This PPE engineer is supporting the next generation of textile leaders
By Kamilah Heslop
Since stepping foot onto NC State’s campus more than 10 years ago, Cody Zane has found it nearly impossible to leave.
The three-time Wilson College of Textiles graduate proudly champions his alma mater every chance he gets. In addition to being a member of the Dean’s Young Alumni Leadership Council (DYALC), he serves as the co-chair of the DYALC’s Blend Mentorship Program’s committee. These leadership opportunities, which have also connected him to the North Carolina Textile Foundation, have empowered Zane to fulfill a passion of his: supporting students, especially graduate students, who are trying to find their footing.
“I find it so fulfilling to give back to the Wilson College of Textiles by being a part of the DYALC,” he says. “Thanks to this role, I have found ways to continue to connect with students and guide them on their own specific journeys.”
Since earning his bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees from the Wilson College, Zane has followed his professional interests and is now assisting clients to ensure their products meet critical safety standards before being placed on the market. This includes heavy-duty garments, such as firefighting, emergency medical services and technical rescue gear, used by individuals who battle through hazardous environments to save lives.
“I love focusing on application-based work and physical testing, which directly impacts the ability of our end users to do their jobs safely,” he says. “Many of those individuals are firefighters, military personnel and first responders. I’m inspired by their courage on a daily basis.”
To learn more about Zane’s journey, read his Q&A below.
Degree B.S. Polymer and Color Chemistry, 2015; M.S. Textile Chemistry, 2017; and Ph.D. Fiber and Polymer Science, 2020
Job Title Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) Engineer Project Associate, UL Solutions
Current City Morrisville, North Carolina
Hometown Montville, New Jersey
How did your education at the Wilson College of Textiles prepare you for what you are doing today?
Almost perfectly. I spent about three-and-a-half to four years with Assistant Professor Bryan Ormond in the Textile Protection and Comfort Center. We worked with the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) standards and personal protective equipment (PPE), with my dissertation focusing on firefighter turnout gear, which keeps them safe when interacting with fire and high-heat situations.
Today, I work at UL Solutions as an engineer project associate, also known as a project manager, certifying a myriad of PPE and NFPA standards. As a global leader in applied safety science, UL Solutions transforms safety, security and sustainability challenges into opportunities for our customers in more than 100 countries.
Why did you choose NC State and the Wilson College of Textiles?
Honestly, I fell into the Wilson College of Textiles. I was from New Jersey and had no idea about the college. Phillip Dail, the former director of advising for the Wilson College, emailed me one day before I was accepted to NC State, and he told me about this awesome degree called polymer and color chemistry (PCC). He told me it would open up more job opportunities than just a regular chemistry degree, so I agreed to add PCC as an alternate degree to my application.
The Wilson College gave me the family I was looking for, from lifelong friends to supportive staff, to quality professors who care about your education. The college felt like home, and I didn’t want to leave.
— Cody Zane ’15, ’17, ’20
While my story of why I chose NC State isn’t the most spectacular, I think the real question would be, “Why did I continue to choose NC State and the Wilson College of Textiles?”
The answer to that question is simple: family.
I was an out-of-state student, and I uprooted myself at a young age and had little support in the area. The Wilson College gave me the family I was looking for, from lifelong friends to supportive staff, to quality professors who care about your education. The college felt like home, and I didn’t want to leave.
What activities were you involved in as an NC State student and how did they impact your experience?
During undergrad, I was a resident advisor in Lee Hall for two years and then became a community assistant for two more after that. I was even the commissioner of the Residence Hall World Cup.
In graduate school, I became a mental health ambassador with the Counseling Center and led a charge on campus to better the mental health of graduate students. This led me to talk to a multitude of deans of other colleges, I met with the chancellor, and I even had the opportunity to do a TEDx Talk. The university gave me every opportunity to explore whatever I wanted, and with enough work, I was able to make something out of it.
What is your fondest memory of being at NC State and the Wilson College of Textiles?
There are two memories that I wouldn’t say are fond memories, but they very much made me realize how much of a home the Wilson College was to me. They are both about very personal things that occurred. These events shook me to my core, and I needed support immediately when they happened. On these two separate occasions, Professor Melissa Pasquinelli and Assistant Professor Bryan Ormond put everything aside, and they let me sit in their office for a few hours to talk about what was going on in my life. They also helped me find ways to get the help I needed.
I don’t think I realized it at the time, but I realize now that while their main job may be educators, they clearly saw their first job as being supportive mentors.
In what ways are you currently involved with the Wilson College of Textiles and NC State?
I am currently a member of the Dean’s Young Alumni Leadership Council (DYALC), and I serve as the co-chair of the DYALC’s Blend Mentorship Program’s committee. I work with my fellow graduate Morgan Cox Besterman ’15 and the North Carolina Textile Foundation (NCTF) to provide opportunities for students to connect with young alumni to figure out what they would like to do when they leave school.
As part of my desire to give back, I am also working with the NCTF to bring the Summer Textile Exploration Program (STEP) program to UL Solutions over the summer for tours. Additionally, I am working with the Graduate School to hopefully add UL Solutions as an industry partner to the Accelerate to Industry (A2i) program.
Have you been motivated to give back to the Wilson College of Textiles financially? If so, what led you to make that decision?
I give a small donation every year during the annual Day of Giving. I find it very fulfilling to give back to the Wilson College of Textiles by being a part of the Dean’s Young Alumni Leadership Council. I have also found ways to continue to connect with students and guide them on their own specific journeys.
Who influenced you the most during your time at the Wilson College of Textiles? And, why or how?
Professor Melissa Pasquinelli (who now serves as the associate dean of academic affairs in the College of Natural Resources) was the most influential professor I have ever had the opportunity to work with. During my freshman year, I told Dean David Hinks, who was my advisor at the time, that I wanted to do research and explore molecular simulations. He pointed me in the direction of Professor Pasquinelli, who I like to call Dr. P. From my sophomore year on, I continued to do research with Dr. P, and she was the co-chair of my master’s committee and a member of my Ph.D. committee. She is the main reason why I was able to get so far in academia. She saw in me what I never saw in myself.
Outside of that, Dr. P. asked me a question that became the single best piece of advice that I continue to use to this day: “What is the story?” Up until that point, I never considered academic writing to be a story. The second I started seeing things as a story, it made communication so much easier because, as she told me, people connect with a story much better than just numbers or random words slung together.
What was your favorite place on campus and why?
The Carmichael Gymnasium. After my first major depressive episode, I found the gym to be my place to relax and relieve the anxieties of my days. I didn’t realize how privileged I was to have the full complex at my fingertips: a pool, three gyms, an inside track, multiple fields and rental equipment, etc. Now that I live farther away from NC State, I yearn to have access to such a wide variety of exercises and equipment to help my mental health.
What advice do you have for current Wilson College of Textiles students?
Don’t blink! I was a part of the Wilson College of Textiles for almost ten years, and I still can’t believe how fast it went. Enjoy every second you are there and cherish the opportunities you have to be so close to friends. These will be the friends you will have for life, and regardless of the distance between you after college or graduate school, you will find a way to get together with them again and again because they mean that much to you.
To connect with Zane on LinkedIn, you can view his account here.
This post was originally published in Wilson College of Textiles News.