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Pursuing Their Passions

Close-up of block "S" that marks an entrance to main campus.

The hundreds of first-year and transfer students entering our college this year have a challenging journey ahead of them as they navigate new experiences in the midst of a pandemic, but they’re ready to make the most of every moment.

In addition to feeding their passions for scientific discovery and research, these students are excited to cross disciplinary boundaries and cultivate their interests in the arts, athletics and culture. Many are also passionate about serving others and improving their communities.

Meet four of the newest members of our college, and find out what drives them.

First-Year Class Profile

Trinity Taylor

Trinity Taylor

From a young age, Trinity Taylor saw the power in physics.

“It has always struck me as a subject that makes the impossible possible,” the physics major said. “I would watch astronauts float in microgravity like superheroes, and general relativity seemed to make time travel and teleportation come to life.”

To help other students see magic in science, too, the Greensboro native and recipient of the college’s J. Richard Mowat Memorial Scholarship started the STEAM Dream Fair last year through her high school. The fair, which Taylor started as a Girl Scout project, aims to teach children the interdisciplinary relevance of each part of STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics) so they can gain a new appreciation for disciplines that might be less familiar to them.

As someone who enjoys exercising her creative side through dancing, drawing and crafting, Taylor understands that appreciation for science can grow when students see how STEM subjects connect to other things they’re passionate about. “For example, a student who enjoys music but doesn’t see how math is relevant to their interest may gain a new appreciation for math and science after learning about sound wave physics,” Taylor said.

Taylor also grew her interest in science through the North Carolina Science Olympiad program at her school. She joined to participate in the astronomy event, but grew to love everything about the program, including events in protein modeling and geologic mapping.

When it came time for her to look for a university where she could combine her scientific and artistic interests, NC State seemed like a natural fit.

“NC State provides so many opportunities to explore both the sciences and the arts, even if they aren’t necessarily part of your major,” Taylor said. “The Makerspaces, Crafts Center, and arts clubs and performances all make NC State the perfect environment for me to engage in both critical thinking and self-expression.”

She also hopes she can continue to expand STEAM Dream during her time here. “I’m hoping to use resources available on campus, like the Career Development Center, Entrepreneurship Garage, and Leadership Development Program, to help me grow the program,” Taylor said. “I want to make it more widely accessible so even more students can engage in interdisciplinary learning.”

Jesus Vina Moreno

Jesus Vina Moreno

When Jesus Vina Moreno stepped off a plane from the Dominican Republic almost four years ago after his family moved to the United States, adjustment — to everything from the colder climate to the language — became his norm. He knew he wanted to go to college, and eventually medical school, so he dove right in.

“I knew only basic English, so when I got here, I started studying on my own,” Vina Moreno said. “I used Duolingo and watched videos, TV shows and movies in English — anything that could teach me.”

He also got plenty of practice as he worked and took classes at Gaston College. “I was scared of trying, and it was really difficult at times,” Vina Moreno said. “But I did it.”

Adjustment quickly turned to thriving. Less than four years after he taught himself English, he graduated from Gaston College’s SPARC program, which supports STEM scholars, with an Associate in Science degree and a diploma in biotechnology — as well as a 4.0 GPA.

Now, he’s entering NC State as a transfer student in biological sciences and a recipient of the Goodnight Scholarship, the university’s most prestigious STEM scholarship. He knows that the Goodnight program will help him in ways that extend beyond financial support.

“With the great community and all the leadership and mentoring opportunities, I know the Goodnight program is going to boost me up and help me do better,” Vina Moreno said.

His mother — a doctor whom he calls an inspiration — and a serious battle with dengue fever as a child led him to choose medicine as his career path. “I was so grateful for the people who didn’t give up on helping me when I was sick, and I want to do the same for someone else,” Vina Moreno said.

He wants to become a neurologist so that he can help people with Myotonia congenita, a minor muscular condition that he’s had since birth, and similar conditions. He can’t wait to dive into research at NC State to start learning more about the field.

“If I’m doing research about something I’m affected by, then I’m ahead of the game,” he said. “I’m too curious to stand by and not do anything.”

Transfer Class Profile

Katherine Cherry

Katherine Cherry

Katherine Cherry’s dream is taking her under the sea — and outside her comfort zone.

The native of Lexington, Kentucky, became interested in sea creatures on childhood vacations to places like Mexico, the Caribbean and Puerto Rico. “We would spend most of the day snorkeling, so I was always in the water,” she said. “I got to swim with nurse sharks, sea turtles, dolphins and stingrays, and observing those creatures made me want to learn more about them.”

But Cherry knew that she would have to leave her landlocked state to fulfill her dream of attending a university with a strong marine science program. Enter NC State, which she first visited on a driving tour of East Coast schools with her mother.

“I just really fell in love with NC State and knew that I wanted to go here,” Cherry said. “It has a STEM focus that was unlike any other school I visited, and I love that.”

Cherry says that receiving the prestigious Park Scholarship, a full-tuition four-year scholarship awarded to students with outstanding academics, leadership, service and character, meant her dream could become reality. “Out-of-state tuition is expensive,” Cherry said. “This scholarship made it financially possible for me to major in what I love and is also helping me build a community at NC State right away.”

Community and service are extremely important to Cherry, who has been a volunteer and member of Al-Anon/Alateen, a nonprofit organization that supports families of alcoholics. She hopes to start a chapter at NC State to support other students in the same position. She has also helped her school raise money for DanceBlue, which supports the University of Kentucky Markey Cancer Center.

Cherry is also a published author who graduated from her high school’s Literary Arts magnet program, as well as another one in pre-engineering. “I started writing as an outlet for my thoughts and feelings,” Cherry said. “It’s also helped make my scientific and research papers stronger.”

She hopes to put these skills to work quickly in a research lab on campus. Her major’s concentration is in geology, but she hopes to explore all the possibilities the field — and NC State — offers to students. “I’m excited to get out of my shell and experience something totally new,” she said.

Max Bhuiyan

Max Bhuiyan

Max Bhuiyan sees more than numbers in mathematics.

“Mathematics is beautiful and the most versatile language in the universe,” Bhuiyan said. “It’s the language by which we understand the universe and the possibilities of computation, and it has applications in computer science, statistics, physics and so many other areas.”

His love for math made his choice of major easy. But as a resident of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, who was considering North Carolina universities after his father moved to the state for his job, Bhuiyan had to do more work to choose a school. NC State’s strong mathematics program quickly moved it to the top of the list.

Receiving a scholarship in the College of Sciences helped solidify his decision. “The Gould Family Scholarship in the Solomon Scholars Program is easing the financial burden on my family so I can attend a university with a great mathematics program,” Bhuiyan said.

At NC State, Bhuiyan is excited to expand his mathematical knowledge — and prepare to pursue a doctoral degree — through undergraduate research. “I’m interested in creating mathematical models of all types of algorithms and systems via graph theory or systems of differential equations,” he said.

In addition to math, volunteering for causes close to his heart is also important to Bhuiyan. During high school, he traveled to middle and elementary schools across Baton Rouge to educate students about science, technology, engineering and mathematics careers with his school’s STEM Club and also volunteered with the Knock Knock Children’s Museum, the Louisiana Book Festival and the Walk to End Alzheimer’s.

Bhuiyan is ready to fully dive into NC State life. “I’m excited to meet people through student organizations who share my interests, like chess, paintball, fencing and aikido, and love math and science almost as much as me,” he said.

“I’m ready to take full advantage of all the opportunities I can at NC State.”

This post was originally published in College of Sciences News.