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Graduation to Vocation: Daniel Lucas is Enhancing Pulp and Paper Operations

Daniel Lucas - Graduation to Vocation: Daniel Lucas is Enhancing Pulp and Paper Operations - College of Natural Resources News NC State University

Daniel Lucas will graduate in December 2021 with a dual bachelor’s degree in paper science and engineering and chemical engineering, with a minor in business administration. Upon graduation, Lucas will begin work as a process engineer at International Paper in Georgetown, South Carolina.

We recently spoke with Lucas to learn more about how his time at NC State‚Äôs College of Natural Resources prepared him for a career in paper science and engineering. Check out what he had to say below.

How has the College of Natural Resources impacted you and prepared you for your future?

Without the resources that the college invests in helping students with career development and industry involvement, it would have been much harder for me to have the high-quality work experience that I do. I have three internships with International Paper and experience working with one of my professors over the summer. All of these experiences contributed greatly to my preparedness for the future by allowing me to apply the knowledge from my classes to meaningful work, and my role during my internships was very similar to what my full-time job as a process engineer will be. I cannot imagine being more prepared for wherever my career leads than I am now due to the impact of the College of Natural Resources.

What kind of research or other hands-on/in-the-field learning did you participate in?

I worked with International Paper three times while I was at NC State, twice in Georgetown, South Carolina, and once in Savannah, Georgia. These internships allowed me to gain a much deeper understanding of the paper-making process and to develop the skills needed to be a process engineer. They also improved my engineering skills overall, and I feel prepared for anywhere my career may lead. I also worked with one of my paper science and engineering professors on process modeling work last summer. This great opportunity improved my technical knowledge significantly and offered a unique way to see the way factors interact in a complicated system. All of these work experiences have made a lasting positive impact on my career readiness. 

What is unique about you or your work?

My process modeling work with Dr. Sunkyu Park provided a unique opportunity to work with industry experts and professors to improve the paper mill simulations used by the department. This work required me to understand many parts of the paper mill and how they interact with each other in a more detailed way than I had in the past. While there are many wonderful opportunities in the department for students to work on research and projects with professors, this experience was quite different from many that are available, given its focus on process simulation software. 

What motivated you to pursue your work?

I pursued my internships and my work with Dr. Park because they would help me develop skills that will be useful throughout my career, and I also enjoy working through the challenges that technical work like that presents. The problem-solving involved in many aspects of process engineering work is interesting and applicable to many fields and areas of life.  

What advice would you give students entering your major or field?

I think that one important piece of advice is to remember that no individual assignment or test, or even one class, makes or breaks your entire time in the program. It is easy to get anxious over a homework set or a project, but they are all just one of many that you will complete. It’s important to work hard and do your best, but it’s not the end of the world if you don’t get a good grade sometimes.