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As a former graduate student at UNC-Chapel Hill, John Poulton (Ph.D. ’80), has decided to support the next generation of leaders through The Graduate School’s Summer Research Fellowships, which provide summer support to doctoral students so they may focus exclusively on their dissertation research. That’s why he has established The Poulton Family Endowed Summer Research Fellowship, which will support graduate students in perpetuity.

Poulton worked for decades as a research professor in the Department of Computer Science at Carolina before moving to Nvidia, a computer graphics company located in the Research Triangle Park. Poulton, who studied physics at Carolina, continues to work as a consultant for Nvidia in its research division, where he focuses on microelectronics, or how computer chips communicate with each other.

What does graduate student success mean to you?

“The students I worked with in computer science in the 1980s and 1990s are now our senior researchers,” Poulton said. “It’s a real full-circle moment. You often wonder when you do these research projects if you’ve really moved the needle at all, but I think we can say we have moved the needle a lot.”

Why did you decide to support graduate education through The Graduate School, specifically through the Summer Research Fellowships?

“I remember well my own graduate career in the physics department at UNC-Chapel Hill back in the 1970’s; that’s a time when summer support would have been most welcome. … The whole time I was in graduate school, we never really had significant research funding for what I was working on.”

What do graduate students provide for the University and to the state?

“It’s graduate students who make our research projects happen. If a professor gets a grant, if you have a bunch of really smart people—graduate students allow us to do incredible things. … Money spent on graduate education has an incredible amount of leverage.”

What would you say to others who are considering supporting graduate education?

“I’m grateful to UNC-Chapel Hill for having provided a platform for me to do graduate work. It was a great experience. … If this is what it’s going to take, then people need to step up and give back to the programs that benefited them so much.”

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