Meet Chris Oldham
Chris Oldham seems like a born Wolfpacker -- if it weren't for the fact that he is originally from Washington State! He was born in Tacoma, and lived in Federal Way, WA, until his family relocated to Research Triangle Park (RTP) for his father's job. But the move put him in a perfect place to take advantage of NC State and all the university could offer him! In fact, Oldham earned his B.S. (Chemical Engineering), M.S. and Ph.D. (both in Materials Science and Engineering) all from NC State!
But his focus wasn't always clear. He says that he became very interested in math and science while still in high school -- and he was especially interested in chemistry. However, Oldham claims that he felt that he was only ". . . an average to above average student. . ." so he felt lucky to be accepted into NC State's First Year College. He was able to explore all his interests, including chemistry, textiles, and engineering, until he found the perfect career path. Oldham's father actually suggested that he combine his ". . .interests in math and science and pursue Chemical Engineering. . ." because a degree in Chemical Engineering could open a lot of doors to many different career paths.
As Oldham progressed through his undergraduate studies, he says that he became interested in future job possibilities in the semiconductor industry. Of course, the jobs that interested him the most also required advanced degrees. Then, in his junior year, he found a research position in the Department of Material Science and Engineering. By his senior year, he received an offer to pursue a Ph.D. under the direction of Dr. Jerry Cuomo and earn a doctorate on applications related to atmospheric plasmas.
Oldham and his wife, Josephine, had married while he was in graduate school. And they decided to stay in the Raleigh area so they could support her new -- and growing -- business as a consultant for the pharmaceutical industry. But he felt that the economy in 2009 had limited opportunities for new Ph.D.'s in the RTP area. He still doesn't know if it was just luck or good timing when he stopped by the office of Dr. Greg Parsons. Oldham was getting ready to defend his dissertation and thought he'd ask about groups looking for postdocs -- and the Parsons Research Group had an opening!
Although Oldham says that he never expected to stay at NC State for so long, he's excited about his research. The group Is studying ". . . fundamentals related to applying extremely thin coatings at the atomic scale on polymer and textile materials by a thin film deposition process called Atomic Layer Deposition (ALD)." Oldham says that the coating can be 1000 times smaller than a human hair and the coatings are unique in that they are applied uniformly on the surface of a material. The process allows for surface modifications on polymer and textiles related to solar energy, barrier layers for chemical protection, and new flexible electronic devices.
However, a postdoctoral position is not permanent, so Oldham advises postdocs ". . . to know where you want to be after your contract ends, [and] you have to set a few goals about what you want from the postdoc experience." For Oldham, he hopes not only to hone his technical skills, but to develop his interest in entrepreneurship and commercialization of technology. While in graduate school, he had visions of either starting his own company or working in a new start-up. Oldham was excited to learn that the Parsons Group were already working with a start-up! His vision was becoming reality, so he entered the TEC program in the Poole College of Management to learn more about creating his own company. Oldham is now co-founder and CEO of VaporPulse Technologies. Recently, the company received support from the Chancellor's Innovation Fund to support the commercialization of nanoscale UV protection finishes for outdoor fabrics.
Oldham says that he's lucky to have most of his immediate family in this area, so he has plenty of people with whom to share his spare time. He also pursues one of his other passions -- the stock market and investment strategies! He says that he's fascinated by the stock market, and if he hadn't become a scientist, he probably would have enjoyed being stock broker or investment manager.
Meanwhile, he and Josephine are spending a lot of time at Carter-Finley in support of Wolfpack football! Maybe he was born to the Wolfpack after all!
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