Alumna benefits from chem degree, supports STEM majors

Dargan Thompson

(Photo courtesy of Osprey TV))

By: Dargan Thompson, Assistant Features Editor

As a chemistry student at UNF, Kami Carter focused on her studies and worked hard.

Her hard work paid off. When Carter graduated in 2008 with a degree in chemistry, she already had a job lined up at Naval Air Systems Command.

She has continued to work hard after graduation. In February, Carter won a special recognition honor at the Black Engineer of the Year Awards Science Technology Engineering and Math Global Competitive Conference for her work as a chemist at Navair.

Carter said her managers nominated her for the award, which recognizes promising STEM workers for their work as a whole. She wasn’t aware she had won anything until a few months after she was nominated.

Carter said she was honored, especially because most people who win the award have worked for more than 10 years in their field.

“I’ve only been working for about four years,” she said, “so for me to even be recognized with such a prestigious award was kind of mind-blowing.”

Carter said when she came to UNF in 2004, she liked the fact that it wasn’t a big school. She liked that she knew all of her professors. Even four years after graduation, she still keeps in touch with some of her professors.

Dr. Michael Lufaso, a UNF chemistry professor who Carter did research with, said he is not surprised that Carter has been successful. Lufaso said Carter was a hard working and meticulous student who helped out in labs and kept a detailed lab notebook.

Carter said UNF played a big part in getting her ready for the job field, but she has has also learned a lot through working.

“I think that people have a misconception that college is supposed to teach you everything when you go into the workforce,” Carter said. “It doesn’t. It teaches you how to learn about stuff when you get into the workforce, so that you are prepared that you don’t know everything, but you know how to research it, and you know how to find out where to go to find out that information.”

She said college taught her how to research and use analytical skills. Now she uses those skills in her work for Navair.

Carter works in the material engineering lab at Navair. A lot of her work is the behind-the-scenes stuff: testing the oxygen, oils and paint systems the aviators use and doing research and development.

Carter highly encourages STEM majors and said STEM is very important, and right now there is a shortage of individuals with those majors. The military and medical fields often cannot outsource jobs, so they have to hire people within the U.S.

STEM jobs are interesting, too, Carter said.

“You get to do different things all the time,” she said. “Sometimes you’re pushing papers, but sometimes you get to go look at planes.”

Email Dargan Thompson at [email protected]