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Micron School of Materials Science and Engineering News

Undergraduate Student Nick Carter

Nick Carter

Much of Nick Carter’s family is originally from the Boise area; however, Nick’s service with the military and, in his words, “being a military brat,” has allowed him to live in over twenty different locations. He applied for admission at Boise State University after leaving the military so he could return to Boise, the place he truly calls home. He already knew that Boise State was renowned for its materials science and engineering (MSE) program and he thought it might be a great fit for him. Nick is now working toward his bachelor of science in materials science and engineering and is gaining valuable lab experience at the same time.

Life Before Boise State

Nick’s quest for higher education began way before his military career. After high school, he was admitted to Colorado State University to study computer science. Nick transferred to Boise State shortly thereafter, and changed his major to business-finance. It did not take long for Nick to learn that immersing into a well-rounded college experience while working full-time is quite a challenge. He decided to stop taking classes and enter the workforce. Nick concluded that higher level employment opportunities were hard to obtain without a college degree or prior experience, so he joined the military to broaden his future employment opportunities.

Military life offers some unique learning opportunities. For example, Nick attended the Defense Language Institute in Monterey, California during his time serving our country. He studied Pashtu, which is an Indo-Iranian language spoken in Afghanistan and Pakistan. A few years later he took advanced courses at the National Security Agency and is now fluent in the language.

Serving our country can also introduce some unique challenges when it comes to immersing into life outside of the military. Many veterans feel a strong sense of camaraderie with fellow veterans, but may feel like they don’t belong in civilian life. As non-traditional students, many veterans view college as something outside of their lifestyle. Identifying social networks is vital to creating a sense of belonging. Finding resources that encourage veterans’ use of the GI Bill and other military benefits makes a significant difference in their transitioning into life after the military. Nick has successfully navigated these challenges and is now supporting fellow veterans so they can thrive in higher education.

Discovering Materials Science and Engineering

Nick’s goal after his military career was to continue his education. He had majored in computer science and business before he enlisted, but wanted to focus instead on some kind of engineering. Materials science and engineering focuses on researching, designing, and engineering new materials. It incorporates many aspects of physics, chemistry, and other engineering disciplines, which was appealing. “Sometimes materials science and engineering is labeled as the jack of all trades of engineering. I am very much a jack of all trades and a master of none,” says Nick. The opportunity to conduct research in the Micron School of Materials Science and Engineering allows Nick to master his varied interests in the sciences.

Learning by Doing

Nick is gaining some valuable hands-on experience in a research lab while he completes his bachelor of science degree. He is currently researching corrosion rates of heat-treated bearing steels for the aviation industry. Turbine bearings are often composed of various heat-treated metals. Working with Dr. Mike Hurley, Nick is using electrochemical testing to help determine corrosion rates for these metals. 

Nick has also gained experience with electrochemically depositing DNA origami structures onto boron implanted silicon substrates. This process may provide an improved technique for patterning wafers for the semiconductor industry. Nick proposed continuing this research in his senior project class and is now working with a group of students to further develop the process. The student research group will present their findings at the annual College of Engineering Senior Project Showcase in May.

Encouraging Involvement

Nick remains involved with the military by working with the Veterans Services program. Boise State partners with Peer Advisors for Veteran Education (PAVE,) a Military Support Programs and Services (M-SPAN) initiative. PAVE is a peer–to-peer program that connects incoming student veterans attending college on the Post-9/11 GI Bill with successful student veterans. Nick is happy to support his fellow veterans as a peer advisor. Based on his own experiences with military life and transitioning into higher education, Nick is able to provide solid guidance and ongoing support to incoming student veterans. We asked Nick what he recommends to current and prospective student veterans to promote their success. He said “Boise State has a great materials science and engineering program and, if you apply yourself, you will do very well. Try to get involved with research as soon as possible. You will learn a lot more in the lab compared to just taking classes.  The practical hands-on lab experience will be of great benefit when looking for a job later.”


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