10 For 10: Kris Rawls

Ten questions for Goodnight Scholars alumni as part of the Goodnight Scholars Program’s 10th anniversary celebration. This month we catch-up with Kris Rawls ’14, who is pursuing his PhD in biomedical engineering at the University of Virginia.

Goodnight Scholars Program: Where has life taken you since graduating from NC State? 

Kris Rawls ’14: After graduating from NC State I have moved to Charlottesville, Virginia and entered a PhD program in biomedical engineering at the University of Virginia.

What does your research focus on?

My research is on modeling metabolism in the liver and kidney in an effort to predict how exposure to toxicity affects the body.

What is the impact of this research?

The impact of this research would be to create a more efficient screening process for new drugs entering the drug discovery pipeline. By predicting potential mechanisms of action, it would be easier to decide which drugs to move forward with clinical trials, and ultimately push more useful and less harmful drugs on the market.

Thinking back to when you were an undergrad at NC State, did you ever imagine you would be where you are today?

Absolutely not! When I was an undergraduate student, I was focused on going into industry after graduating. Pursuing a PhD wasn’t even on my radar.

What did you want to do at the time?

I knew that I wanted a job after graduation, and that I wanted to work in the RTP area to stay close to both my family and NC State. It wasn’t until closer to the end of my time at NC State I decided to look at grad school as an option, and that a PhD is what I needed. Now I am working on either pursuing industry options with my degree, or going into teaching after graduation.

The biomedical engineering program at NC State does a great job exposing students to the field in general, and where people spend time doing research.

Any fond memories from life as an NC State student?

I got to see President Obama twice during my time as a student at state, once my sophomore year and once my senior year. When he came to visit my last year, I got to volunteer at the event as a chancellor’s aide. It was during this visit that I had a close seat to listen to the president speak, and after his speech I even got to shake his hand! That is hands down the best memory I have of my time at NC State.

How did your education from NC State prepare you for your current research role?

The biomedical engineering (BME) program at NC State does a great job exposing students to the field in general, and where people spend time doing research. While majoring in BME, I also minored in math and took several classes with math majors. One math class in particular focused on the applications of math, with majority of the applications having a biomedical focus. It was this class that introduced me to mathematical modeling applied to biological problems, and this sparked my interest in wanting to pursue this further. From there, taking linear algebra, and my BME physiology courses most prepared me for the research role that I am in now. Programming in MATLAB, python, and C also helped prepare me for the work I do today, because it provided the framework to learn other programming languages, and work with in the modeling environment here at UVA.

How are you spending your free time nowadays?

I have developed several new hobbies recently. I play kickball on a city team, and go hiking occasionally. My favorite thing to do is attend college basketball games during basketball season. I also like trying new restaurants and watching Netflix. I also enjoy learning how to bake and cook new dishes.

What’s the most interesting pastry you’ve baked?

The most interesting thing I have baked so far was a flour-less cake that turned out pretty good!

Is there any advice you think is important for current NC State students and Goodnight Scholars to hear?

I would say the most important thing is to work hard in school, but also take time to have fun and try new things. So much of your future gets decided based on how you do in undergrad, so make sure school is a priority and the focus is on doing well. I would also say make sure you are doing things you love, both inside and outside the classroom. You want to end up in a career that makes you happy, so really make sure you love what you do. Also do fun things outside of class when you have time. Figure out who you are as a person, and what you like and don’t like. College is the perfect time to explore things. The more you explore now, the more time you have later in life doing the things you love.

Photography credit: Bonnie Dougherty and Anna Blazier