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Blending the Technical and the Creative

2019-2020 e5x Recipient Katie Lawson
Katie Lawson connects entrepreneurship and engineering principles outside the classroom.

Entrepreneurship Ambassador. Grand Challenge Scholar in Engineering. Lead business developer for Pack Motorsports’ Baja team. Katie Lawson’s college resume is already impressive and diverse, but given her background, it’s easy to see the common theme.

Raised in an engineering and entrepreneurial family, Lawson grew up in Apex appreciating innovation and creativity.

When it came time to look at colleges, she found her match at NC State’s College of Engineering, in a program that she said values creative problem solving, technological advancements and entrepreneurial thinking.

A sophomore majoring in industrial and systems engineering with a minor in cognitive science, Lawson is the university’s first recipient of the e5x Scholarship, an endowed, merit-based scholarship for undergraduate student entrepreneurs at NC State.

When she speaks about her time at NC State, that passion for entrepreneurship is evident, but so is an appreciation for balance — between the technical and the creative, and between the arts and the sciences.

Though Lawson has always preferred her math and science classes, she also enjoys writing, for example. She chose to pursue undergraduate research in neural synchrony, in part because research provides her the opportunity to combine her interests in writing and technology.

“Every program that I’ve been involved in is extraordinary — there’s no place I can imagine myself being besides NC State,” she said. “The support from the NC State community proves the idea that the strength of the wolf is the pack and the strength of the pack is the wolf.”

On campus, she is an Entrepreneurship Ambassador. She helps plan events to encourage student involvement in entrepreneurship — from Entrepalooza, NC State’s annual festival celebrating entrepreneurship and innovation, to the Lulu eGames, its annual startup competition.

“Teaching students about entrepreneurship is really exciting because I get to share my love for entrepreneurship with other students,” Lawson said. “I can help them see that it’s about thinking creatively and using your strengths to add value around you, not just about starting a business.”

Katie Lawson moderates a panel of four women
Katie Lawson, far left, moderates the Ladies Who Launch panel, an event hosted by WISE Village and Albright Entrepreneurs Village last fall as part of Women in Entrepreneurship Week.

Lawson said she seeks opportunities that connect entrepreneurship and engineering principles outside the classroom. As the lead business developer of the Pack Motorsports Baja team, she is in charge of writing and pitching sales presentations, as well as fundraising. Each year, the team designs, fabricates and races an off-road vehicle against other collegiate teams in international competitions.

“For the sales presentations, my team and I write, propose and present a business plan to a panel of judges, or investors, just like a startup company,” Lawson said. “Last year, we were excited to place sixth out of 102 teams.”

Lawson is also preparing for her future through her role as a Grand Challenge Scholar in Engineering, a nationwide program with a local chapter at NC State.

“Each student picks a grand challenge of engineering, then builds a portfolio around five competencies that they need to fulfill in order to have a complete portfolio by the end of their senior year,” Lawson said.

The Grand Challenge Scholars program identifies these five as talent, multidisciplinary, viable business/entrepreneurship, multicultural and social consciousness competencies. The goal is to develop a student prepared to address global grand challenges for engineering.

“Everything you do at NC State should fit into one, two or all five of these competencies,” Lawson said. “In the end, it will show employers that you’re a well-rounded engineer.”

Katie Lawson speaking in front of two other women at a roundtable discussion
Katie Lawson speaks last November at the Wolfpack Women in Philanthropy’s fall gathering at the Entrepreneurship Garage, during a discussion featuring women students and alumna entrepreneurs. Photo by Becky Kirkland.

Lawson hopes to enter NC State’s Accelerated Bachelor’s/Master’s (ABM) Program, which allows exceptional undergraduate students an opportunity to complete the requirements for both degrees at an accelerated pace.

“The e5x Scholarship has opened countless doors for networking with entrepreneurs, medical industry professionals and professors pursuing neuroplasticity research,” Lawson said.

This summer, Lawson hopes to present her research on neural synchrony between teachers and students in New Orleans at the Eclipse IP Conference.

As she considers her future, she aims to be a leader within the field of neurological research. She said her desire to work with people and improve their quality of life motivates her to pursue challenging research projects and develop innovative solutions.

“The connections I have been blessed with this semester as a teaching assistant, scholarship recipient and undergraduate researcher have helped shape my career goals and highlighted new pathways to learn how I can find the perfect job — one that incorporates my entrepreneurial and industrial engineering background whether developing a novel neurological technology for patients or working with a startup,” Lawson said.

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