TECS alumnus, Brian Waters, has used his BS in Textile Chemistry (now Polymer and Color Chemistry) to go from LA Criminalist to professor of forensic medicine in Japan.
Name: Brian Waters
Degree(s) earned at NC State University: BS in Textile Chemistry*, 1998
Degree(s) earned at other institutions: MS in Criminalistics, California State University, Los Angeles, 2007
What company / entity do you currently work for? Fukuoka University, Faculty of Medicine, Department of Forensic Medicine
What is your current job title? Assistant Professor
What is the path that led you to your current job? In 1996, I got the opportunity to study in Japan as part of the NC State – Nagoya University exchange program. I spent 10 months in the Applied Chemistry Department of Nagoya University learning Japanese and chemistry/engineering related subjects. After returning to finish my senior year at NC State, I decided to go back to Japan as a part of the Japan Exchange & Teaching (JET) Program, an international exchange program funded by the Japanese government. I spent 2 years teaching English to Japanese high school students and participating in various international exchange events. While living in Japan I became interested in forensic science, specifically trace evidence (hair/fiber) analysis since that most closely related to my educational background, and I began to research graduate programs in forensic science/criminalistics. I ended up enrolling in a Master of Science in Criminalistics program at California State University, Los Angeles. Shortly after completing the 2-year program, I got a position as a Criminalist with the Los Angeles Department of Coroner-Medical Examiner. During my time in Los Angeles I never forgot Japan, and I constantly looked for opportunities to return. That opportunity came in 2011, when I was offered a position as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Forensic Medicine of Fukuoka University.
What are your significant job responsibilities? My job responsibilities include performing postmortem forensic toxicology analysis on human blood and tissue samples, teaching forensic toxicology and forensic medicine concepts to students of the Faculty of Medicine, teaching English to students of the Faculty of Medicine, and research of forensic toxicology and forensic medicine related subjects.
What experiences did you take from TECS that you can say helped in your career? The experience that has helped me the most is an education anchored in sound scientific concepts. The program at TECS is obviously geared for textile scientists, but the science is sound and robust and the concepts are thoroughly explained and can easily be applied to other scientific fields. Also of paramount importance were the strong leadership skills I learned from participating in professional groups like AATCC.
What are some of your fondest memories of being at NC State / TECS? NC State campus in the fall is a thing of beauty. That goes double for Centennial Campus. Regarding my time in TECS, I always loved the small classes because you could really get to know your fellow classmates and professors well. Those close relationships made studying for tests and doing group projects enjoyable experiences.
Do you have any funny/interesting anecdotes about your time in our department that you’d like to share? Dr. Beck’s senior research class was by far my favorite. I remember we would all crack up at his huge goggles. I also enjoyed my involvement with the American Association of Textile Chemists & Colorists. A2TC2, or PIZ2A as it was jokingly known because of how often we would have pizza at the meetings, was a great way to network with industry professionals and get introduced to the practical side of being a textile chemist.
Are there things that you know now that you wished you had known as a student and that we can share with our current and future students? I wish I would have taken more advantage of campus resources. There are so many great resources for students in the library and within the college.
What are the emerging areas that are (or will be) important in the workplace in this modern world thus impacting the soft and/or technical skills needed? Needless to say, the computer has and is continuing to change the way we work. The current trend is cloud computing, and eventually all of our work will be completely online and instantly shareable. It is important to be familiar with all the latest software from internet browsers to office software to smartphone apps, because even in the scientific realm of the chemist, everything is heading to the cloud and becoming more and more and more mobile. Also, these skills will help you to quickly learn and master instrument operation and data analysis software, which is a major part of being an effective scientist in this day and age.
Are you interested in forensic science? Check out NC State’s Forensic Sciences Institute.
* TECS no longer offers a BS in Textile Chemistry – it is now a BS in Polymer and Color Chemistry. Learn more about the PCC program.