By Debbie Willmschen

Seonyoung Youn, recipient of the 2021-2022 Provost’s Fellowship, joins the fiber and polymer science (FPS) program as a doctoral student at the NC State Wilson College of Textiles. Originally from South Korea, Youn received her Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from The New School Parsons School of Design in New York City and her Master of Science in Textiles from Seoul National University.

Youn shared more about her research plans and how the Provost’s Fellowship will provide support during the first year of her doctoral studies.

Wilson College: What led you to select Wilson College for your doctoral work?

Youn: I have a dream to contribute to the field of FPS. In choosing Wilson College, I am following the path of other successful alumni who became professors, researchers and innovators through this program. Looking at the career paths of NC State alumni who I inspire me, I discovered that an education at the internationally renowned Wilson College FPS program is common among all of them. And I want to follow in their footsteps and conduct excellent research achievements myself.

Wilson College also has exceptional research equipment for doctoral research, such as the Model Manufacturing Facility. I worked with this equipment before and am looking forward to the possibilities of what this facility can do. 

Finally, the diverse and prestigious Wilson College faculty in the fiber science fields will make it possible for me to conduct quality convergence and integration research. I’m excited to connect with other Ph.D. candidates as well as professors with similar interests.

Wilson College: Talk a little about your research and how you first became interested in this area of study.

Youn: I studied fashion design at The New School’s Parsons School of Design in New York City. After graduating, I wanted to stay within the fashion industry, so I interned at the headquarters for Uniqlo — a Japanese retail clothing company. As an assistant designer at Uniqlo, I participated in seminars related to functional textiles as well as lightweight high-tech textiles. And after learning more about high-tech textiles, I decided to continue my education by pursuing my masters in textile science at Seoul National University.

While working on my master’s degree, I met Dr. Chung Hee Park — a prominent researcher in the area of functional textiles — who later became my advisor. It was during my master’s research that I discovered my passion for developing functional and smart textiles to fit everyday life. My research interests fall into two main categories: 1) developing functional, comfortable and sustainable materials and 2) improving 3D virtual programs and textile simulation. I look forward to learning more and contributing to this field during my time at Wilson College.

Wilson College: How will the Provost’s Fellowship provide support during this journey?

Youn: With my financial burden reduced, I plan to concentrate on my studies during my doctoral journey so that I can conduct outstanding research. And I hope to give back during my time here by teaching other students, especially undergraduates, and by representing NC State and Wilson College in research findings and publications.

Wilson College: What advice would you give to other incoming doctoral students for ways to seek support or become involved at Wilson College?

Youn: I would tell incoming students, “Don’t limit yourself, and take full advantage of opportunities that are provided.” Because of the partnerships that NC State has with other universities as well as professional industries in the area, Wilson College provides a unique atmosphere for its students to collaborate with people from diverse fields. My advice is to look outside your bubble and take all the opportunities offered to you.

Wilson College: As you begin this journey, do you have expectations or hopes for your long-term career goals?

Youn: I want to be a professor in academia so that I can light a fire for functional and sustainable textiles in the next generation. My diverse experiences thus far — from global fashion design companies to testing institutes to nonprofit textile associations — has impacted my understanding of research greatly. And I hope to continue to add more experiences and use these experiences to teach others how to conduct research in practical ways. 

Our world is constantly changing, and I see the environment taking a hit for many of our actions, including those from the fashion industry. My long-term career goal is to improve technology processes within the textile industry to positively impact the global industry in an effort to protect the environment.