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Alumni and Friends

Five Questions with Process Engineer Ryan Barnes

Five Questions with Process Engineer Ryan Barnes, College of Natural Resources, Ryan Barnes, feature
Photo courtesy Ryan Barnes.

In 2016, Ryan Barnes graduated with degrees in paper science and engineering and chemical engineering. He’s now using the skills he gained from the College of Natural Resources as a process engineer for Cree Inc., a North Carolina-based manufacturer of semiconductor products for power and radio-frequency (RF) applications and lighting-class LEDs.

What is a typical day in your job like?

As a process engineer, a typical day for me is reporting to work and supporting my company’s manufacturing processes with technical knowledge and abilities. Every day, I am challenged to use my combined knowledge of math, engineering, science and even social skills to troubleshoot and correct problems in the factory.

When I am not putting out fires, I am using the same type of tools to work on continuous improvement type projects so that our operations continue to grow bigger and better into the future.

What inspired you to study paper science and engineering and chemical engineering?

I was initially drawn to paper science and engineering when I received an offer letter to double major in paper science and engineering and chemical engineering (with a scholarship to sweeten the deal) shortly after applying to NC State. The program really caught my attention when I attended an admitted student visitation day and had the pleasure of hearing Dr. [Med] Byrd and current students speak about the program. 

There aren’t too many things more entertaining than watching Dr. Byrd talk about paper with a twinkle in his eye. The genuine passion that he and the students showed toward the program and the promise of receiving hands-on education with 100% job placement after graduation inspired me to stick with the major.

What impact are you making through your position?

Through my position, I am doing my part to ensure that the products that we make meet customer expectations, are delivered on time and are manufactured safely. Accomplishing these three things allows my company to continue being successful and doing business in the future.

Also, as a minority group member, I believe my position and where I am today is an example of why diversity should be embraced and helps to break workplace stereotypes.

How did the College of Natural Resources prepare you for your current position?

The College of Natural Resources prepared me for my current position by constantly challenging me. The faculty, staff and even my peers acknowledged me for the things that I was good at, but more often I was challenged in the areas where I needed improvement. I think that this is important because in your career and life you won’t always be in a position to cherry pick your assignments and only do what you’re good at.

What advice do you have for current College of Natural Resources students?

The best advice that I can give to students is to study and work hard but to also give yourself some grace. The road to success is different for everyone. Some students will rise straight to the top and some, like me, will fall down more than a few times along the way. That’s okay. Pick yourself up, make a plan to get better, get help when you need it and keep pushing.