Double Major in Textile and Chemical Engineering Named Astronaut Scholar

Written by Elena Durvas

Sam Jasper, a senior and double major in textile engineering and chemical engineering, recently was named an Astronaut Scholar and received a $10,000 scholarship from the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation (ASF) for the 2016-17 school year. This year, Jasper is one of 40 Astronaut Scholars from universities nationwide.

Nominated in March by Dr. Xiangwu Zhang, professor and director of graduate programs in the Department of Textile Engineering, Chemistry and Science (TECS), Jasper is the 25th recipient from NC State and the second from the Wilson College of Textiles.

Astronaut Scholars are students who are immersed in nearly every frontier of science, according to the ASF. For Jasper, that frontier combines the disciplines of both chemical and textile engineering. “It was really due to my interests coming out of high school in both applied chemistry, but with a textile aspect as well,” Jasper said. “Merging both of those fields was something I was really interested in.”

According to Dr. Jerome Lavelle, associate dean of academic affairs in the College of Engineering, as of last year, more than 450 students are double majors that include engineering or computer science, which represents about six percent of the College’s majors.

“In order to succeed in two engineering degree programs, such as Sam has, takes planning, motivation, and hard work,” Lavelle said. “But mostly it takes a singular dedication to that endeavor.”

Jasper’s undeniably impressive undergraduate career is worth mentioning, considering that it contributed to his well-deserved receiving of this scholarship. An undergraduate research opportunity, Jasper worked last summer alongside Dr. Zhang on lithium-ion batteries, under the direction of graduate student Jiadeng Zhu.

“My specific research was in nanodevelopment and developing new and novel materials that will have high energy capacity and long cycle life,” said Jasper. “We were really looking at not only the molecular level but at the long term results as well.”

Eventually, Jasper was able to present his research at the NC State Summer Undergraduate Research Symposium, representing his work with Zhang, an Inaugural University Faculty Scholar in the Wilson College of Textiles.

Along with his research, Jasper has contributed to several scientific publications including book chapters and peer-reviewed publications. According to Dr. Warren Jasper, Sam’s father and head of the Textile Engineering (TE) program of the Wilson College of Textiles, Sam’s participation and outputs of undergraduate research is one of a number of reasons why he thinks Sam won the award.

“The TE program gives students an opportunity to mentor and work with faculty and get research experience, and I think that helps for these sorts of awards,” said Dr. Jasper. “Take advantage of the opportunities and the faculty and the resources and just go for it.”

According to Jasper, “TE provides a lot of general engineering courses like statics, circuits, and solids that have been really useful and make me a more well-rounded engineer and better problem solver..”

Throughout his undergraduate career, Jasper credits his success to undergraduate research, small class sizes, and state of the art faculty he could engage one-on-one with. In addition to his extensive work with Dr. Zhang, Jasper also recognizes Dr. Melissa Pasquinelli as a vital mentor and professor. Pasquinelli is an Associate Professor in Fiber and Polymer Science, Textile Engineering, and Polymer and Color Chemistry at the Wilson College of Textiles.

Jasper is expected to be recognized formally as an Astronaut Scholar by the ASF sometime this fall. The details of that ceremony are to be announced. Until then, along with the College of Engineering, the Wilson College of Textiles congratulates and celebrates Jasper’s achievements and his selection as an Astronaut Scholar.