Engineering student takes advantage of life in new country
KENNESAW, Ga. (Dec 13, 2019) — Growing up as a curious child in Nairobi, Kenya, Eric Nzuki never envisioned that his tinkering with homemade toys would ultimately set him on the path to study engineering. However, this month he will walk across the stage of Kennesaw State University’s Convocation Center with a degree in hand and numerous research accolades to his name.
“There are a lot of times that I say to myself, ‘How did I get here?’” said Nzuki, whose family immigrated to the U.S. when he was 16. “My parents sacrificed a lot by uprooting themselves for my siblings and me to have a chance at a better education. There was a time I didn’t think this was possible, but it’s been nothing short of rewarding.”
After finishing high school in Cobb County, Nzuki said he decided to study at Kennesaw State due to its proximity to home and the fact his father, a Coles College of Business graduate, had attended the institution. Eager to jumpstart his studies, he became an undergraduate research assistant under Simin Nasseri, professor of mechanical engineering, shortly after arriving as they designed software for manufacturing machines. He would later present his research at the 2019 National Conference for Undergraduate Research, which is the largest interdisciplinary event of its kind in the country.
It was through Nasseri that he became involved in KSU’s Society of Manufacturing Engineers (SME) student chapter, serving as chair of the organization credited as being among the most active nationwide. Throughout his academic career, Nzuki spent additional time lending his newly acquired knowledge to his classmates through the Odyssey Peer Mentoring Program and as an assistant in the Heat Transfer and Thermodynamics Lab under the late professor Erhan Ilksoy.
“I have known Eric for about four years now, and his relentless determination and willingness to take on new and challenging research has never ceased to amaze me,” Nasseri said. “Whether it’s through SME, directed study or independent research, he has demonstrated time and again that the skills he has acquired at Kennesaw State can take him far.”
While assisting Nasseri, Nzuki also completed an engineering co-op with Shaw Industries, where among several accomplishments, he led team that successfully executed a project that resulted in a cost savings of more than $750,000 per year.
Recently, he was invited to participate in the Summer Undergraduate Research in Engineering (SURE) program at the Georgia Institute of Technology. The 10-week program is designed to attract qualified under-represented students into graduate school in the fields of engineering and science. As part of the program, he conducted experiments in Georgia Tech’s Polymer Thin Film Processing Lab, culminating in a research project and presentation at the SURE Symposium in July 2019. His poster presentation earned him third place overall in his category. Encouraged by mechanical engineering professor David Veazie would later present his work at the STEM Innovators Louis Stokes Louis Stokes Alliances for Minority Participation (LSAMP) Conference, winning first place for oral presentation in the civil, mechanical and aerospace engineering category.
“Eric has shown potential to not only conduct cutting edge research, but to also communicate his work at professional meetings,” said Ian Ferguson, dean of the Southern Polytechnic College of Engineering and Engineering Technology. “He has shown a high aptitude of collaboration and leadership, skills that I believe will be of great use as he pursues his future career.”
Among his accomplishments, Nzuki said he is most proud to have participated in the University’s Honors Program, which helped build a sense of community. As a former Honors Ambassador, he was introduced to another mechanical engineering professor, Mahesh Gupta, as they studied the thermal properties of polymers.
“The Honors College was without a doubt one of my favorite parts of being at KSU student,” said Nzuki, who has accepted a job at Georgia Pacific. “The work was often challenging, but you are always rewarded for being curious.”
Photography by David Caselli
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A leader in innovative teaching and learning, Kennesaw State University offers undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degrees to its more than 41,000 students. With 11 colleges on two metro Atlanta campuses, Kennesaw State is a member of the University System of Georgia and the second-largest university in the state. The university’s vibrant campus culture, diverse population, strong global ties and entrepreneurial spirit draw students from throughout the region and from 126 countries across the globe. Kennesaw State is a Carnegie-designated doctoral research institution (R2), placing it among an elite group of only 6 percent of U.S. colleges and universities with an R1 or R2 status. For more information, visit kennesaw.edu.