisors and peers who will provide you essential support and resources. Be open to all kinds of opportunities and try them out to find whatever that fits you the best. I’m sure that your experience in the next 4 years will help set a firm foundation for the success in your future career.
7. Why did you decide to be apart of the ES program? What attracted you to it?
As mentioned above, I changed my major from biochemistry to environmental sciences. I liked the setup of the courses which allows you to get to know every aspect of environmental science and pick your most favorite part as the focal area. Also, there were specific degree requirements of internship and external learning experience that allow you to explore what the actual careers might look like before graduation.