When Matthew Burroughs graduated from NC State earlier this month, he became the third sibling in his family to graduate from NC State’s Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering (CBE), the third to receive the department’s Senior Award for Scholarly Achievement, and the third to start a Ph.D. program in chemical engineering.
But he wasn’t always set on that path. Burroughs knew from a young age that he wanted to do something with biology. After meeting with Dr. Lisa Bullard, teaching professor and director of undergraduate studies in CBE, he realized that he could pursue his interest in biology while building his problem-solving and mathematical skills — and he decided to follow the family trend.
“Everybody says, ‘Oh, three chemical engineers, you guys are like clones.’ But honestly our interests are totally different, we just all came together in the same major. Our training might be the same, but as far as what we want to do career-wise or what area we want to get involved with, it’s totally different,” he said.
Burroughs will begin a Ph.D. program at the University of Texas at Austin this fall. His sister Mary graduated from NC State in 2012 and received her Ph.D. from Princeton University last year. His brother Michael graduated from NC State in 2015 and is in his fourth year of a Ph.D. program at the University of California at Santa Barbara. The siblings have a younger brother, Mason, who will be starting at NC State in the fall. He doesn’t plan to major in chemical engineering, although he hasn’t ruled out other engineering degree options.
While Matthew Burroughs’ time on campus did not overlap with either of his older siblings, he could still rely on them for advice or guidance when he needed it.
All three share memories from their time in CBE, especially about which exams were difficult or the different quirks that professors had. He said they all remember staying up until 3:30 a.m. working on assignments for CHE 330: Chemical Engineering Lab I.
“I didn’t realize how much of an impact my siblings had on the department. I always knew they were good students, but some of the professors who remembered them, the ones they talked about back at the dinner table at home, they sought me out to say hello,” Burroughs said. “And there’s definitely a family resemblance, so it’s not too hard to put two and two together with the last name.”
During his undergraduate years, Matthew pursued the biomolecular concentration within CBE, where he continued to foster his passion for biotechnology. He also worked as an undergraduate research assistant for three years in Dr. Balaji Rao’s lab, conducting research in the field of protein engineering.
Burroughs is looking forward to starting his graduate program in a completely new environment, but he is thankful for the bond that he has formed with his siblings and for the ways in which they helped him acclimate in his department — and he knows he can still ask for guidance as he begins his graduate studies.
“I took a lot of pride in the fact that my siblings were such good students, and they set a nice foundation for me,” he said. “If anybody ever said, ‘Oh you’re just like your siblings,’ I took that as a compliment, because I look up to them a lot.”