Local News

Seeking fortune, Carbonell finds calling

Posted September 26, 2014 3:54 p.m. EDT
Updated September 26, 2014 6:39 p.m. EDT

— As a young man, Ruben Carbonell was looking for a way to turn his interests in chemistry and math into a well-paying career. He found inspiration in the pages of a magazine.

"I remember one day sitting in high school, and I opened up a Time magazine," Carbonell said.

In that 1964 edition was the annual list of in-demand professions. "It was a list that they publish each year on careers where people make the most money," Carbonell said.

From that time one, Carbonell was set on a path that has seen him achieve what few others have in the world of education and science.

"That was the reason why I studied," he said. "It was an economic driver to improve my personal well-being and that of my family. It wasn't a very sophisticated thought process, but it worked out for me."

Carbonell left Cuba was he was 11 years old. His parents immigrated to seek economic opportunities.

"I value my culture a lot, and that will never go away," he said. "I also value the U.S. tremendously and what I have been able to do here."

He was one of the first Hispanics to get a Ph.D. in engineering from Princeton University and is now a professor of chemical engineering at North Carolina State University and director of the Biomanufacturing Training and Education Center there.

His team is working to find a less expensive, more efficient, quicker way to make medicine that fights cancer.

Carbonell is a mentor to many and is encouraged by the increasing number of Hispanic engineers. The community as a whole, he says, is a growing population with a bright future.

"We need to create an environment where the parents, the family and the society encourages those folks to follow their dreams and reach those goals they’re reading about in magazines," Carbonell said.

"If we harness and take advantage of that, the whole country will be much better off in the future," he said.

As for Carbonell's future, his weekend includes a big honor. He is being inducted into the National Academy of Engineering.