Skip to main content
Student Success

Chemistry and Community: Undergraduate Students Gain Experience with the American Society of Textile Chemists and Colorists 

PCC students in the dyeing and finishing lab hold screen printed tote bags and t-shirts.

Headquartered in the Research Triangle Park, the American Association of Textile Chemists and Colorists (AATCC) is a driving force of innovation, testing and education that connects all aspects of the textile and material industries. AATCC’s NC State chapter, founded in 1930, has found a perfect home as a student organization at the Wilson College of Textiles. 

Passion for polymers

David Speckhart, a junior studying polymer and color chemistry (PCC) with an American Chemical Society (ACS Certified) concentration, is president of NC State’s AATCC chapter. Originally interested in medical school, PCC appealed to him because of its highly interdisciplinary applications, and he now plans to pursue a career focused on dye and finish chemistry.

“I had no idea what I was getting myself into, but I found that I love it. Textiles and dyes and all the chemistry, I didn’t realize how complex it is but it’s really cool how all of it combines together,” Speckhart says.

As members, students can take advantage of a plethora of resources, including access to scholarships, one-on-one mentorship programs and the annual AATCC Textile Discovery Summit, where Dean David Hinks recently presented as keynote speaker

 “It’s very helpful meeting alumni that have followed the same path as you. That’s the main thing that has helped me professionally,” Speckhart says.

A group of students in front of Underwriters Laboratories.
Members of AATCC visit Underwriters Laboratories in Research Triangle Park.

Kat Watford, a senior also in PCC with an ACS certified concentration, is the current vice president of AATCC at NC State. An accidental discovery of the program showed Watford how she could perfectly combine her passions for science and creating art.

“I was touring NC State and found PCC, which was exactly what I wanted to do,” Watford shares. “I always have loved the science behind art, whether it be paints, inks, how different fibers are dyed, yarns are made, all of that.”

Creating connections and community

Along with invaluable opportunities for professional growth, the chapter also prioritizes building community and meeting NC State students with similar interests. 

“Last semester was a lot of fun. We went to the college’s Pilot Plant and did screen printing together as a club,” Watford shares. “We try to have a nice mix of having professionals and guest speakers come in, while also having fun activities. Another one was learning to knit.”

A group of students in the Pilot Plant watch Sophie Frain give a demonstration.
AATCC students stop by the Pilot Plant to screen print shirts.

While many members of the AATCC chapter study PCC, textile engineering and textile technology, the organization is open to any student with a passion for chemistry, sciences and textiles. 

“There’s a big focus on textile chemistry and supporting the science side of the textile world,” Watford says. “But there’s plenty of us on the fashion side as well because they naturally go hand-in-hand. AATCC really just allows us to specialize and support each other.”

The AATCC chapter at NC State is composed of both undergraduate and graduate students, which allows members to expand their network and learn about the countless applications of the sciences in both research and industry. 

“I’m always excited to learn about more textile chemistry,” Watford shares. “We’re getting access and exposure directly to the textile industry. You get connections, a ton of really helpful people to network with and get feedback about what worked for them.”